Why do we knit?

I often wonder why I am so drawn to this hobby. Especially as someone who tends to fret over how wisely I spend my time and how enriching my pastimes are. But I love to knit. I have URGES to knit – my hands will actually itch. I browse Ravelry and Knitty in my breaks at work.

What is it about using sticks to loop string around and around itself in repetitive motions until you have something functional, something that took 100+ hours of your life to produce when you could have bought it pre-made for $30 (and quite possibly less than the cost of your wool)?

To be entirely honest, I don’t quite get it. I’m nearly as obsessed as they come, and I can’t come up with a solid answer.

Is knitting the new yoga? I’ve heard this oft-quoted mantra many a time, but I’m not quite buying it. And this is coming from a girl who quit yoga after 3 sessions.

Though, there may be something to the calming aspect of it. It forces one to slow down and contemplate. It’s almost meditative in a way.

I think that is a big part of the attraction, however I think there is more to it than that for me. On a recent trip to the Art Gallery of Ontario, I was struck by their new photography exhibit. Featured were stunning turn-of-the-century prints taken in rural parts of France. Now, I don’t want to romanticize what I’m sure was a tough existence, but part of me felt a connection to the images, especially those featuring women going about their daily lives, namely spinning yarn, knitting, and washing and mending clothes by hand. (For more on my love of handicrafts in the days of yore, see here).

Suddenly, something clicked. I was reminded of an essay I had recently read in Ann Budd‘s book Knitting Green and immediately re-read it when I got back home.

In Touching the Sun Through Fiber Carmen S. Hall writes, “I can feel my dear grandmothers watching over me when I knit, and the presence of other ancestors I never knew… I touch the souls of others when I knit. I also learn to better touch my own soul… Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh tells a beautiful story about looking deeply into a piece of paper. He says that if you are still enough and look deeply enough, it is possible to touch the tree from which the paper was made, to feel the soil beneath its roots, the wind that blew through its branches, the shade of the cloud that passed overhead, the gentle rain that fell… if you look deep enough, it is possible to touch the sun… As I knit, I hope to pave the path for others as they tap into the mystery of craft and creation. I hope my children will remember me knitting though joys and through sorrows… I hope they too will learn to touch the sun.”

I could not have said it better myself.

Elizabeth Zimmerman may be able to say it more succinctly, however:

“Knit on, with confidence & hope, through all crises.”

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6 thoughts on “Why do we knit?

  1. Absolutely right! Even though I haven’t known any knitters in my family, I still feel spiritual grandmothers and great-grandmothers in the process when I’m knitting. It’s an ancient art…and I love that. Thanks for writing about what we all know but have trouble expressing.

  2. Pingback: Knitting self help books? Pt 1 « Kniterly

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