Thursday, January 27, 2011


The other night I sat down with my long-suffering first-time-handspun scarf and the TV, which was running a program on Spanish art. A magical thing then happened.

The scarf itself has been frogged and reknit repeatedly, owing to its lumpy qualities. After I gave up on its ever becoming a fitted garment I decided to garter stitch the yarn into a long strip, allowing the thick and thin spots to create a shape on their own. But the results were painful - it looked like one of your first-ever knitting efforts when you accidentally pick up and lose stitches on practically every row, and not in way I felt I could live with.

Lightbulb! What if I frogged back to the point at which it still bore some reasonably consistent shape, and then deliberately picked up and lost stitches according to the yarn I could see coming?

So there I was, watching this program and being mindful of my stitches, making new ones in different parts of each row wherever they were needed, decreasing the same way, sort of adapting to the terrain. On the screen, the lives of various Spanish artists and the events that shaped their work (and what an eventful place Spain has been) all played out. My lightbulb faded to the warm glow of candlelight and I felt calm, breathing in time with the yarn as it moved along under my hands.

And it suddenly struck me that the mindless garter stitch scarf I had conceived to use up that amateurishly-made yarn had become art. I wasn't just cranking out stitches, I was anticipating and responding to them. I was using different techniques to achieve one general shape, even changing my tension from time to time, and a close look at the fabric revealed all of them.

It often seems to me that knitting is life in fiber - obstacles, tension, texture, beauty, and above all perseverence. But this scarf encapsulates every movement I've experienced through my years on this earth. Dodging, weaving, getting through. Some patches feel lean, others overful, still others perfectly regular, and they are working together to make something. And whatever that something is, it can't be written in a pattern for anyone else to match. It's entirely customized to its unique materials. Just like life.

(all of which is to say that I quite like this scarf now, and if I do 'ruin' more fiber as I learn to use my spinning wheel I will know what to do with it, and if I ruin enough I think I will piece together all my handspun scarves and make a blanket.)

(but I hope I don't have to.)


heklica said...

That's one of the most beautiful things I've read about knitting :) very true!

Karen said...

Beautifully put, Maire...and I love the scarf, too!