Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Knitting to Fill the Holes

originally published in The Valley Press November 2005

I don’t know about you, but most of my days are overscheduled, driving my daughter to gymnastics lessons, errands and grocery shopping and housework and paying bills. Not to mention church. I have a daily calendar that lists appointments by the half-hour with a blank page for all my to do’s next to it. More often than not, half of my list is carried to the next day, and even the next. What happens to my time? Life!

For years, I’d been disturbed by the number of “gymnastics moms” who sit in the parent box crocheting and knitting while their daughters tumble and vault. Workouts are three and four hours long, and I found myself thinking smugly that these moms should get a life and be busy and productive, like me.

But, deep down, I was covetous. These women were creating Sabbath time, set apart from busyness. No doubt they’d been helping with homework, making dinner, washing dishes, and then heading to the gym half an hour early. They chatted, created with their yarn and watched their daughters.

What did I have that was restful yet productive, creative yet ordered, unique yet with instructions and patterns, that I could put down and pick up without loosing momentum? What did I have to fill the holes in my day?

Nothing until Luminous Threads opened this summer in Felton ( and Allison, the owner, taught me to cast on and knit in between customers one afternoon. Then I was hooked. I signed up for classes, and now I can cast off, purl, knit in the round, increase and decrease, yarn over and drop stitch.

At first, I had no idea how to correct a mistake. I’d tear out everything and start over. Hours of work gone, and it was work in the beginning. I had to think, and hard, about every stitch, how to manipulate the needles, how to hold the yarn.

Surprisingly, I’m learning spiritual lessons in knitting. I took the second scarf I made, for my younger daughter, to a clergywomen’s retreat and received such encouragement beautiful. I fell into a hypnotic rhythm and made even perfect stitches with the smooth angora and llama yarn. From there I knitted the afternoon I sat by my dying grandmother’s bedside. It kept me present and grounded while she drifted in and out of consciousness, and I felt as though I made a memorial to her.

It was so satisfying I wanted to make something for my older daughter. She chose a blanket. I had to cast 100 stitches on giant needles held together by a plastic cord that continually twists. The yarn looks like furry false eyelashes. It sticks to itself. I’ve accidentally added stitches and dropped others. Then midway through my third (out of twelve) skein, I noticed holes back in the first.

No way could I tear out all those stitches. No way could I remember how to fix dropped stitches with a crochet hook. What to do with the holes? I tried sewing with a tapestry needle in places where the blanket might unravel. Other than that, I’ve had to let it remain imperfect, and live with it.

Life is like that, messy, imperfect. We fix what we can and make the best of what we’ve created. I see possibilities in knitting that I didn’t have before, like prayers for healing made tangible and stitched into a hat for my bald stepmother recovering from cancer treatment.

Knitting, art, music, gardening, and so much more isn’t just about taking time away from the world to refresh ourselves. When we create, we fill the holes in our own lives and offering our gifts to a world in tremendous need of beauty, tender care and holy endeavors. I hope you will pick up your needles or violins or trowels and join me.

©Cathy Warner 2005

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