Knit One, Purl Two: The Art of Taking Time

How knitting is an act of peace and creates an inner tranquility

Knitting

I’ve taken up knitting.  Today as sun coated the city, I sat in the shade, and knitted with my bamboo needles and merino wool.

I’ve also started quilting inspired by two beautiful quilts I bought in New Holland, Pennsylvania from an old Mennonite woman.  While many sew using machines I love the peace that comes over me as I quilt. First I become absorbed in selecting patterns and fabric that will harmonize with each other, and create a textile song. I stitch neat little rows, biting the thread with my teeth to cut it; pressing the folded pieces out and watching them form a map of color and images.

I was inspired to start knitting by my friend Claudia. She visited recently and I would make her tea in the morning then sprawl across the bottom of the bed like a teenager while she sat propped up by pillows knitting. We would talk and talk of children and politics, she is running a political economics class at a prestigious New England university.

After she left I drove past a yarn store called Knittin’ Kitten. It was open, which it isn’t always, when Mary Jane Wedlock, the owner travels she closes the store and wistful women cruise by until she returns. I bought some thick brightly colored wool to knit a beanie – it was my first time using circular needles and they twisted the wool and the hat around and around and inside out – it was unwearable. I pulled all my knitting out. Second time the same. I fled to Mary Jane for advice. She has a long table at which desperate women like me sit, our fingers fumbling until we ask her counsel. The simplicity of what she says always strengthens us; we’re again in command of the yarn.  Newly confident we smile at others and settle peacefully back into our chairs.

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She said I needed to cast on and then press all the stitches inward – somehow they know they needed to behave after that and so a warm hat was born.

But there was some really lovely rough organic wool I’d spied that I couldn’t get out of my head, and so yesterday I went back to the Knittin’ Kitten. There were other three women seated at the long table smiling serenely as their needles clicked and yarn skimmed over their fingers.  A radio was softly playing Second World War type music favorites.

I bought seven skeins of yarn and while Mary Jane spun it into big balls I sat at the table and cast on.

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Charlene Smith
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