Way back in 2008, my former work spouse Judy told me that I was too fidgety and that I needed to either start smoking or take up knitting. She was a knitter, and knew that having something constructive to do with your hands could help center and calm you. Or, it could make you murder people with sticks out of sheer frustration. 50/50 chance.
I decided to take her up on it. I had spent so much time staring at her needles while she was creating something and it just didn’t make SENSE. I kept trying to logically understand how the moves she was making could possibly result in different textures in the yarn. She kept telling me “stop trying to figure it out, just accept that it works.” Once she showed me how to knit and purl, I made one practice square and then I went kind of insane. Something about it automagically clicked with me and I started making hats. A lot of hats. Then scarves and gloves and bears and dragons, etc.
However,I never really learned how to read patterns, and every time I tell myself “ok let’s do this, let’s use a pattern,” I spend approximately 3 seconds looking at something someone painstakingly figured out and made explicit instructions for and I have no frickin clue what they’re talking about. It’s just letters and numbers and k2tog m1 ssk blah blah blah. So instead I just say “ok it needs to generally look like that? Then I’ll just screw around until I figure it out my damn self.” This means that I have never properly learned how to do lace work or change colors or do anything particularly useful. If you are looking for instruction, I’ll happily help, but don’t expect for it to be the “right way” to do anything. I feel like an idiot going to yarn stores, because they ask what style of knitter I am, and “did you see our new malabrigo? Oh you must!” I had no idea there were styles of knitting and couldn’t care less what malabrigo is. I know that people who sneer at acrylic yarn love it, though. Look, I only spend more than 5 bucks on a skein if there is a REALLY GOOD reason for me to. Piss off, cashmere. We don’t want your kind here. What’s that, Caron Simply Soft for 3.99? I’ll take 6!
But really, what I want to talk about is what knitting does for me. When I said it can center you, that’s 100% accurate. If I am having a terrible morning (such as this morning) and everywhere I turn things irritate me (ugh Sun you are warm and delightful and PISSING ME OFF), I turn on my mellow playlist and start yarning. I sit there and the rest of the world fades away. All my troubles, all my worries get set aside. Sure, the problems are still there when I’m done, but they’re muted, because I’m not ramping myself up about things that I can’t do anything about at that exact moment. You know that saying that goes “I knit so I don’t kill people”? It’s true.
I also believe it makes me a more generous person. I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last month and someone asked if they could sit by me and my wife to eat lunch and she said “why am I even asking, look where I am, of course you guys are nice!” And it’s true! Every single person there was kind, generous and welcoming. Even the most selfish knitter I know (self-proclaimed) still spends hours on presents for newborn relatives and friends occasionally. It is an extremely generous art form at it’s core. There are groups all over the internet of yarn crafters making hats for homeless people, veterans, battered women, cuddle monsters for children exposed to domestic violence, the list goes on and on. And there are yarn bombers that spread colorful joy in the simple act of making a hat for a statue, or a cozy for a tree. Just a little bit of art but it never fails to brighten someone’s day when they see it.
Honestly, I believe even the most generous yarn gift is also kind of selfish. It genuinely gives me endless pleasure to give someone something I made. There’s gratitude and surprise in their eyes that you get to witness because they appreciate it, knowing you spent a lot of energy making something specifically for them. It’s like a physical embodiment of telling someone “I spent 20 hours (or more) on this for you because you deserve it. You are worth the effort to me.” But it’s also selfish, because the act of passing on these items is good for our own souls. It makes me a better human, and I firmly believe I would be an angrier person if I stopped.
Which is also why I really don’t sell things I make anymore. It made it feel like a job, and there is just no way to knit fast enough to make it worthwhile without charging a fortune. I have a very small circle of friends (and family) that I will make anything for (within reason). You all know who you are. There are others, of course, that I like to make things for simply because I know they would never ever expect to get something. Those are my favorites. Then it’s like a little love bomb.
I am so glad I found you, yarn. I will love you forever.