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February 6, 2007

Letting my knitter freak flag fly...

So, finally, FINALLY, I finished my mismatched crazy green scarf. You can read about the beginning of this yarny wonder right here.

Since my little Roy has gotten so skinny in his old age he gets cold easily and to keep warm, he prefers to be held all the time. Sometimes I zip him up in my hoodie and just carry him around. I'm pretty sure this will not be information I give immediately to the next potentially dateable man I meet, but at least I don't have a possum in my bra. So when it came time to take the picture I had a little furry addition:

Roy gets his snuggle on.

He's the gangsta of love.

Finishing up this scarf reminded me of the HUGE KNITTING EPIPHANY I had while making this (very heavy and thick ... and did I mention HEAVY?) piece of work.

It was about a month ago, and Drew and I were on the phone chitchatting as we tend to do on Saturday mornings. I was telling him I had to go soon, take a shower and get ready for Saturday Stitch 'n Bitch and he asked me what project I was going to take.

"The mismatched green scarf," I said.

"How's that one going?" he asked.

"Oh!" I said, excited. "It's so weird and nutty, I love it!"

And then I told him how I was at our knitting group the night I started this weird wacky scarf and one of our knitters said, "You're so adventurous to make something mixing yarns like that." And I was stunned, because me? I am just picking two balls of yarn, or three, and stranding them together and if it sucks oh well. Science experiment! Scarf! And the pretty gal telling me I was "adventurous" was sitting right there, knitting up a sweater! A whole sweater!(!!!) In light of that I didn't think I was so adventurous. But who am I to argue with someone's praise. I pretended I was adventurous. I maybe was full of myself.

So I was telling this to Drew, because I just love the way all our brains are so different and what seems risky to one is another's piece of cake, and how knitting is as much about the personality and desire of the knitter as it is a craft.

And Drew, my Drewguru, said, "I was at dinner one night with one of the industry folks at TNNA, and we were talking about different kinds of knitters. And how some people can be basic knitters -- like you, making mostly scarves and occassionally hats -- but they stick to these basic items, and they can become quite advanced basic knitters."

I let it sink in.

"I AM AN ADVANCED BASIC KNITTER!!!" I was sort of excited, Good Lord I love to classify things, including myself. "I KNIT THE BASICS!" Ya'll. It was 8 a.m. I was not even drinking.

And the thing is, I do sometimes look at knitting websites and see the beautiful and complex garments made by knitters and I have, on occassion, felt like I was a small daft child on the short bus to garter stitch. Like it is a competition or something, I should be doing better! Making more intricate things! Covering my house in sweaters!

The truth is, knitting is as personal as the knitter. No two people are alike, so no two people knit the same.

I myself love knitting because it is a stress reliever, keeps my hands busy so I don't miss smoking, and it gives me a safe (scarf) place to play with my favorite things: color, texture, and scale. When I used to paint, I did everything that same way. I was a pretty awful painter but I just liked doing it. I liked making huge canvases, weird textures with gesso, mixing two paints or techniques to see what would happen.

So I make scarves that are ten feet long, or have six-inch wide pom poms on the end, or use eleventy two green yarns mixed together.

It's a personal thing, an intimate connection between your personality, your day-to-day life, and your hands. Truth is, I like to just wing it. I love yarn and I love needles, so I relax by making it up as I go, enjoying the feel of the fabric and the strange shapes it sometimes takes. I look to knitting as my safe relaxing place. I used to feel apologetic about all this, like I wasn't properly challenging my skills. Now I know it's just the way my brain works. There is no right or wrong here, and that is such a comforting idea!

Conversely, some knitters relax by giving themselves fully over to the challenge of building a garment, or steeking, or constructing a fine and delicate glove so intricate you'd just stare at it in complete awe. The challenge of a new technique, a more complicated and technical pattern, the scale of a sweater or a carefully constructed lace shawl makes many knitters feel centered, relaxed, happy. It's like active meditation, isn't it? I feel that way about a lot of things -- the more involved I can get in the process, the challenge, the better I feel. (I am like that with Photoshop. The more complex the better! Bring it on! Zen, baby!)

But I am not that way with knitting. I knit because I can't afford therapy and my job is challenging, my commute is challenging, my city sometimes makes me want to curl up in the fetal position and eat my own hand. So I need my knitting to untangle my inside chaos and nuttiness. I get my artistic challenge on each day at work with Photoshop and billboards and ad campaigns. Ergo, it is perfectly fine to not need a challenging sweater. (It is also perfectly fine to need that challenging sweater! Knitting is not the object, it is the person behind the object.) (See? Epiphany!)

We all knit at our own speed, at our own level of therapeutic crazy, and my crazy is obviously in need of pom poms. I like the oddness of my creations, the imbalance, the perfectly weird end product of my needles.

Something about this whole train of thought made me exhale with relief. I can become a subject matter expert at my one thing, goofy basics. It frees me up to more thoroughly enjoy your sweater, or your complex lace, and rather than feel we're in a race to HAVE ALL THE FINISHED OBJECTS EVER, I can admire you for the way your brain works, so different from mine. Win-win.

And this epiphany was not even fueled by wine!

Did I really stick my be-hind out that far?
Ah, I am so very professional.

So ugly, but it's mama loves it.
Perfect for a vacation to some place COLD!

Posted by laurie at February 6, 2007 8:53 AM