Stitch, Bitch and Margaret Atwood

I shall knit a toque for Margaret Atwood.

I shall knit a toque for Margaret Atwood.

Knits need one another. A single knit is nothing but some string twisted around two sticks, without function. A single knit won’t keep you warm.

It’s the most miraculous thing, as a beginner knitter, as you’re working on your third or fourth row and a nub of fabric is birthed from the needle and you start to see how each awkwardly formed knit actually means something more than frustration and cramped hands.

On my coffee table there sits an unfinished scarf made of a fine, rust coloured soy yarn. When held up, the knitted wool dangles off the needle triumphantly, yet imperfectly. I’ve learned that every knit need not be the same as the last. And you don’t need to follow a particular pattern in order to make something of function, or beauty. It’s more about knowing your yarn and having your knits work together to form their own potential.

And it’s also about humor and practice. In one month alone, I knit six toques – none of which fit my own head – but were, in the end, gladly given to a range of toddlers and friends built with bigger-noggins.

In truth, since my knitting addiction has cast on, I’m seeing life through the eyes of a knitter. In a coffee shop, my eyes wander to a woolen sweater slung over the back of a chair – I notice a knit that lifts off the fabric in a beautiful braid: the cable stitch – it’s a sophisticated knit I’m not yet ready for, but as any emerging knitter knows, must be faced with maturity and courage. Stuck in traffic and my hands are itching for two needles and a ball of yarn. Around me, folks content with their Smart Phones and ten billion applications to keep them busy and I wonder: what if we replace their cell phones with knitting needles?

The greatest irony by far, however, was sitting through a Margaret Atwood lecture at the university and being distracted by thoughts about knitting. Was it wrong of me to be thinking of a historically feminine-socialized craft instead of listening to the words of a fierce feminist? Would Margaret Atwood disapprove of my knitting addiction? Would she mind that I quoted her advice to the crowd that evening: “Don’t scatter. Stick together. We need not follow one another, but we have to stick together.” And then use this quote in the context of knitting?

I found some peace and humor by the end of her presentation when I glanced over and noticed that the woman sitting two seats down the aisle from me had been knitting a poncho the whole while. In a sort of knitter’s solidarity, we exchanged smiles. It had been a Stitch N’ Bitch with Margaret Atwood doing all the bitching about Harper and our conservative government and I hadn’t even realized it!

Here’s the thing (or some things) about knitting: it has the potential to bring people together. It calms the frenetic mind with one stitch at a time. It keeps us warm in the metaphorical and literal cold, dark months of the year. It gives our hands some purpose and our hearts a great deal of I made it myself satisfaction.

It also connects generations. I shaved my head when I was twenty-three years old. When home one weekend, I rummaged through a basket filled with winter wear and came across the most perfect grey and white toque that fit my fuzzy head to a tee. I pulled it off, inspected it and found a silky tag in the mass of woolen knits. It read: Made by Doreen Moyles. In some ways, every knit in the present is a kind of homage to the past, to my grandmother and to many other women who knit out of a different necessity.

I could write the longest scarf in the world in reflection of my new-found knitting fascination. Instead, I will stitch this up with the following: The world needs more stitching and bitching, and in equal proportions. We need to find our own order, an order that works for the diverse quality of people living in our respective communities – we need not obey archaic patterns that worked on paper but never in practice.

Creativity, flexibility and humility will be necessary. Like knits, we need one another. We can make it up together. We can keep one another warm.

A great place to learn, or feed a holistically healthy past time: www.ravelry.com.

-Trina

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