Today I thought I would write about another realization that I've had recently in regards to my knitting. (The first being that handknit socks are warm, in part, because they cover my ankles.) A few months back I was in a knitting slump. Do you ever find yourself in this situation? I didn't have any projects on the needles that interested me, the idea of purchasing new yarn – a thought that is usually accompanied by a rush of adrenaline and a far away look in my eyes – inspired little more than a shrug, and every pattern I saw had that boring, “been there done that” look to it. And then I began to think about my knitting in general. How many things have I made in the past? How much time have I spent on this craft? How many of those things that I've made do I actually wear? As an aside, I should mention two things: a) I was thinking these thoughts while riding the bus to work at 7am. b) I am not a morning person. No, I don't think that's the right way to put it. I loathe mornings. I don't care how much coffee I consume, I find it nearly physically impossible to smile or have a positive thought in the morning. It's genetic. Anyone who has had the misfortune of being in a relationship with me or one of my siblings knows first-hand the extent of this normal and incredibly rational hatred. In the mornings, it is probably safest for you to simply pretend we aren't there. Do not say “good morning.” Do not ask us if we want coffee. In fact, don't even look at us. Even that would be more interaction than we care to have in the mornings. (I promise this is all somewhat relevant.) An ex-boyfriend of mine (a relationship that was obviously doomed to fail) once asked, before we went to bed, “Can you at least be happy to see me in the morning?” And I tried. Despite the sun threatening to blind me and those god awful robins screaming at a decibel that could shatter glass, I sat up, put on what I felt was the biggest smile I have EVER attempted and in the happiest of voices I said, “Good morning! It's nice to see you!” He only stared back. In fact, he looked pissed. He didn't even acknowledge how strong I must be to have overcome my internal struggle against darkness to express a happy sentiment right upon awakening. Had I done it wrong? Was he trying to get back at me? Reversing the roles so I know how I appear in the mornings? He was glaring at me. I took another breath thinking I would try again when he blinked once in annoyance and said, with anger in his voice, “we slept in. I missed my train to New York.” I have since gone back to being single as well as hating mornings. Clearly false optimism doesn't make anything better and it's too exhausting to keep it up.
And so there I was on the bus, aiming my morning death-stare out the window so as not to accidentally lock eyes with another passenger, and fuming about my knitting. Of all the sweaters that I've knitting for myself over the years, how many of them do I wear on a regular basis, I wondered? None. Scarves? Perhaps one or two. Hats? It turns out I don't wear hats. Nor do I wear cowls. In fact, my personal tastes don't really gravitate towards man-shawls, accessories, or bright colors at all. I have been knitting quite consistently for about seven years now – has all that time, energy, and money been wasted? “If I don't wear 90% of the crap that I make, what's the point?” thought my 7am self.
Back in the fall I was asked to knit a sample sweater to be displayed in my LYS. The idea was that the sweater be displayed for a few months and then I get to take it home. I thought about all the sweaters in the back of my closet that I never wear. This one's too heavy. I don't like that collar. That one is scratcy. Pullovers make me overheat. One thing I realized as I was mentally tossing through my wardrobe was that I hadn't completed a sweater for myself in about 4 years. That's more than half my knitting life. More importantly, though, was that maybe – just maybe – I've learned a thing or two about knitting in that intervening time and a thing or two about myself as well. And so with this store sample I was determined to create a sweater not that I would want to knit, but one that I would want to wear.
And that was my revelation. I wasn't relating to my knitting anymore because my focus had shifted. For years I have chosen patterns because I thought they looked like fun. They had interesting stitches, intriguing construction techniques, dapper models. I would see a pattern and think, “I'd like to knit that” while rarely giving voice to the second question. The one that was giving me so much grief on the bus - “Will I actually wear that?” I often find myself entranced by a pattern, thinking, “If I owned that, I, too, would be effortlessly trendy. I'd flip my shawl around my neck, latte in hand and heads would turn to watch my better, more fashionable self strut down the sidewalk. I'd totally wear that” paying no heed to the fact that, in truth, my style is a hoodie and blue jeans, not chinos, styled hair, and a latte. I want my knitting to have a real, physical presence in my life. I want my hard work to be put to use, to be functional, to serve a purpose. Knitting, to me, isn't simply the act of creating fabric or a way to de-stress before bed. Knitting is a way to provide for myself and connect to our collective past through the act of making. I want to feel as though I'm contributing toward keeping this craft, these skills, our knowledge alive and it's not going to thrive in the back of my closet. When I started knitting I was all about the process. I would have a dozen projects on the needles. I didn't give any consideration to when I would finish anything because finishing wasn't the point. Knitting was the point. I've known for years now that my opinions have changed on that matter, but it wasn't until recently that I realized that finishing, triumphant as it is, holds little importance unless that item gets used. I took a step in the right direction with my sample sweater and now that I have it in my hands, I wear it all the time.
Pattern: Slade by Michele Wang from BT Men Yarn: BrooklynTweed Shelter in Truffle Hunt
The process was simple – row after row of stockinette. A neutral color. A classic shape. But the end result was just what I had hoped for. A functional, wearable, fits-with-my-wardrobe sweater that I use. And you know what? When I wear it, I can almost picture that latte in my hand. (I would have taken better pictures, but the wind chill was -35 today and I wasn't going to go out there if I didn't have to.)
I'm hoping my next sweater will be just as successful.
Back and start of front of Redford by Julie Hoover, BT Men Yarn: BrooklynTweed Loft in Almanac