When I sit down to watch a movie with my girlfriend, we’re always joined by someone else. As it happens this other person is the knitting project she’s currently working on. Admittedly i don’t pay as much attention as perhaps would be appropriate to what it is she’s knitting. But to be honest she usually whips the knitting out anytime her hands have some downtime and as a result I’m inured to the presence of the project. I suppose it’s at this point that I should wax poetic about the clicking of the needles and how it comforts me or some such nonsense but I intend to do no such thing. The thing is, that while I may not do any knitting myself I’m still rather involved in the whole process. I’m like a field engineer for the army, I don’t do any actual fighting but I install the bridges and remove the landmines before the troops with the guns roll in get the bloody mess over with. This usually involves sitting around looking at seemingly countless variations on a “slouchy beret,” or gloves, or mittens, or fingerless gloves, or mittens that are fingerless gloves. She’ll show me the ones she’s thinking about starting and a few other designs that caught her eye and I’ll give her my opinion, as that is what she called me over for, and she will proceed to ignore me and proceed with her own choice. I often wonder if I’m merely a check she makes before she starts; “I’m thinking I’ll make pattern X, hey Trace, which one do you like?” “Hmm…I like Y.” “Ok.” At which point pattern X has just been made a sure thing in her mind.
My other primary task as far as her knitting is concerned is the de-tangling of her balls of yarn. This, much like socks missing from the dryer is one of gods secrets that I fear man shall never truly explain. I’ve watched as ordered yarn has come to the house in boxes, my girlfriend will lift it from the box making permutations of pleasure noises as she looks over the yarn. The yarn is carefully spun into big soft coils which are delicately wrapped around each other in a manner that is utterly useless to a knitter as the yarn will need to be wound into balls anyway. The carefully (untangled) yarn is placed into a basket or a drawer and left unmolested till the project that calls for it is started. It doesn’t matter how much time has elapsed since the yarn was placed in the container till she starts using it. In that time the yarn will twist in on itself with such vigor and determination that one can only assume a small singularity momentarily opened up in the basket the yarn was in. The yarn twists and warps around this singularity but before it can be consumed by the black hole in minature, the singularity disappears causing the yarn that was in hyper dimensional space to collapse back into our reality into whatever postion it happens to be in in relation to the rest of the yarn. Needless to say this is usually in the position of “quite tangled.” It then, by some other miraculous process that I have yet to understand, becomes my responsibility to untangle said mess.
My girlfriend started knitting when she was in 8th grade. A couple failed attempts at learning with her grandma led her to learning from a family friend. She says that she was a “crafty kid” and liked to make things with her hands and as a result she took to knitting with vigor. Her enjoyment of knitting stemmed from the creation of something that she could use. “I guess, ultimately it’s a creative outlet, something functional, I like creating things that are functional and have a purpose.”
Initially her knitting was met with some mocking calls of “grandma” and people asking her why she was knitting. But times and people change and she now finds people asking her what she’s knitting instead of why. She informs me that knitting is becoming rather vogue, particularly with the DIY (do it yourself) crowd. In fact it’s becoming such a movement that there is now an appreciable sized group of male knitters in what was once a female dominated activity. “Actually there are a lot of really good knitting designers that are male.”
Though this popularity is not without it‘s downsides, as is the case when someone’s personal passion gains a wider audience. “Now it’s really, really popular, it’s a trend, which is kind of frustrating for me because I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve put in the time and effort developing my skills and when I meet someone who says “oh I knit!” and they just make shitty scarves with shitty acrylic yarn it upsets me.” I play devils advocate and try to rationalize that a lot of these people are just starting out, perhaps one should cut them some slack. But I recognize what she’s complaining about. “Knitting is a lifestyle choice for me, it’s not a hobby.” An influx of people into any group can cause feelings of resentment amongst those who’ve been there longer and feel like they put in their time and earned the right to define themselves as members of that group. But I understand her gripes and commiserate with her. It’s one thing to take up a Curling have done it once or twice and call yourself a curler, but it’s something else entirely to have put in years of effort into curling and call yourself a curler. It’s not the skill level achieved, it’s not the number of things one has knit. It’s having spent enough time at it that one develops an intrinsic understanding of the activity. This understanding may not translate into appreciable skill, but it allows one to nod knowingly when others speak on the topic. When I watch my girlfriend knit I see the body language of someone rather practiced at the craft. Her fingers are locked into postion and move with a precision and speed that can only come from countless hours of practice. I often find myself watching entranced at the way her hands are seemingly bent into specific repeated angles. Arthritic looking angles and strange positions so as to maintain the yarn in a specific arrangement that is the flurry of her silent needles. There is an unconscious understanding in her motions, her body knows what it is doing. One can see the same thing in anyone who is passionate and practiced at their art. The pianist whose fingers glide across the piano without effort, the sprinter whose every movement is set towards one purpose. It is an efficiency of motion that defines this level of understanding.
“Why knit?” I ask her, “is knitting important?” I get a look that says she could ask the same thing about some of the things I do. I make an attempt to elucidate what exactly I meant by my question which after some back and forth we come to an agreement about what exactly I meant by important. “Fine socially, is it important socially?” “I think it’s important socially. Being able to create something with your own hands and be proud of your work is very important. That’s a valuable skill to teach kids. There’s not a lot of art education anymore so giving kids chance to make something and be proud of it is important.”
Since she doesn’t interact with children currently I can only assume that she intends to teach our potential future kids how to knit. While I am not a child care expert by any stretch of the imagination I can’t help but think of the material instability field naturally emitted by children. What happens when one puts a small basket of yarn singularities next to a child emitting a strong “accident causal field” and asks them to do something with it…All I can be certain of is that I’m sure it will become my responsibility to fix it when it happens…