The whole thing starts with a single knot
Friday, October 18, 2013
The whole thing starts with a single knot
and needles. A word and pen. Tie a loop
in nothing. Look at it. Cast on, repeat
the procedure till you have a line
that you can work with.
It’s a pattern made of relation alone,
my patience, my rhythm, till empty bights
create a fabric that can be worn,
if you’re lucky and practised. It’s never
to pick up dropped stitches...
- Gwyneth Lewis
(from "How to Knit a Poem")
I knit to hold a good yarn
For stories bide with me
On a night like this, by the peat fire;
I like a story with a herringbone twist.
But a yarn aye slips through your fingers.
And my small heart has shrunk with years.
I couldn’t measure the gravits, the gloves, the mittens,
The jerseys, the cuffs, the hose, the caps,
The cowls, the cravats, the cardigans,
The hems and facings over the years.
Beyond the sea wall, the waves unfurl.
I knitted through the wee stitched hours.
I knitted till my eyes filled with tears,
Till the dark sky filled with colour.
Every spare moment. Time was a ball of wool.
I knitted to keep my croft; knitted to save my life.
- Jackie Jay (from "The Knitter")
"Knitting is clothing made in spare moments, or round the fire, whenever women gathered together... It's something to celebrate -- clothes made in love and service, something women have always done." - Anne Bartlett (Knitting: A Novel)
"Even when it isn't going well, knitting can be deeply spiritual. Knitting sets goals that you can meet. Sometimes when I work on something complicated or difficult -- ripping out my work and starting over, pouring over tomes of knitting expertise, screeching 'I don't get it!' while practically weeping with frustration -- my husband looks at me and says, 'I don't know why you think you like knitting.' I just stare at him. I don't like knitting. I love knitting. I don't know what could have possible led him to think that I'm not enjoying myself. The cursing? The crying? The fourteen sheets of shredded graph paper? Knitting is like a marriage (I tell him) and you don't just trash the whole thing because there are bad moments."- Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter)
" 'No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,' said Dumbledore. 'I do love knitting patterns.' " - J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter: Half-Blood Prince)
"I am a writer who does not enjoy writing. I can find innumerable ways to avoid it. But, to rip off Dorothy Parker, nothing else—nothing—gives me the same thrill as having written. I’m the same way with knitting. The process is fine, mind you, and keeps my hands busy. But nothing else—nothing—gives me the rush that I get from finishing something.
"The parallels between writing and knitting go even further. Like writing, knitting has a finite number of raw ingredients. There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet. Those letters can combine to give you David Foster Wallace or freshman composition papers. There are only two basic stitches: the knit and the purl. Those stitches can add up to a gorgeously complicated sweater or a pastel pink toilet paper cozy. The difference is in the mind that shapes them."
- Adrienne Martini (Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously)
Images above: "Clotilde" by Louis Paul Dessar (American, 1867-1952); "Josephine Rabbit Knitting" by Beatrix Potter (English, 1866-1943); Knitting Girl and Cat by Albert Anker (Swiss, 1831-1910); "Knitting Mouse" by Beatrix Potter (English, 1866-1943); "Knitting Girl with Toddler" and "Girl Knitting" by Albert Anker (Swiss, 1831-1910); "Interior with Girls Knitting" by Joseph A. Bail (French, 1862-1921); "Woman Knitting Sock Outdoors," a photograph by Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934); "Knitting" by Harold Knight (English, 1874-1961); A man knits garments for servicemen during World War II, photographer unknown; and "The Sock Knitter" by Grace Cossington Smith (Australian, 1892-1984).
This post is dedicated to Delia Sherman, and all you other mad knitters out there. (There was also a spinning/weaving/sewing post earlier in the autumn: Spinning Straw into Gold). Visit the Poetry Society's website to read about their "Knit a Poem" project, created in 2009 for the society's centenary celebration.