Monday, 15 February 2010

The Meditative Art of Knitting

I rediscovered knitting a little over a year ago when I came across a few bloggers who blogged about their knitting endeavours.  Somehow, I started to get itchy fingers and felt as though I wanted to knit again.  The last time I knitted was in primary school and that was a very small but fashionably purple vest (a. k. a. tank top) as prescribed by our Home Economics curriculum.  We little girls were quite impressed with the act and I recall knitting a few other things at home for fun but I can't remember what they were.

Many years later, I found myself on a day out in London and I sought out a trendy little knit shop and purchased a couple of pairs of needles and three balls of yarn that appealed.  I tried the yarn with the needles when I got home - without consulting the Internet or a book - and I found to my amazement that my fingers remembered how to cast on and how to knit the basic garter stitch.  Wow!  Not being someone who is naturally gifted with her hands, I was impressed.  Strange how your body can recall actions from years ago even if your brain doesn't.

My first item was a thin, whispy multi-coloured scarf knit in garter stitch (the most basic there is: just knit every row) on thick needles.  I did it in a few hours that evening and was quite happy at having created my first item of clothing!  After that, I tried a thick scarf (are you beginning to spot a theme here?) in a red chilli colour in a ribbed stitch (a sequence of knit and purl stitches).  I had to look up how to do the purl stitch as, alas, my fingers had amnesia on that one.

I have since progressed onto other types of scarves, a couple of hats and mittens, and last year attempted my first sock on double-pointed needles.  Yikes!  I was scared of those for a while... but it is working out and is still a work in progress.  The Internet is an invaluable tool (thanks, You Tubers) for self-instruction and there isn't anything that you can't do. 

So at the moment I am busy on a very simple scarf - knitting every row - simply because I like knitting scarves and I love this teal colour.  This is taking much longer than my other scarves did as it's thinner yarn but I like the calming repetitivness of the act and the colour cheers me up.  Knitting is great for thinking and contemplating and your mind can wander if your pattern isn't too complicated - an advantage of this simple scarf.

Sometimes, though, you might just want to give your mind a rest.  Although knitting can take away from precious reading time, I've found listening to an audio book or a radio adaptation a great substitute and much better than knitting and watching TV.  You can keep your eyes on your work and enjoy the story.

I love the texture of yarn and the smoothness of needles and I usually rub fragrant hand lotion onto my hands before knitting and the uplifting or calming scent is transferred onto the item.  Once the garment or item is complete, and I wear it again months later, I can strangely recall what I was listening to, pondering or watching whilst knitting... as if my thoughts and emotions were woven into each stitch.  The light scent of the hand lotion also acts as a trigger. 

I'm still a beginner but I enjoy the act of knitting.  Sometimes I pick it up out of a creative urge; sometimes out of a meditative urge.  Either way, it's a great way to keep occupied in these chilly dark days and you can also get a set of lovingly-made hat, mittens and scarf out of it.

The cute little cats above were created by the talented Sheila Sargent based in Sevenoaks, Kent.


Diane said...

Good luck with your new hobby...knitting. My daughter is a self-taught knitter, and she and a friend are having their first book published with a release date this summer. It's called: New England Knits.

She said lots of knitters are listening to audio books or the Kindle too is the new gadget which makes knitting and reading the perfect duo??

I don't knit; just read LOL

Book Psmith said...

I only learned to knit a couple of weeks ago but I completely agree with your meditative assessment. I have been turning to knitting instead of reading when feeling frustrated or antsy, and it really gets me in a calm zone. I think I will try out your audiobook idea (since, like you, I find the knitting has cut into my reading time).

Hannah Stoneham said...

I am fascinated and a little jealous... I love knitted things and think that knitting looks very peaceful and creative - but sadly I am a bit talentless in the department. Good luck and happy knitting! Hannah

Rochester Reader said...

Diane: Thank you for your kind wishes. How wonderful that your daughter has produced a book on the subject! I shall keep an eye out for it :-)

Book Psmith: I commented on your blog before seeing this... I'm happy that the knitting is having a calming effect. You could listen to Penelope Keith reading Agatha Raisin!

Hannah: You should give it a go! I think most beginners (like me) start off knitting a chunky scarf in plain knit stitch. You can finish it quickly in this way and it spurs you on to try other stitches. I recommend Debbie Stoller's 'Stitch 'n Bitch' (very good and a humourous read) and 'Knitting for Dummies'. The Internet is wonderful to get you out of a jam and there are loads of videos on YouTube with intrepid knitters showing you how to knit something step by step. You won't regret it :-)

Darlene said...

You must have a look at the ravelry website! It's a fantastic resource for free patterns and looking at everyone's projects really inspires your list of things to make. I'll warn you that it's also very addictive!

Rochester Reader said...

Hi Darlene and thank you for visiting :-)
Oh, Ravelry! I go on there from time to time and it's wonderful. Such a great community of knitters and inspiring things, as you say. I never thought knitting would be addictive, so it comes as no surprise that Ravelry is too :-) The temptation to buy different yarn (in various shades) - even when I don't have any knitting plans for it - is the biggest problem... I've had to really put my foot down :-)