Why I Knit

JJ, my grandson recently asked me “Gramma, why do you always knit!” ( emphasis on “knit.”) I don’t remember what I said, something offhand like, “I just enjoy it,” but it got me thinking. Something that occupies so much space in my life (and my closets) must be more than simple enjoyment. After all, I enjoy singing, but thankfully I don’t woman knitting by lampsing everywhere I go. But I knit everywhere I can get away with it; in waiting rooms, in restaurants, on airplanes, in cars, in meetings, watching TV, visiting friends. I haven’t knit at checkout lines in grocery stores, in church or at stoplights, YET, but I have to admit it’s tempting…
Case in point: I would not for one moment entertain the thought of going on a trip lasting more than 15 minutes without my knitting. For extended (more than an hour) trips I spend as much if not more time choosing knitting project(s) as I do my wardrobe. The project has to be mindless enough to be worked in poor light, on bumpy roads and cramped conditions, but interesting enough that I don’t hate it after the first 8 rows. It has to be small enough not to engulf me but large enough to last the trip. There have been many times when four inches into the project I have admitted defeat and “frogged it,” (knitting jargon for rip the sucker out). So it needs to be “on the needles” far enough to know it will work. Which brings up Cardinal Rule No. 1: NEVER leave home with just ONE knitting project.
The extent to which I will endure indignity and ridicule for knitting is astounding. I have retrieved stray skeins from under the seats of disgruntled passengers three seats ahead on planes. I have been stopped on freeways because yarn was trailing behind the car. I’ve been refused service in yarn shops until I’ve knit some of my stash. My oldest yarn was purchased in Australia in 1960. OK, it’s an obsession.
But there are also practical reasons to knit. I cannot open the refrigerator or the pantry door with knitting needles in my hand. Knitting combats boredom and discourages chatty seat mates on airplanes. And more than once I have overcome the urge to offer unsolicited commentary by focusing on my knitting.
And knitting is pleasurable. The luxurious yarns, the exquisite rosewood needles, handmade stitch markers, fanciful knitting bags. And the delight of watching the pattern develop as the fabric grows in your hands, the satisfaction of admiring the finished piece.
But these are superficial reasons. The real reasons I knit are intangible. First of all, knitting connects me to my grandmothers. As the yarn slips between my fingers, around the needle, around again, off the needle, around once more, I can envision them knitting by lamplight at the end of the day. My knitting projects are chosen from an almost endless supply of inspiring patterns and beautiful yarns; their choices were limited to what was available. Often yarn was homespun, or was recovered from an older garment that had become too worn or too small. Most of what they made were necessities. But their handwork was often the only creative outlet they had. And they produced beautiful things with few resources. I sometimes fear that the ease of my life has blunted the strength and creativity that might have been passed to me through their genes.
Knitting is a sisterhood. No matter our race, age, political or religious view, if we are knitters, we are sisters. I rarely know much about the lives of the women I knit with, but I know who they are by what they knit, how they knit, and the stories they tell. Some of the heartiest laughs and most tearful exchanges I have ever had have been around knitting tables.
And knitting teaches humility. You can’t pretend to knit or perform a stitch you don’t know. You can’t hide your mistakes. If it should have been a purl and not a knit, or a knit two together instead of a yarn over, it’s there for everyone to see. And sometimes it’s important to just be OK with the mistakes. Good practice for life.
Finally, knitting can be a prayer. Prayer shawls and blankets knit with thoughts of warmth and comfort provide garments for healing and protection from the cold.
So, that’s it, JJ. I knit for all these reasons which will make no sense to you now, but these days men knit as well. So maybe you’ll be a knitter one day. And perhaps your grandson will ask someday, “Grampa, why do you always knit?”

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