Saturday, 26 July 2008

The Knitter's Rebellion

As I sit at home surrounded by various balls of yarn, piles of notebooks scribbled with design ideas, half-finished projects lounging on the sofa, circular needles coiled on the floor like some strange species of carpet-dwelling reptile, there is no disguising the fact that I Knit. These days it has become something of a distinguishing feature, since I am the only one among my friends, family and colleagues with this particular hobby. I am The Knitter.

But I constantly feel I have to justify the fact that I knit, usually by downplaying it as an eccentric quirk; an old fashioned twist; a nice little hobby. As the Yarn Harlot has said (scroll down to 17th June and her knitter's party) this can get pretty tiresome. Knitting has a strange label of fustiness about it to some people, or else they think it's all a bit 1950's chained-to-the-kitchen-sink for the modern woman. To which all I can say is bollocks, quite frankly, since it entirely misses the point.

For a start, and as this blog makes clear, the old-fashioned label is not something I mind. I still maintain that grandmas rock. I shared a birthday with mine and was named after her and although she was not a cuddly, jam-making grandma (more of the tough-old-boot variety) she was a tremendous knitter and taught me garter stitch on red plastic needles when I was about seven. The knitting bug didn’t really bite until I was in my early twenties and she was sadly no longer here, but I still love the fact that I am continuing a family tradition of some sort.

Even so, there's a very modern sensibility to knitting in the way it provides a creative process that bypasses all that cheap, ethically dodgy, short-term fashion. With no need to resort to a magazine telling you what you should be wearing you can create something entirely unique that will last for years.
There is something magical about knitting that non-knitters don't really get. The fact that the whole piece is one long, uninterrupted thread; that every single stitch must pass through your fingers; that if you wanted you could simply frog the whole thing and it would return to what it was. You can’t un-bake a cake or retrieve the paint from a picture but you could, theoretically at least, endlessly recycle the yarn from a piece of knitting.

I tend to knit on the sofa, watching TV, most of the time, but I also take knitting to the park, on the tube, to a friend’s house and as I form each stitch and the piece gradually grows, my mind happily wanders, my mood affecting what and how I knit. So the finished piece, whatever it may be, is a sort of time capsule for a whole range of emotions and thoughts and events that have taken place during its formation. And if I’m knitting a gift for someone else, I’m thinking of them all the way through the process and I like to imagine how that creates a bond between me and the other person and this strange little heap of fibres.

Today's Guardian has a special supplement on Rebel Knitting, with some cute and easy patterns for an iPod cozy, bag, mittens and lots more, designed by Mazz, who famously caused an uproar recently by knitting some cuddly Doctor Who villains and posting the patterns on her website, much to the BBC's displeasure.

There's also an article on the idea of rebel knitting which, to be honest, seems to be coming to the party a little late but still, the spirit of the piece is nice. And I like that it questions again the many ideas that are out there of what knitting is supposed to be.

So yes, I am a Knitter and if that makes me a rebel as well, then so be it. And you can laugh at that or be bemused by it or impressed or curious or just indifferent to the whole thing, I really don’t mind. I knit for me and because it’s part of who I am. And that’s just fine.

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