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Friday, June 3, 2011

Fearless Knitting

Almost no part of my life is without fear.  Fear of 'doing it wrong' or fear of hurting someone.  Fear of making someone angry or of being embarrassed.  I fear losing those I love and I fear being alone.  I fear change.  When I think about all the parts of my life that are motivated by fear of something, it fills me with grief.

People think, often, that one knits to relax.  How often have I heard, "Oh, I wish I could knit.  It must be so relaxing!"  Knitting doesn't relax me.  Knitting challenges me, stretches me, makes me strive toward new heights and depths and widths and breadths.  Knitting connects me, giving me that opening with people, even a brief one, that my introversion requires before I can have a conversation with a stranger.  I love knitting in public and seeing the little girls, eyes wide, who just come to watch.  Often they don't say a word, but they sit there, looking, soaking it up, because knitting speaks to something visceral in people--more often, in my experience, in girls and women than in men and boys, though not exclusively so.  Yarn sings to us.  Needles and hooks and spindles are the instruments of a craft that binds us together, clothes us, wraps us, brings us to new places.

I have met many a fearful knitter.  A woman approached me the other day on my way out of that oft-frequented coffee shop and said, "I was watching you knit.  I knit too, but you know, just basic stuff.  Just knits and purls."  I smiled and replied, "You know, it's all just knits and purls," and she started to explain that she only did knitting she didn't need to follow a pattern for.  I have that kind of knitting too.  I call it my "social knitting," the knitting I bring along to watch D's gymnastics classes or to a party or a movie or the waiting room as I wait for my dear one to be done with scary surgery.  But I also have what I call my "anti-social knitting," which requires patterns and charts and counting and Deep Concentration.  When I'm working on something like that, my family knows not to talk to me, or bump me, or, even really to come near me at all in the middle of a row.

If I had to nail it down, though: why do I love knitting (and crocheting and spinning and maybe dyeing and weaving too)? I'd have to say it is because knitting is the one thing in my life I do without fear or worry.  Never do I look at a pattern and say, "I can't do that; it's just too hard."  I might say, "I don't have the experience to do that piece yet," but even that is rare nowadays.  I might not want to do it, but that's because it's not interesting, or too fiddly, or because I would have no use for the FO (that's 'finished object' in knit-speak), never because I don't think I can.  I haven't tried steeking(1) yet, but even that's not fear.  Not really.  I just haven't found the right Fair Isle project and the motivation to do it.  I know that if I decide to steek something, it'll come out fine--or it won't, and that's okay too.

I love how I feel about knitting.  When I see a pattern for something I like, I don't worry about whether I can make it happen.  I know I can make it happen.  Lace, colorwork, double-knitting, cables--no problem.  I can do it.  It's a very powerful way to feel, and I have come to the conclusion that I should feel this way about more in my life.  Knitting is lovely and I will always cherish it, but I want that fearless feeling in my every endeavor.

Worry is a hard habit to break.  I'm just noticing now, as I go through my days, how many of the things I do have some kind of fear attached to them.  Breaking free of fear may be a task that lasts me the rest of my days,  (may they be long and exciting!).  I suspect that the answer lies in knowing my own convictions, and learning to be true to them regardless of circumstance.  When yarn comes across something in its path, it might break--but more often, the yarn picks up the thing and makes it part of itself (which is why tons of beagle hair is incorporated in my knitting) or winds around it, taking on the shape of it but still being yarn.

Yarn has no fear, even of scissors.  If you cut yarn, it is still yarn.

Double Knitting!



(1) Steeking, you ask?  It's when you knit a Fair Isle sweater in the round as one big long cylinder, and then cut a slit on each side between two rows of stitches for the arms instead of shaping the knitting with decreases.  It's one of the riskiest things you can do in knitting, in some ways, because, well, you cut through this complicated pattern you just worked your tush off on.