Wednesday, February 22, 2006

dreaming with my hands

Something happened along the way and knitting got to be just another brick in the wall of mundanity. The list of chores: Do laundry, wash dishes, organize desk, grocery shop, pick up library books, return phone calls, cook dinner, knit like a slave.

I noticed the transition, of course, and developed a very practical attitude about it. Everything new becomes old. You can dream of living in a place your entire life, but once you finally arrive, set up a sofa and hang up some curtains, you stop noticing the skyscrapers. The mountains that told you you weren't in Ohio anymore, Dorothy, barely register while you're driving the boulevard, lost in visions of what you have to do to get all the other things you want and will, no doubt, acquire and forget in favor of new things (unless you go to sleep one night and wake up Gandhi).

And love. Those who traffic in the ways of the mind are close to convincing us that this whole romantic love vs mature love thing holds water. Meaning that even the boy who made you leave the skyscrapers in favor of the mountains will start to feel more like your brother than your lover, once you get used to him. And you'll have to be okay with that, because what did Bruce Hornsby say? That's just the way it is.

Ah, but don't you believe them.

When I started knitting, it was so much like the beginning of my love affair with The Bubba. My life before was okay. Good, even. But when knitting showed up it was like somebody turned on the sun. I had never known such brilliance, such startling illumination, in my life. Except with The Bubba. Every little bitty thing changed. My senses, previously blunted by my acute inability to stop chasing my own tail long enough to really notice anything, sharpened. People talked, and rather than just seeing their lips moving, I heard words coming from them. Patterns and textures sprang at me out of nature and man-made edifices. My impression of the color orange changed. Orange went from a fair to middling color to a color that added kick and spirit to just about everything. And on its own -- wow. And green. Who knew how lively and soothing this color could be? I'll be damned if there's not some shade of green that looks good on every soul on earth. Knitting lifted me out of my blacks and browns and sometimes grays and catapulted me into a kaleidoscopic world of pigment.

When something makes you feel like this, don't you want more and more of it?

Of course you do.

I did.

I went from an eBay unknown to an eBay star building up my knitting needles, supplies, and oh yes, yarn. If I wasn't knitting, I was reading about it. I took knitting wherever I went, restaurants, dinner parties, movies, plays, road trips, plane trips, you name it. If eating and sleeping even looked like they were going to interfere with my knitting time, I'd skip them. Whatever. I'll sleep when I'm dead, I figured.

In the process of all this, I learned about my own generosity and compassion. I've said before that most of what I've knit I've given away. If I hear somebody's in a tough spot, I immediately want to knit him or her a little softness. I am lucky enough to have many friends and family members I dearly, dearly love, and who have supported me beyond words all my life. Straightaway I recognized knitting as a way to express my love and gratitude to them. In showing adoration through fiber, garter stitch scarves for everyone won't do. I chose projects based on the people they were intended for, even if it meant having to learn new skills in a pinch (which isn't all bad), buy yarn I couldn't necessarily afford at the time of purchase, or work on more projects at a time than I otherwise would choose to so I could meet birthday/holiday deadlines. It is true that no one was standing over me with a whip. But I am the rabid-eyed obsessive type, often worse than any external master.

Marry the way knitting made me swoon with my determination to swaddle the world in wool, and you get a shiteload of works-in-progress.

I cannot tell you how noise-making having a bunch of projects going on at once is for me. Stash yarn I can deal with, but yarn specifically earmarked for patterns, sitting around in various states of UFOness, that there's my idea of purgatory. You see, I have enough unfinished business, enough things I need to get around to doing before I make the grand exit from the stage of life, in my regular everyday dealings. I do not need this in knitting.

What I need, and what I have decided to return to, is to dream with my hands. I need knitting to be that place where I birth my own creativity. I need it to be a pressure-free ode to pure hedonism. I need it as my haven. I need it as my place of discovery and daydreams and light. I need it as my friend.

Just like I refuse to go gently in to familial love with The Bubba in favor of keeping the romantic, the dreamy, the unpredictable between us, I refuse to continue knitting like I'm working on somebody's chain gang. I alone have managed to make knitting another form of toil. I alone can restore it to its former celestial glory.


tk said...

I say stash the UFO's, splurge on some yummy yarn and do something for yourself! You deserve it.

Summer said...

I love you.

You have captured about knitting the feeling I have toward sewing baby slings right now.

I understand now why I haven't been able to bring myself to sit down at the machine since Christmas. Thank you.

sappmama said...

tk -- Thank you. We all deserve to make a little something nice for ourselves, don't we? I'm on a mission to finish the 10 - 15 gift projects I've got going and then it's all about ME ME ME! (I've also got to stick to moderation when knitting for myself. No casting on 20 things 'cause then I'll be right back where I am right now.)

summer -- I heart you too! It's hard when you enjoy making stuff and wanna spread it around. Next thing you know, you're burnt on something you used to find so pleasurable. We've got to reclaim our crafts, man. We've got to.

Ellen Bloom said...

Carla! This is one of the best essays I've ever read on the emotional side of knitting. You should really submit this piece to one of the magazines OR to Annie Modesit for inclusion in one of her books!
I hear you, GF...too many projects, too little time and it makes you crazy trying to catch up. Dump all those gifts and make yourself a sweater! I learned some great stash-busting techniques at Stitches West that I will gladly share with you. Have a faboo time in Vegas...hi to Bubba!

Kim said...

Wow. You are absolutely right. While I love just simply having yarn around, too many projects waiting for my attention puts knitting on my 'to do' list. And goodness knows that's long enough as it is! I want to knit because I want to, not because I have to.

Thanks for visiting me :o) I haven't given up on Cozy, it's just the Silky Tweed was all wrong. I need to find another yarn!

Latoya said...

Will you be taking a break from knitting so that you can start to see the trees instead of the forest? It sounds as if you may be a bit burnt out.
Knitting will always be there, so go and frolic.

sappmama said...

Thank you, Ellen. I'll certainly look into your suggestions. And you're right. The thing about gift knitting is that it tends to be lots of hats, scarves, and shawls. Since I haven't had time for larger, more complex projects, I've yet to hone my sweater skills, but that's about to change!

Kim, I'll be around again, checking out your Cozy progress!

Latoya, I have slowed down a bit. My dad's yarn eating, eternal scarf (aka Here and There Cables from Scarf Style) was driving me nuts, I was in such a rush to finish it. But now I figure a belated present beats no present at all, so I happily work on it when I can. I've wised up and rather than adding more projects to my list, I'm working to finish UFOs so that I can take Ellen's suggestion to make myself a sweater. I think a couple trees are coming into focus. :)

Darcy said...

Great post Carla, we missed you at SnB last night. Maybe you won big in Vegas and went on another vacation getaway?!

kellz said...

dear carla,
great post!! i have been stopping by for a while. i hope all is well in your world....

stop by when time permits,

sappmama said...

Hi, Darcy. I wish! I'll be back at SnB before you know it.

Kelly, thank you. I'm on my way over.