I was visiting a blog acquaintance today & was caught by an essay she wrote about her adventures back into knitting. Now, if you have spent anytime around my garden, it will come as no surprise that I would pause to read about knitting; it has become my primary creative outlet & an area I must apply stringent self-control in order not to bury my home in piles of yarn (something for which my husband & son- but not the cats- are grateful). What I read at Yours Truly stirred up several thoughts & reflections about the nature of knitting- or most any kind of handcraft, for that matter- & the people who invest time doing them.
I phrase I hear quite regularly (often from my own mouth) is, “[Knitting, quilting, weaving, scraping, beading, painting, etc] is so soothing”; with almost equal frequency, I hear the uninitiated cry out, “That’s beautiful, but I could never do that- I don’t have the [time, patience, skill, etc]” What is the difference between these two people? One has found a passion & the other hasn’t. I truly believe that everyone has that need, that ember of inventiveness, which is just waiting for encouragement & an outlet to express itself; I imagine it is the spark of God’s creative nature, fashioned in us as reflections of Him. No matter what form it takes, there is a universal feeling of satisfaction, of rightness, in forming something from nothing & knowing that you were the one who accomplished it. Until one finds their passion, that thing that kindles their imagination & makes their fingers itch to do something, I feel they will be missing a secret treasure that God placed inside us simply for the joy it brings.
Many people feel guilty when they spend time on a “hobby”, thinking that they should be doing something more practical or important, especially when doing a decorative art like knitting. I know the reality: I can go to the store & purchase six pairs of socks for the same amount I spend on yarn for a hand-knit pair, not to mention the weeks (in my case) it takes to make them. I’ve spent $30 & four weeks making a sweater for a baby that outgrew it in less than 2 months. From a purely practical standpoint, it does seem like a monumental waste of an already limited resource, my free time.
What this pragmatic perspective doesn’t consider is the intangible benefits of creative arts. For myself, & countless others, the act of knotting string with two sticks is a form of meditation, a contemplative action which calms & centers the spirit. Breathing slows, the heartbeat settles, blood pressure is reduced; it’s much like petting an animal or soaking in a warm tub- stress melts away. I can ruminate over a situation & find answers or acceptance flowing out with the fabric forming under my fingers.
More often then not, what comes off my needles goes to someone else; other then a scarf & a couple of pairs of socks, I rarely knit for myself. When I first started knitting again, my darling Lily cat would sit in my lap as I worked, & everything produced at that time was woven with her hair. It is much the same now, but instead of calico fur, items are woven with my thoughts & prayers. There is also the benefit of some mental calisthenics associated with working on a complicated or involved pattern, & the satisfaction of seeing it all come together in the finished project.
Another reason I don’t struggle with the idea of wasting time is that I rarely just sit & knit; like every working mother I know, I multitask- I work on something when I’m watching TV, sitting in the orthodontist’s office, attending a football game, waiting for my dinner at a restaurant, or listening to the sermon at church. As a matter of fact, if I’m actually just sitting & taking, I’ll have people ask me where is my knitting bag. A rare few will tsk at me for knitting in church; for them, I pull out my charity projects, like the baby hats for the county hospital or the granny squares for the “Share a Square” project, pointing out that God expects me to put some feet on my compassion. I’m not saving the world by any stretch of the imagination; but as I observed in Yours Truly’s comments, “Knitting may not save the whole world, or even a small part of it; but a sending out a hat for a newborn of a migrant farmer worker, a blanket for a chemo patient, or a scarf passed out to a homeless man, can touch a life, even if only for a moment.”