Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The need to knit

Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.
~ Elizabeth Zimmermann

From the moment I feel the first nip of fall in the air, my thoughts turn to knitting.

It doesn't matter that I have a thousand other more urgent matters to tend to. I pull out yarn and needles and a pattern that says "beginner" or "easy" and set to work. It might take me weeks or months to finish a project that a more experienced knitter or a person with more leisure time might be able to knock out in a day or two. It doesn't matter. I might make a fatal mistake and find myself unable to fix it, necessitating the ripping out of rows and rows of stitches (also known as "frogging") and starting all over again. It makes no difference. I have been knitting for years and lack the skill to accomplish anything more complicated than a rectangle (can you say "scarf"?) or a hat (although my last couple of attempts have been utter failures). Who cares?

The joy is in the knitting.

My first attempt at knitting lace.
I can't say I feel that way about many other things in my life; I am hopelessly product oriented. As a teacher, I am constantly preparing my students for the next big event: a piano festival, a competition, a recital. As a pianist, it is much the same. As a writer, I will not be satisfied until I have a published novel to show for my efforts. As a jewelry designer, it's all about finishing pieces to list for sale in my Etsy store.

But as a knitter, it's all about the knitting.

A ruffled scarf using specialty yarn. The fact that it is super easy to knit in no way diminishes my sense of accomplishment.
I don't know why knitting is different; it simply is. But there is something about the feeling of the bamboo needles and soft yarn in my hands, the rhythmic nature of knitting and purling, the predictability of the outcome. And for whatever reason, when I make a mistake I find it easy to forgive myself. Maybe it's because I have decided I don't have to be an expert in this one thing. As a knitter, I have determined that it is okay if I am never anything more than a beginner. I do not expect perfection and am not disappointed when I do not achieve it. Every completed project, no matter how simple or flawed, is cause for celebration. Some I keep and wear; others I give away, to people I know will appreciate the love and care that went into their making. And then I move on to the next thing.

Knitting as a metaphor for life? This is something I should probably give some thought to.

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