Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Unfortunate Ongoing Disaster of Knitting

Isn't this pathetic? And you have no idea what I went through to take the picture and download it, for this is a day when machines are rising up against us in this house, to say nothing of what I went through to knit this uhh, this beginning of a square.

It is about the church having a project of knitting squares for afghans for the poor, a curious project actually. It certainly costs more to make one of these afghans, just in dollars spent on yarn, than to go to Kohl's and buy fleecy blankets - the Christmas stuff is probably 75% off by now, and they pay you to take the Halloween stuff. (So what's a little zombie on a fleecy throw if it keeps you warm?) But we are doing this, nevertheless. It is a way of giving our energy somehow, our caring. I went to Pat's knitting class with that thought, and also for the purely ego-centered reason that some decades ago I tried and failed to learn how to knit. I hoped that decades of spiritual work would have transformed my ability.

It didn't go that badly in class. Pat just quietly went around and fixed our problems. I learned how to turn at the end of a row, I thought. I brought home the whole business and couldn't wait to get at it the next day. And you see what that led to.

There ought to be a pony in here somewhere, as the old joke goes. And there is at least a metaphor. I looked at this knitting - the varicolored pastel yarn, named Lullabye, had so much potential - and I thought, this looks like my life up till now. Except you could unwind this, maybe, and do it right. And you can't unwind your life.

We are all sitting in the middle of a sort of landfill that is our past, I suppose, except the occasional Buddha. Rummage around a little and it contains things that smell bad: someone sworn to hate you, someone else you just can't stand; all those darn books you should do something with; the shoes that are actually a little small; the heavy purse you paid too much for; the smell you can't get out of the car ever since the summer day you forgot the turkey breast in the trunk. I'm not giving anything away about my life, I'm sure. Doesn't everyone have unanswered e-mails relentlessly brushing their ankles and yowling?

The problem is not actually the mistakes I made. The problem is that what I chose to knit, not understanding the implications, was a square for the afghan project. Right away that meant standards. In knitting, the standard is simple: perfection. Miss a single stitch - or whatever I did - and it creates this whole karmic mess.

Obviously, I am not up to the afghan challenge. I am going to go back to the class next Tuesday and tell Pat I just want to knit a scarf for myself. If it's my scarf, I will just forge ahead, accepting my mistakes. I won't mind it being a little gollywhompers. That's the term my father-in-law would use to describe my unfinished square; he's from Georgia. A practical man, he would hasten to say, "It'll keep your neck warm, won't it?" Engineers think in terms of function.

Functionwise, I don't need a scarf. I have six or eight knitted scarves, most of them bought at the last church auction, where they were donated by people who must knit up a storm. I don't need another scarf. This is not about function at all, but about the pleasure I did experience, yes I did, of actually doing a stitch, and then another, smoothly, liquidly. It is just like riding a bicycle once you get the hang of it. You should expect to skin your knees.


  1. Jeanne, that's lovely. Keep at it, 'cos once you get into it, there is something really Zen about knitting I find, like a meditation. A year or so ago I was knitting squares and scarves and now I can do hats and fingerless gloves and in different stitches. You'll get there. Knitting yourself a scarf is a good idea though- you can just knit and knit and not worry about it being square or straight. In knitty solidarity love Other Jeanne xxx

  2. Thank you, Jules! You encouraged me so much I parked in front of the TV (big pre-inauguration show) and knit several rows, instead of tearing out all the mistakes. I decided to keep going until I have a square, a record of my learning.
    Other Jeanne, too.