Saturday, March 17, 2012

Zen and The Art of Knitting

I finished knitting a sweater I have been working on for TWO years! Yes, that's right two whole years. To be fair, I wasn't working on it every night for two years. I mostly knit in the winter and even then I have dry spells. In any case, it is finally done and it is lovely! Usually my sweaters turn out a bit wonky, and I never wear them. They hang on me a strangely or the sleeves are bunchy and weird. But I'm really happy with this one and it is super warm. It's a sweater/blanket. In fact, I think the actual name of it in the book is "Cabled Blanket coat".

I was originally intrigued with the idea of knitting while reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I read it in high school and hated it most of the time until the end where I cried my eyes out. It's one book I'm really looking forward to reading again some day. Anyway, Madame DeFarge, one of the villains in the book, is constantly knitting. She encodes names of people the Revolution will kill into her knitting. How badass is that!? I thought that was the coolest idea - communicating through textiles.  All of the women in my step-dad's family knit and so when I was in college I asked them to teach me. (They are kind gentle, ladies and not murderesses, I can assure you). And I've been knitting ever since!

I love knitting for so many reasons, the least of which is actually the final result. Each stitch in and of itself is really plain and simple, but as you build on them they turn into these complex works of art (well, hopefully they do). I've always felt it's kind of meditative. When I am knitting, my brain loses the thread of all the different stories in my head - work, friends, family, future, finances, etc, etc and just goes along… knit, purl, knit, purl, knit, purl. I wish I could live my life that way - focusing on each of the steps on your path instead of where the path is going, or which path is best, or who else is on that path. I guess you could say knitting is a practice in being present. I have a difficult time staying present so any activity that cultivates that for me, I love.

Of course, knitting isn't always calm and soothing. It can be infuriating when I have to go back and undo a whole section because I screwed something up. I'll put it down for weeks just because I don't want to deal with whatever problem crept its way in. (This probably speaks volumes about how I deal with problems/conflicts in my own life, but we'll save that for another day). After taking some time away, I usually have built up enough patience that I can go back and undo. And sometimes, frankly, the mistake isn't that big of a deal so I push on!

I've heard about Tibetan monks who create these intricate sand paintings that take days or weeks to complete. And, as soon as they complete it, they destroy the whole thing. The point of the practice was the journey not the end product and to show the "impermanence" of life. Knitting doesn't get me to THAT zen of a place. If I had to unravel a sweater every time I completed it, I think I would move onto another hobby. That being said, I have often thought to myself that if I were on a desert island or stranded in the mountains for months or years on end, it would be great to have some yarn and needles that I could knit up, unravel and knit up again. Maybe I'm more zen than I realize!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful sweater! I love the details of the pattern.

    Cool parallels between knitting and the Tibetan sandpainting. By the way:

    Keep the posts coming!