I’ve been resisting the urge to talk about why I knit, but this topic has been knocking around in my head for a while now, and is demanding to be talked about.
How does an ordinarily sane person, who enjoys the delights of her children, going to the farmers’ market to sniff out the freshest and most delicious-looking ingredients on offer and then cooking them up for family and friends to enjoy, drinking delightful wine, walking in the country and on the beach, a good cup of coffee with friends, travel and all the new experiences to have in doing so, reading a good book, shopping in the shopping meccas of the world… become totally addicted to and obsessed with this thing called knitting?
Knitting is a personal thing. It means something different to each person, although one fact is clear – knitting is no longer a chore. You don’t knit because you have to. If you need a garment, you can buy one in the shop at a cheaper price.
But who’s talking about price here? Knitting gives you that choice. You can make the thing you want in whatever colour, texture, material and style you like. If it’s a garment, you can make it to fit you at the right proportions. And you get the personal satisfaction that you made it. It is often superior quality too, if you use natural fibres. And actually, you can often make it for cheaper (just don’t count your time).
The meditative qualities of knitting have also been often remarked on – you get a quiet head space that is very rare to achieve these days. People who like knitting (and I am no exception here) are generally people who cannot sit still and do nothing. Knitting gives your hands and mind something to do, and at the same time, enjoy, without guilt, a little physical rest time.
Knitting is a tactile activity. I get a huge amount of pleasure from feeling the yarn, smelling it, exploring the qualities of the fibre as it slowly turns into a knitted fabric, and then wearing it.
Some people like the social aspect of knitting, a new thing today. On the rare occasions I have been able to knit with others, I have learned new things, and made new friends, and that has its obvious benefits.
Something that you knitted, that then gets publicly admired and coveted, is another buzz. Everyone needs a bit of praise now and then.
But mostly, for me, knitting is about being able to express my personality. My knitting, I have realised, it a statement about who I am. I care for my family, therefore I knit for them. I love creating beautiful things that are also useful. I love learning new things, and knitting is an unlimited universe of learning. There’s so much to learn – about the fibre, where it comes from, how it’s made, how to knit the yarn (all those stitch combinations and techniques!), how to match the right yarn to the right project to get the best out of both, how to design your own projects, the list is endless.
I’ve become a bit of a sheep fanatic. I carry a sheep breed book with me when we travel, and the kids have got very used to hauling the thing out and looking up the pages as we drive past fields on our way to a holiday destination, and I say something like “Oh look! Sheep! Do you think that’s a Corriedale or a Coopworth? Look it up quick – no wool on the legs, face bare, medium-size body, semi-crimpy fleece, what does the book say?” If it’s coloured sheep, the level of excitement goes up several notches. The kids groan.
When Eric’s school had a pet day, and a couple of beautiful alpacas were brought in for the children to see, I almost passed out with excitement. They were Suris! I was probably the most engaged and interested person there. Good thing Eric is too young to be embarrassed by his mum yet… (ahem).
Knitting allows me to express myself with freedom. There are no ridiculous rules. There are no time limits or physical constraints. There are no limits to what you can do, except those that you set yourself.
And finally, there’s a bit of ethics and the ‘feel good’ factor. I enjoy supporting the small producer because I’m directly contributing to someone’s passion and livelihood. For example, the lovely yarns you can get from the alpaca breeders in New Zealand. It’s fair trade to me at the simplest level. I also feel I’m keeping a bit of diversity and sustainability alive.
I also try to buy organic and ethical yarns such as, Treliske, Mirasol and Manos del Uruguay, as much as I can. I use possum (Zealana’s yarns and The Wool Company merino possum), because it’s a way to get rid of those pesky pests in an environmentally friendly way, and which also contributes to someone’s livelihood (the trapper, in this instance, is usually someone who lives in a remote rural area and relies on this income to stay alive).
I use New Zealand wool because, although we’re a country famous for its sheep, the wool industry isn’t doing so hot (aside from our merino). I get dismayed hearing stories of farmers who burn the wool or leave it to rot in the shearing shed, because it’s cheaper not to sell it. I feel worried when I hear the producer tell me she can’t guarantee her natural coloured yarn is from a particular breed because you just can’t get so much of that coloured variety on the market any more. We’re converting to dairy herds faster than you can blink an eye, it seems, and I for one, think it’s a very big shame. On many, many levels, not just the climate change factor.
Knitting is a way that I can contribute to keeping the world real, and that does give me and the world, something back in return.
Long live knitting!