Saturday, January 06, 2007

Knitting calms the nerves

Knitting is different things to different people. For me, it's all about the process. The soothing repetition of forming stitch after stitch using beautifully polished wooden needles and strands of luscious wool, smooth silk, soft alpaca, or luxurious cashmere. The end result - a garment for a loved one, or an heirloom throw - is more a perk than the overall goal. I suppose that's the difference between a process knitter and a product knitter. And whether you're one or the other, or those really lucky ones among us who find they are both, is really beside the point as long as you're doing the knitting!!

I always keep a couple of projects going at all times (alright, my knitting friends would call that an understatement,) to match my mood, my available time, and the level of chaos going on around me. Note that I am speaking here of any time other than the pre-Christmas deluge of gift knitting that I NEVER leave myself enough time for. This was really a good year for that though and I had the pleasure of watching several of my hand knits being unwrapped and I have to say every second of the work is worth it!

Sometimes I need a keep-my-hands-busy-on-a-mindless-quickie-big-needle project to pass the time while I do car pool duty, or I'm watching a really good show on TV or a riveting soccer game.

Other times I grab a little project like a sock that I can pull out of my tote bag when I have a free few minutes. There's something therapeutic about working on fine needles and tiny, perfectly formed stitches.

When I need to emotionally recharge my batteries, I'm often drawn to a sweater project for someone I love. Knitting a nice soft woolly garment for someone special gives me a chance to quietly reflect on my affection and working with the yarn warms me.

And then there are the times when the vagaries of life overwhelm me and I need the distraction of a REALLY REALLY complicated lace project to focus me away from the stresses of my day and the chaos around me.

Here is such a project: the beginnings of the Lace Sampler Shawl. 237 stitches per row of Silky Wool, done in various lace patterns ranging from simple (can do with the TV on) to complex (needing absolute quiet and time allowed for the inevitable ripping back.)

You'll notice the life line (making it easier to rip back) and my extensive reliance on stitch markers - I don't, after all, knit in a vacuum...

Working on this lace project (it is the prototype for the Lace Sampler Shawl class I'm teaching in the spring) focuses my energies on the Process while at the same time centering my spirit and calming my nerves. I know it sounds contradictory - complicated knitting being calming - but if you work on a stitch pattern within your abilities, and just about everyone can manage any pattern if it's broken into small chunks (hence the stitch markers), you'll find that focusing on the repetition of the stitches will bring about a sort of therapeutic peace.

If you don't believe me, grab a skein of cotton, cast on a multiple of 4 stitches and work a swatch of *K2 tog, yo, k2; repeat from * (Herringbone Faggot Lace). You'll learn a really easy lace, get a sense of that calm I'm talking about, and end up with a very pretty dishcloth!!!!

And don't worry, for those of you considering signing up for this class, I would never present you with a rip-your-hair-out project that would overwhelm you. The shawl will start out with a very basic lace and together we'll move on to gradually more intermediate techniques. You'll be AMAZED at what you accomplish!!!

Yours in knitting,

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