Thursday, January 31, 2013

This I believe

This week's assignment for class is to turn in a draft in the style of NPR's "This I believe".  I am writing on creativity, one of the things I truly believe is life affirming.  I wrote two.  The following is the one I am not turning in, because I need to read the report.  I would not be able to read this without having a very difficult time, so I went another direction. It just seems a shame that I won't turn it in, so I will use it here.  I'll be publishing that one after I edit it.

Anyway, here is my rejected because it is too emotional "This I believe":

Knitting – the word evokes images of grandmothers making those funky little slippers that no one really likes.  But for me, knitting is a creative outlet, a chance to unplug, to create and discover a hidden history of people from around the world, a chance to touch the past and the future.  Knitting has been my saving grace, my creative outlet, and my prayers.  Working the yarn back and forth on the needles has provided me with an opportunity to fill otherwise empty time.  I’ve searched it out in literature and in my everyday life.  

 When I first learned to knit, choices were limited.  There were the itchy scratchy acrylics of RedHeart,  the itchy scratchy wools, or the way-out-of-my price range luxury items – cashmere or angora.  Today there are myriad colors, handpainted yarns in colors the designer dreams, colors that you would never guess would go together, yet somehow form a tapestry of hues rivaled only by Mother Nature, tonals in different values of the same color, solids, heathers, the list goes on.  Lately I have enjoyed dyeing colors I see in nature – the Pokeweed colorway in rich blue-black purples, purplish-reds and greens ranging from olive to muddy reddish green, the Field Corn in deep yellow golds, tans and just a hint of the strawberry pink that imitates the cob. To get the colors, I go out and look – really closely look at the natural world. 

Once I have the colors I am looking for comes the pattern search – looking for the pattern that will accentuate the colors, yet allow the texture of knitting itself become apparent.  Will it look better as a lace, with the negative space accentuating the colors of the yarn?  A cable with its twisting winding road home?  Perhaps just a simple rib with the hills and valleys?  Sometimes plan knitting in stockinette or garter is the answer.  Sometimes even deciding what the yarn wants to be is difficult.  I’ve had several yarns that I have started in socks, only to tear it out and end up making a scarf, shawl or hat from.  Yarn designated for a hat for one son became a hat for another. 

You may think that with all this knitting, I would have lots of beautiful knitted items in my home, winter wearables to keep warm and cozy, my adult children wearing hats, gloves and scarves lovingly made by their mother.  You would be wrong.  Honestly, I am not about the finished product.  I am more interested in the process of knitting – the feel of the yarn through my fingers, each stich becoming a prayer for safety, for compassion, for needs of the recipient.  Watching the colors flow from one to the other or the play of light on specific fibers – silk’s shining face, merino’s warm bloom, alpaca’s ultra warm fuzziness.  I picture my sister and her grandchildren wrapped in a warm ivory shawl on a cold winter day – reading stories and laughing together.  I envision my son, hunting in the woods in his ‘lucky hunting hat’ – hunter orange with black deer knit in fair isle – keeping him safe and bringing him a big buck.   The lamb stuffed animal, reminiscent of the lambs we raised when we were young, that I was creating for my mother when she passed last spring sits on my work desk as though she is watching over me.

The amazing part is that all of these items – lace, cables, the shawl, the hat – all are created using two stitches , because that is all there is to knitting.  I’ve known people who tell me they cannot knit, it’s too complicated, takes too much time, they don’t have the patience.  To these people I saw no.  No, knitting isn’t complicated.  It takes time and some understanding of the language of knitting, but there are enough resources to explain. I always find it remarkable that people say they don’t have time to knit when they are doing the same thing I am – watching a sporting event, riding in a car, plane or bus, or enjoying time with friends at our county fair.  We are all doing the same thing, yet my hands are busy with a simple pattern, creating something to be enjoyed.  You don’t have patience to knit, you knit to learn patience.  In a world of immediate gratification, that can be a valuable lesson.  We don’t always have to have immediate satisfaction and sometimes the greatest joy in a life is the time it takes to create a work of beauty that takes a little time and effort.

As an adult, my fiber obsession has seen me through some very difficult times.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, knitting allowed me to have a connection to my past, since both my grandmothers knitted, and my future, creating items for my children, nieces, nephews.  When I spent hours of time in the hospital with my mother, we would sit and talk about what my latest project was and who it was for.  She would pet the yarn as she would a beloved pet, comforting us both – her with petting, my ticking off stitch after stitch.  When I am stressed to the point of breaking, I find myself looking for something new to start, something to jump start a positive flow in my life. 
The creative juices used to knit an item are very individual.  I love that even though I use the same pattern as hundreds of other people, my choice of color, yarn content, even the very way I knit creates a unique item that no one, even myself, can recreate exactly.  I believe this uniqueness is what draws me to knitting in a way that other crafts do not allow.  The portability allows me to bring items with me to work on in odd times- during my lunch hour, perhaps while waiting in line at the bank, if the pattern is pretty easy, while I am reading. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many men and women who share my passion, meeting to have lunch, go to events, just to sit together and knit and discuss what we are working on, where we got the yarn, what needles we enjoy, etc. etc.  Inevitably, I am allowed to glimpse in other’s lives by doing this simple craft, having people ask what I am doing, recollecting their mother, grandmother or aunt knitting.  I enjoy other creative outlets – music, cross stitch, beading – but none satisfy or allows me to talk to others quite like knitting.

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