Sunday, April 09, 2006

Knitting: Spirituality or Art? (or "Why Knitters Knit")

Why do knitters knit? Why do we spend hours looping fibers around needles or relentlessly searching out THE pattern, THE yarn, THE needles? Because it's there? No, there's more to it than that.

On the other hand, the current "knitting as a form of spirituality" trend is slightly off track. To me, and most of the other knitters I know, knitting is an art form. For some, it's a craft or hobby. And for people around the world, it's a necessity. No socks, no sweaters, no mittens, no blankets = no survival. Lucky me, in comparison. I'm grateful for being able to spend my time passionately involved in something I love but don't HAVE to do.

Yes, knitting is meditative, and I can honestly say I've learned patience and acceptance (of all manner of things) through practicing this slow, detailed art form. I derive immense joy from caressing the yarns at Stitch DC (and, on occasion, other local yarn stores). The rich colors and amazing textures available to us now fill me with joy and inspire me to create. But is this a "spiritual" experience? To me, the answer is no. It's an artistic experience, and I believe they are different.

Not all knitters enjoy the entire process, from choosing yarn, to swatching for tension, to finishing and blocking. That's OK. Different strokes, as "they" say... What IS important is that they enjoy what they do, that they find creative fulfillment in it, that it satisfies their appetites in a way food, drink, work, drugs, or other excesses never could. Knitting calms, enriches, builds confidence.

After all, how could anyone finish a months-long project and hold the luscious finished item in his or her hands without a sense of achievement, pride, and fulfillment. "I created this from virtually nothing," the brain realizes. Buoyancy and lightness result. Self-esteem rises a notch or two. And, shortly, the knitter's fingers begin to itch for a new project, another creative "fix."

Looking back to when I first started knitting, I often smile at the image of my first "project." My trusty knitting book, a Leisure Arts publication I picked up in Joann Fabrics, guided me through the initial steps of casting on, knitting, and purling. When I achieved a bit of mastery over these concepts, the author told me it was time to knit a slipper. A simple pattern followed, a garter stitch "bootie" that wasn't meant to fit most regular-sized feet. But when I finished, that Pepto-Bismol pink bootie looked (to me) like the most amazing thing in the world! I showed if off with pride--"Look what I taught myself to do!"--and mailed it to my mother.

Now, I'm not a total fool. I knew then--as I do now--that the slipper was less than attractive, and that it was also quite funny. In fact, it's become a bit of a joke between my husband and me, comparing my current work to "The Pink Bootie." But beneath all the jokes and semi-jaded attitude, I feel a tenderness toward that crazy little article of un-usable footwear. I made it, with my own two hands, after teaching myself to knit.

It's that sense of accomplishment that draws new knitters into the fold. And from that point--whether a knitter moves slowly and cautiously through the stages of learning about the craft or immediately jumps into designing her own patterns--the sky's the limit.

So...why do I knit? I knit because I am compelled. Because I feel an obsessive longing to strand crisp cotton, supple silk, ticklish mohair, sweet alpaca, and lustrous wool through my fingers. Because I adore the sublime simplicity of a well-crafted knitting needle, beautiful, balanced just right, circular or straight, wood or metal. Because, when I'm knitting, I'm continually learning. Not just about the art, but about myself. Knitting touches me inside AND out at the same time, satisfying my senses and my craving for knowledge and understanding.

Does this make it a spiritual or religious experience? Maybe for some people. But for me, knitting is knitting. It's an art and an end in itself. How could I ask for anything more?


Saturday, April 01, 2006

"Mason-Dixon Knitting" is Yummy!

I bought Mason Dixon Knitting last night. Oh, it's so much fun. Yummy patterns and the kind of writing that makes you forget you're reading a knitting book.

But Ann and Kay REALLY hooked me with their Rowan obsession. Anyone who calls Rowan's knitting magazines "knitters' porn" wins my loyalty forever. It's a winner. I'll give it a thorough review once I'm done gawking and can emerge from the pages...