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I’ve been doing research for the Craft Ebook line that I’m working on. I forgot research was fun! I also forgot research is vital, but never mind that now, I got there in the end. Anyway, one of the things I’ve been doing is going back and listening to old episodes of Cast On podcast. I stopped listening for about a year, I suspect some time in the last bit of my relationship with the ex. Brenda took about a year off and so once she was back podcasting and I rediscovered her, I wanted to go back and listen to the episodes I’d missed. And then I was enjoying listening to her so much on my long drives that I started working my way back through older episodes.

The old format of the podcast aimed to sound like how a magazine read so it included news, and announcements, a regular feature called Today’s Sweater, other features and then an essay. The essays started as Brenda’s and then were sometimes were written by listeners and read by guest readers.

A couple of weeks ago now, I was listening to one such essay that made me cry and made me really think about what knitting means to me. A woman wrote about a scarf she’d made. She’d picked it for a long road trip, something complicated enough that she wouldn’t finish it in the first hour or two, but simple enough to not need to pay too much attention. And then she talked about how she’d knitted it on the journey, about the scenic backdrop of the trip and how happy they were and what a great time she’d had. She didn’t finish the scarf on the trip. However, not long after the trip, she fell down the stairs in her house and broke her neck. So immediately after this trip, she’d gone through the worst time in her life. It was a very dark time, she was lucky enough to be able to be operated on and regain her mobility but her recovery was very slow and painful. And she talked about all the days filled with pain and not being able to sit for very long. And how she then thought that knitting her scarf might be something she could do. At first she could only knit one or two stitches at a time and that she couldn’t sit for very long as well. Eventually she gained more strength and the pain lessened and she worked at the scarf and was able to wear it, finished, by the time she was well enough to go on a gentle camping trip again. She wrote about what that scarf, and knitting, meant to her. That project had been with her at the best of times and then kept her company in the worst of times, giving her something to focus on, to mark her recovery and to immerse herself in.

After I finished wiping away tears from the happy story, I thought a lot about the last time I had really thrown myself into knitting and what knitting means to me. My grandmother taught me to knit. I don’t know when. One of my earliest memories is dragging an old round plastic bag, that had contained a small ottoman, around my grandparents’ house, filled with white acrylic yarn and lots of knitting needles. I was about three and I would pretend, though think, I was knitting like my grandmother. I couldn’t have been that much older when she finally taught. I feel like I’ve always known how to knit. I don’t remember not knowing how to. I love to knit and I love doing something that my grandmother taught me. Now that she’s gone, I love that I continue to do something that she taught me and that she loved to do. I love the bringing a part of her with me into the future. My other grandmother taught me how to crochet and I feel the same way about that. And I guess there is something very nurturing and comforting in it.

Some time around when my relationship with my ex (I really need to find some geological reference word to refer to that period of my life. Answers on a postcard) started to head south, I took up knitting in a big way. Like A BIG WAY. I got really engrossed in the online knitting world which was starting to take off. All these personal blogs with gorgeous photos of works in progress and hand dyed yarn, and groovy modern patterns. And etsy. And paypal. And sock yarn clubs. And podcasts. It was a heady, frenetic time. I was in my first serious grown up day job. The ex would spend exorbitant amounts of money on ridiculous things (like private golf club memberships, boating and my favourite, oops I wanted a brand new car. Again) and I figured, why not do the same (on so much smaller an order of magnitude)? I fell into a new fandom, of sorts. I stashed like hand dyed yarn was going out of fashion. I joined sock yarn clubs. I ebayed. I ogled and leered and drank in colour and fibre. And I knitted so much. I would literally stay home on a Saturday night, in preference, to knit. (Sure the choice was usually to go and sit in a cold damp stadium and watch really poor basketball played poorly.) I knitted. A. Lot. I knitted so many babies booties, I’m still gifting them in large piles to every baby that has been born since. And I still have a huge drawer full. I tried my hand at an etsy store, to little success. I even tried stalls at craft fairs. I was in this obsession waist deep. I had knitting on sets of needles all over the place and I was always starting new thing. I was immersed. I must have knit about 30 pairs of adult socks. And scarves. A few shawls. And those gorgeous hot water bottles (that yarn I used was just divine).

It got obsessive. And looking back on it now, I think maybe I understand why. I didn’t really knit like that once I moved out into my own place. A lot of the projects I’m cataloguing now, I started before I moved out and then never really picked back up again. I packed away most of my stash and didn’t look at it til I moved last year. I picked up a new craft – the patchworking – and got into that, but in a much less obsessive way.

It occurs to me now that the knitting was a way of finding love – of surrounding myself with something I associate with someone who always comforted me. Getting involved, no matter how much from the (consumer) sidelines, in the online knitting world was a way of coming home, of being understood, of being wrapped up in a nostalgic love. Because I wasn’t even being overly creative with my knitting. I knit a lot of plain socks and straight scarves, with fabulously colourful yarn. Teaching myself to knit socks was possibly the most adventurous thing I did during that time. And I never got sick of knitting stockinette. I just knit and knit and knit. Like my life depended on it. And maybe it did.

And last night I wandered into the TV room and looked at my bag with my sock yarn club yarn in it, all balled up and ready to go, and I felt that feeling again – of coming home. Of warmth and fondness. Of belonging again. And I guess that’s different to how I feel about patchworking – which is filled with creativity and invention and experimentation. And I actually mentally checked myself when I felt that way – like to be cautious that I don’t fall into that big knitting hole again. Almost a don’t enjoy this too much, kind of thought process. Don’t get consumed. Why not? I wondered? Am I scared of the obsession? Should I not feel at home with my online knitting peeps? Is that so wrong? I realize now, after writing this, that that won’t happen – it can’t happen – because I am in a very different mental space. That it will be ok even if I do enjoy it too much. Because this time, I’m doing it because I love to knit and not because I’m trying to kit over (or out of) a hole.

That said, I still am a *little* bit scared of the siren that is knitting online.


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  • By Helen on 29 March 2012 at 1:27 pm

    It’s interesting how much these connections influence our lives. My grandmother taught me to make bread- by hand the old fashioned way – and although I have a bread maker it never seems quite the same to make bread that way. When I do it by hand it’s a reminder of her. She taught me to knit too- and I still have that feeling of connection to her whenever I knit although she died far too soon many years ago.

  • By girliejones: Peering into the knitting abyss on 29 March 2012 at 3:43 pm

    […] Mirrored from Champagne as good as Socks. […]

  • By Kaia on 29 March 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Crap, I forgot about the craft book! Must start thinking about that.

  • By Alex on 1 April 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Having only started knitting what, nine months ago? I found this a really interesting read. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a craft or hobby that I associate with a particular time or person or whatever, but I can understand the connections you’re feeling here. I do hope you can get to seeing knitting as a fun and creative thing to do with (ahem, sorry) no strings attached.

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