In his lovely post about why we knit on Lion Brand’s site, Franklin Habit asked his readers why they knit.
I’ve done crafts all my life. No matter what country we were in, what temporary housing in places like Rangoon, Accra, Vailima, what foreign hotel or airport or on any given type of transportation, I had books and crafts as a constant.
Art. Created worlds, created things. The Famous Five, Helen Cresswell’s Bagthorpes, books about brumbies or tollbooths or tesseracts, dragons… I carried all these with me in a bag over my shoulder. They could be pulled out in the middle of the night, escaped into when thousands of miles away from home or when I had sort of lost touch with what “home” actually was.
I wasn’t content just to take it all in, though. Inhale, exhale, I read and also wrote, I took in all the fantasy and future worlds and deliciously scary things that took my mind away from real scary things, then breathed them all back out again. Stories, pictures, creatures made of found objects like the admittedly kind of disgusting “dolls” my friend and I made of dried mango pits (we brushed out the dried fibers like hair and drew eyes on them), or endless creatures made up of tied-up kleenex or when yarn was available, googly eyes and pom poms.
The first ID I ever forged was my access card for the star destroyer I commanded. That kind of thing.
I was taught to knit by two elderly ladies on the train from London to Edinburgh. I’d run out of books and for those of you who’ve made that train ride, you know how excruciatingly long it is even when you’re not seven years old.
The ladies invited me over, sat me down between them and put two enormous sword-like metal needles in my hands, then gave me wool from Woolworth’s (it was years later that I found out that Woolworth’s was named after a person and sold other things and wasn’t just some enormous British chain LYS) and set me to making a little sampler intarsia square with a black Scottie dog on a field of blue and red.
I added knitting to all the other crafts I did, another way to bide time, to escape, to author and control and create a thing when the world around me was often unfamiliar, sometimes chaotic, sometimes frightening and dangerous.
I came back to knitting seriously when I began my career in game design, forming a fast alliance with only other female game designer in my company. We knit in solidarity, at lunch in the cafeteria, in stolen moments having coffee, in meetings where our projects, vibrant and present and beautiful were often symbols of the latent, wasted talent we brought to every conference room table, the potential we had that was often ignored, squandered, wasted. We knit to calm ourselves. We knit to remind ourselves that we were competent and creative and skilled and could produce beautiful things.
After I had cancer, I knit in doctor’s offices to combat the “high blood pressure” that was actually a case of white coat syndrome. I’d feel myself getting panicky as I waited for my appointment, then would haul my knitting out and magically my blood pressure symptoms resolved.
These days, though, knitting is something that is deeply familial, deeply social. I knit with people with whom I have built a fiber-based life, a business. Women immediately around me, my wife and close friends whose good times and bad I share over coffee, booze, whose secrets I know and advice and help I have taken over the years. We are a coven, a sisterhood. They are strong and rooted friendships, a cornerstone of my happiness.
That extends, though, too. Fiber family are all over the world, built through my business or via Ravelry. Close, close friends whom I wouldn’t know except that we share this thing, this art, this creativity, this discipline of this thing we all do.
My business is now fiber, built around knitting and other fiber crafts. I hand-dye yarn, make beautiful colors and textures and then other people go off and do their own crafting with it. It’s deeply satisfying, craft to enable and promote craft. Transmission of all that beauty and art and tradition, person to person down the line.
It’s come full circle, you see. I used to knit to ease loneliness and uncertainty. Now I knit as part of a vibrant, wonderful family, close to home and worldwide.
Created, creative life.