Culture and Art, Zen & Dharma

Why knit?

Know this: if anyone ever knits you a pair of socks, it means they really, really love you.

I’m well into knitting my life’s third pair of socks. And while they are certainly nice socks, they’re nothing spectacular. I don’t do fancy cables or intricate stitchery (and i have actually seen a pattern for socks with a stanza from Beowulf knitted into them, which is just plain insanity). They are plain, but they will be warm and fit just right, and they should last a good long time. But they’re pretty ordinary socks, and mostly they will just be hidden inside my shoes.

Sometimes when people see my hand-knitted socks they say hey—you could sell those! Yes. But, at $20 or more for the wool, plus at least 30 hours of knitting, thems would be some pretty pricey socks. And, for all that love and labour, they’re highly imperfect. There are faint lines where i switch from needle to needle and small holes here and there where i’ve dropped and reconstructed a stitch. They don’t even totally match. One sock is inevitably a little longer in the instep or cuff, and this time around i had an idea for reinforcing the heel—but it didn’t occur to me until i had started the second sock, so one is reinforced and the other isn’t. Most people would say actually, those are kind of crappy socks. I wouldn’t pay ten dollars for those socks.

When I pay twenty bucks for a skein of soft pink-purple-blue merino superwash I divide that amount by thirty hours of feeling that silky yarn slip through my fingers. Thirty hours of watching the colours shift and swirl as they settle row upon row. Thirty hours of the soft metal whisper of needle on needle. Thirty hours of my slowing my mind down and synching with the rhythm of my hands.

You don’t knit for the product, you knit to knit.

3 Comments on “Why knit?

  1. I agree about the connection between love and knitting. My wife, who wasn’t a particularly great knitter, made a jumper for our first born. The effect of seeing him crawling around wearing it felt more secure somehow. Apparently folks knitted socks for the solders in WW2 . I wonder if they thought that they were protecting them somehow? Perhaps there’s a fairy tale that this comes from, whatever it’s a lovely cosy feeling.

  2. I of course am a fervent advocate of knitting. It has so many benefits, the least of which is a wearable item at the end. Last December I knit an absolutely gorgeous pair of socks from a $30 multi-hued skein of wool, and they ended up being too big for me. I gave them as a random act of kindness to the fellow who works at the recycling depot and wears shorts year round so you can see his socks. I barely know the guy, but he does good work for the community and is always smiling. It tickled me so much to see him wearing my socks inside his work boots.

  3. But YOU MADE THEM! Let me tell you something that I learned from a very good art teacher (and you should know this): Art doesn’t have to be perfect. Be proud that you have a talent. I’m working on my 6th quilt right now and all I can say is: I hope that everyone would stop having all these babies!

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