Why I Knit

My mother taught me to knit when I was 15. In her day, she said, a woman knit in between romantic relationships. An especially heart wrenching breakup, followed by months of no dates at all,  could result in a complete ensemble of skirt, jacket, and short-sleeved shell. Matching bootlets. A cape if the guy married someone else, too soon.

Knitting allows us, mentally, to walk in a place different than a roomful of our problems. Daydreaming, by Steve Henderson, is sold, but it is one of many note cards available on the Steve Henderson Fine Art website.

I just knit to get through high school French class, which moved at the pace of its slowest student, an obnoxiously obtuse girl who spent the entire first semester repeating, loudly,  “C’est un livre!” (It’s a book. And she never, never studied the vocabulary in the one that she consistently left in her desk.) The second semester she progressed to, “C’est une fenetre!” (It’s a window.) I sincerely hope that she never became a travel guide.

But knitting helped me survive the boredom, my first project an orange baby jacket for a new nephew, using a yarn four times thicker than what was called for (what could it matter? I reasoned). The resulting garment was short and wide, more appropriate for a fat dog than a baby. Perhaps my sister used it as a changing mat.

Through the years, many of my projects wound up elsewhere than the body of the intended recipient — simply because I couldn’t be bothered to check gauge, which in the knitting world means that what I knit is the same size as what the designer who wrote the patterns knit. Wrong yarn, wrong needles, different technique — a lot of family pets enjoyed the cushy comfort of my hands’ efforts.

But eventually I grew up, admitted that now and then I needed to follow some rules, and began producing stuff that looked, and fit, like real clothing. And therein lies one of the two reasons that I knit:

I wear what I make. It looks cool. It’s one of a kind. And it lasts forever.

Okay, so that’s four reasons, but they stitch up into one garment.

The second reason why I knit is crucial, and it’s why I drop everything but the stitches on my needles whenever others express the remotest interest to learn (my beloved sister will never, never do this, alas):

Knitting enables me to survive through life’s toughest times.

Sometimes, life makes me feel very small, and vulnerable, indeed. Bold Innocence by Steve Henderson, presently available as an original and a miniature study on the Steve Henderson Fine Art website.

When I have prayed every prayer, thought every thought, cried out in my spirit and aloud out in the back of the property where hopefully no one but the beavers hear me (and God, please, definitely God), I knit.

If I’m doing something simple, I release my thoughts from their hamster wheel by forcing myself to concentrate on nothing else but, “Knit. Knit. Knit. Knit,” with each stitch, and “Purl. Purl. Purl. Purl,” on the other side. It’s a welcome break from “WHY is this happening to me?”

More complicated patterns require more complex thinking, like counting:

“One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three. Four.” If that sounds repetitive and mindless, it is no more so than “WHEN will it stop? HOW will this all end?” and it’s certainly more comforting.

Really complicated patterns look like this: “Knit, yarn over, knit two together, purl, knit through the back loop, purl, slip slip knit, yarn over, knit. Repeat 14 times.”

With this on my mind, there’s not much room for too much else.

Knitting frees my spirit and my mind. Into the Surf by Steve Henderson, presently available as an original oil painting on the Steve Henderson Fine Art website.

But as any knitter knows, your brain can devote 20 to 60 percent of itself to a repetitive task, leaving room for limited, random thought, and the gentle click click of the needles is mesmerizing, the feel of the yarn through your fingers intoxicating, the challenge of knitting faster, better, cleaner with each stitch invigorating.

And all the time you are creating something that you can wear or use — the “sweater of pain” that one woman worked on while she waited for a family member to receive chemo treatments; the “socks of joy” that accompanied another knitter to every one of her high school daughter’s athletic games; the afghan that a third knitter, a nurse, worked on after each day’s too long, too stressful stint in the emergency room.

This is why I knit.

Collections of my essays have recently been compounded into two e-books,  Life Is a Gift and The Jane Austen Driving School — volumes 1 and 2 of the Ordinary Life Is Beautiful series, which also feature images of Steve Henderson’s paintings. Priced reasonably at $2.99, the digital book can be downloaded to your Kindle, iPad, iPod, Droid phone, and computer itself, the latter through a free app from Amazon. I’m small; I’m ordinary; I’m self-published; and I write so that you can have a smile to your day. Please support me, and pass me on.


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6 Responses to “Why I Knit”

  1. Amanda says:

    I love it! “Productive Meditation”

  2. Maggi Oswald says:

    I love your essays. And I love that they are illustrated with your husband’s art. You are both truly blessed with many talents. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Thank you, Maggi. We enjoy the combination of writing with paintings, and we are blessed with the company of one another. I write because I feel that I have something worth saying, and I am always grateful when people read and respond. Steve paints because he sees and interprets the beauty of the world around him, and he, too, is grateful when people respond.

      Too much time and attention is given to the darker side of life — greed, deceit, slyness, cunning — and we do what we can to talk about or show the beauty that is around us.

      Please pass us on. We grow by word of mouth.

  3. Frauke Ahrens says:

    I am always amazed at the “gifts” that just drop into your life. Today I was reading your husbands article “What Other People Think” in Artist Daily and noticed the link to “Start your week with Steve”. As I’m just getting into painting I look for any and all advise/inspiration from artists who’s work I like and looking at, this is where I saw the enticing link “why I knit”. Knitting has been in my life since I was a child and I have been involved with it on and off ever since. You essay on knitting says it all. I will be passing it on to other knitter’s I know and also getting your ebooks. Well done and I look forward to reading more of your essays.

    • Thank you, Frauke — your lovely comment made my day. Steve and I work together with our gifts — his amazing ability to paint, and my love of writing — to not only make our living, but to encourage and uplift the people around us as well. When this happens, we are overjoyed.

      I thank you, also, for passing on my essay to other knitters. Both Steve and I rely upon word of mouth to promote what we do. We are our own marketers, and when people who like what we do pass us on to others, our gratitude is deep indeed. Thank you.

      After you read the E-books (thank you! thank you!) please consider leaving a review — those help enormously. I also like feedback, because I want what I write to mean something to the good people who have spent money or time to read it.

      We’ll be in your e-mail box this Monday with Start Your Week with Steve!

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