Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Knitting Still Amazes Me

Ever find yourself talking about your knitting in a group of people who don't knit?  The placated smiles, glassy eyed stares, and rhythmic head bobs looking back at you as you describe how you transformed some amazing handspun/handdyed yarn into a gorgeous shawlette that you think worked up well?  Then it hits you - no one friggin' cares about this but me.  ;p

I found knitting muggles to use such harsh words as "obsessive, boring, stereotypical, and desperate" when describing knitters.  And to that I say: Ya, cuz listening to you drone on and on about the tailgating party you threw, the 30 miles you ran before breakfast, the business contacts you made at work, how your little Johnny is poised to win the next Nobel Prize in Physics, or how your kids' lives are scheduled down to the nano second with activities that are sure to win them scholarships, just has me on the edge of my chair.  ;p  I have nothing against the activities of other moms.  I think whatever you do to make yourself and those around you happy is a worthwhile pursuit.  But why is it when I talk about my knitting, I get the feeling that it's the most boring topic in the world?  Ah.. cuz it is to non-knitters.  But to me, knitting still amazes me every single day.

First off, there is the sheer intellectual joy that comes from knitting.  Yes, knitting is a creative hobby.  But it's also quite educational.  For instance: want to have random stripes in your garment that look neat and pleasing to the eye?  Work out a color scheme using Fibonacci Sequence.  Trying to design a garment that can withstand the strain of vigorous use?  Apply Young's Modulus.  Knitting up a scrappy blanket with different weights of yarn?  Grab a pencil, paper, and work out the ratio and proportion for the stitches per inch in relation to the desired dimensions of the blanket.  Need to knit a sweater that fits?  Better use Elizabeth Zimmermann's EPS (Elizabeth's Percentage System) to make sure the sweater is in good proportion.  Want evenly spaced increases in your garment?  Euclidean Geometry is for you!  I could go on and on.  Knitting, like nature, has a lot of interesting mathematical properties.

Next of course is the pleasure derived from the creation of a knitted project  Once upon a time, those fingerless mitts were no more than a ball of plied threads and a pair of knitting needles.  With a little time, patience, and creativity, a knitter is able to create a useful and beautiful garment.  Your hands ACTUALLY formed string into a sweater!  Or a hat!  Or that beautiful landscape of lace worn as a shawl.  That's right.  You took string and made a fabric.  You took the fabric and made a sweater!  How mind-blowing is that?!

Of course there's much to be said about the therapy involved in knitting.  The movements are rhythmic and meditative.  Once an accomplished knitter, muscle memory takes over and your brain unwinds as your hands create.  There's a peaceful, utter calm that comes from knitting.  It actually slows the heart rate, lowers the blood pressure and quiets the chaos in your head.  And once that occurs, knitters become "obsessive" in the same way exercise junkies, sports lovers, women who love to entertain guests, and car enthusiasts do.  It physically and psychologically feels good, so naturally we crave it.

Let's not forget about community.  Knitters (crochets, spinners..) are the most social, warm, and genuine people I've ever met.  Typically, if you like to play with fiber, you're in!  Knitter's come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and from all different socio-economic backgrounds.  And oddly enough, it only takes a ball of thread to connect us.  That really says something about society.  We really aren't THAT different from one another.  Knitters are passionate, creative types who bind together in a time of need.  They knit for charity.  They knit for one another.  They knit for families.  They knit to raise awareness.  They knit to bring art to other parts of their lives.  Knitters will spot someone 5 miles away with yarn in their hands and make their way over to ask what project is in the works.  They will take you under their wing and support you, no questions or favors asked. Community is an important aspect of knitting.  Whether it's online, at the LYS, or the local coffee shop, knitting community is to be found nearly everywhere.

Last but certainly not least is the sensory portion of knitting.  Creative types love to look at beautiful things.  There's a marriage that happens between the fiber and the color of a yarn.  First, you spot the yarn.  You admire the beautiful colorway.  Perhaps you love the sheen.  You like the smooth appearance or the halo the yarn provides.  Then immediately, you've swooped it into your hands to touch it.  I've known several knitting muggles who've watched in disbelief as I've picked up yarns and physically felt the fibers, pulled to test elasticity, squished to see the bounce, and rubbed it against my wrist to feel the quality.  Non-knitters, if you've ever tapped on a melon or smelled a tomato, it's much the same.  Some knitters even love the smell of the fibers.  Sometimes it's the wool wash that smells good.  Sometimes it's the fiber itself that sparks a sensory response in the brain, a connection to nature.  And sometimes you can tell which fiber wasn't properly cared for, like silk, by smelling it.  By fondling the fibers, you know if the yarn will be soft, scratchy, structural, drapey, sticky (as in having grab), slick, breathable, warm, or cool.

There is so much more I could've included in this blog post about knitting, fibers, and the benefits.  I just skimmed the surface.  But I want knitters to think about all of the amazing ways knitting affects us.  And I want non-knitters to understand our deep connection with knitting.  HINT - we aren't knitting because Julia Roberts does it.

Knitting is the whole package - the real deal.  And I'm not ashamed to say it still amazes me.



  1. Oh you write so well! This had me laughing from moment one, then I thought how smart I am, without realizing it I've learned me some math ... Thanks for making my lunch hour fun!

  2. OMG so are so spot on with this! I loved it. Great post!

  3. Awesome post! Yes, I've endured those glassy stares (and ridicule from non-fibery friends) many, many times.

  4. Wonderful post. I agree with all of it and was thinking the same thing last night... I may seem obsessed by knitting, but I get so much out of it. Thanks for putting it into such lovely words.

  5. Great post! I feel the same way!

  6. You are so on target with this post. I can relate to the eyes glazing over that happens when you try to explain the knitting epiphany you had to a non-knitter and the calming effect it has on me and the wonderful kindness and sense of community that is a part of us all. What a wonderful post. I think this is one of my all time favorites!

  7. Well said! People who don't try it don't know all the wonderful things they're missing!

  8. Thanks for saying what I feel so eloquently.

  9. I loved this definitely resonates with me :-)


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