Saturday, January 7, 2012

Knitted souls

If I could find a picture of a soul, I would try to knit one.  Because I think that my soul is made of knitting.

Knitting is the first craft I learned as a child (as far as I can remember).  I have very clear memories of my little 6 year-old self pulling my tiny wooden rocking chair up in front of my parents' woodstove with a little purple ball of yarn and knitting needles, on which my mother had started a scarf for me, and rocking away furiously while I knitted.  My mother went outside to get my father so he could look at me, because apparently it was really cute.

When I was in college and wanted to start crafting, I tried to teach myself crochet out of a book I got at AC Moore.  I got the gist of it, but it never really stuck, and I haven't picked it up again since.  A year or two later, however, knitting needles caught my eye and I tried that again.

That stuck.

I've never been a particularly good knitter.  I can do the basics - scarf, hat, dishcloths, Swiffer covers, iPod cases with a single button - but I'm not fancy.  And while I'd love to be able to go out in an adorable sweater, or with some really stellar mittens, and tell people that I made them, for me, gettin' fancy isn't really the point.

See, I just knit for my soul, mostly.  I knit because it makes me feel better and because the gentle repetition of it is relaxing.  I make a point to select soft, (usually) natural yarns that look nice and feel good running through my fingers.  I frequently knit on large needles because it goes faster, getting me to that nice feeling of accomplishment ASAP.  And the only things I knit for others are dishcloths and iPod covers, usually, because I prefer to knit things that I don't have to pay much attention to, and it's likely that I will still mess up.  That's fine for me - I don't mind wearing a scarf with dropped stitches, or a hat that's a bit too big - but I do want the things I give to the people I love to be as close to perfect as possible.

Knitting is a retreat for me.  It's a treat for me.  I don't usually knit gifts because I can't stand the pressure.  While at work or in school, I tend to work well under high pressure, knitting is my solace, and for me it just has to be relaxing.

When I know I'll have a hard time sleeping on a particular night, I pull out my needles and knit.  I usually have 2-3 projects going at once, so I've almost always got something that suits my mood.  And if I don't, I start something new.  Sometimes I need to focus on the knitting to distract myself from the other overwhelming thoughts of the day - so I break out the really cute monkey-face dishcloth pattern, where I have to count my stitches and remember which row to knit and to purl.  Sometimes I just need my brain to allow itself to turn off - those nights, I work on a scarf.

There's something extra-soothing about fluffy, cozy yarn and big needles, and the big, soft loops they make, that just helps me settle.  As I knit row after row, I can feel the constant pressure behind my eyes easing; I can feel my shoulders dropping and relaxing; I can feel my hands unclench as I let the yarn slip through them.

Some people get frustrated by knitting.  They're perfectionists; they have high expectations of themselves; they don't let the mistakes just happen; everything has to be just "so."  I used to be one of those people.  I used to knit everything so tight.  It was just because I wasn't relaxing.  I was convinced, for the longest time, that if I loosened my grip on my yarn, then I would totally lose my grip on everything, and it would all slide out of control around me and drop like so many stitches.  As I've continued to knit over the years, I've learned that I don't have to clench everything so tightly.  Some things, I can just ease up, and back off, and instead of falling apart, it will fall into place.

Sometimes, the only thing I can do that with is knitting.  But that's ok, because sometimes I can do it with other things, too.

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