Imagine trying to finish the sentence "Knitters are…." and see what kind of trouble you can get yourself into. Can't say old, can't say young, can't say women. Can't say we all like wool, can't say we all knit acrylic. Can't say we all enjoy knitting socks, can't say that all of us see the pleasure in an afghan. We don't all knit for charity, we don't all have cats. We didn't all vote for the NDP, we don't all go to church. We don't all have grandchildren, we don't all go to Knit Night, we aren't all hip – or not hip. We don't even all stash yarn or knit in public. We are almost impossible to describe, and the things we have in common aren't really visible. Now try "Knitting is…." and you'll have the same trouble. What are you going to say? Fun? Easy? Hard? Challenging? Meditative? Cheap? Expensive? No matter what you try to say, a thousand exceptions are going to crop up and ruin your point. The truth of all of it is (I think) that the answers are so complicated because they have to do with what we've learned about knitting and how the practice of it has influenced our thinking and behaviour.
While I agree with all she wrote, I would complete the sentence as thus:
Think about it. It doesn't matter what you are knitting – and whether you are following the directions of another knitter's pattern or are making up your own pattern as you go along or a combination of the two above, in all of these instances, you, the knitter, are creating each and every stitch.
You have to choose the yarn, the color, the texture, the pattern, the needles – there are a LOT of choices that go into making an item. And if you don't pay attention to details (the size of the item vs the size of the wearer) you can get screwed; so there are choices there too.
You can't complete the item until all those stitches are knitted one by one, row by row and then piece by piece and put together to form a cohesive unit to be worn or used.
There is no other craft that demands that the creator have as much interaction – from the beginning to the end – you create the fabric thru the knitting shaping it as you knit along. And for those spinners – the act of creation extends back to the creation of the yarn itself – well, we are not sheep but a spinner gets as close as you can to the source.
In today's "instant gratification" society where emails come in seconds over high speed broadband networks and cellphones keep one in constant communication, where online shopping brings goods from around the world to one's doorstep, the art of creation is fast dwindling.
The topic of exposure to arts in schools is covered extensively and widely enough elsewhere for me to start here – but think about whether children are getting exposed to the act of creation – the SLOW process of building step by step , of learning a craft beit painting, sewing, gardening, knitting, playing an instrument, acting, or even in athletics too. (but watch out for competiveness… it kills creativity dead).
In the arts, one of the main lessons is that there is only the ongoing continuum of growth – there is never the FINAL performance or FINAL artwork. For the performer (be they musician, dancer, actor) each performance is a waystation on the road stretching out to the future. The minute a performer thinks they have a set take on a piece of music or role, is the moment of death for that creative enterprise.
Maybe listening to Peter Grimes (Live from the Met on Sirius Radio) this evening has affected me – this incredible work of opera melding so creatively all the aspects of opera available to Britten – an incredible chorus presence, well defined characters, evocative emotionally rich music portraying the sea in all its rage and beauty.
The composer’s self-avowed aim in the opera was ‘to express my
awareness of the perpetual struggle of men and women whose livelihood
depends on the sea’ and anyone who has visited the coastline around the
composer’s home town of Aldeburgh will recognize the uncanny certainty
with which Britten has captured that land- and seascape in Peter Grimes.
Perhaps more importantly, the opera also introduces many of the
fundamental dramatic themes which characterise Britten’s entire
operatic output: the individual against the mass, and the corruption of
Who knows where these ruminations come from? Maybe it's the number of unfinished objects of knitting there are in my house right now. Maybe it's the struggles of an artist still searching her muse.