Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Alone at last

I spent a number of hours knitting with other people today and it made me think about the difference between social and solitary knitting.

Much has been written on the meditative qualities of knitting. At various times, while knitting alone, I have achieved that state of being, identified as "the Zone" by someone (can't remember who), where time, space and self disappear and all of your attention is on the creative process. While this is very pleasant and often sought after, it cannot be produced at will; it just happens.

More often, I am ruminating on a variety of subjects and observing my thoughts. Depending on my mood, I could be revisiting old conflicts or events, or simply replaying conversations and thinking about how I feel about them. Unless things go horribly wrong, I am usually find this very relaxing. It is certainly a way to engage in passive thinking. Angry knitting is not only bad for the soul but can have disastrous results. Have you ever knit while angry? Tight-ass stitches!

On other occasions, I am simply repeating a pattern in my head such as "knit one, slip, slip, knit, yarn over, knit two together" or "I'm on row 9, row 9, row 9". Not the sort of thing you want to tell someone when they ask the loaded question: "What do you think about while you are knitting?". It may sound inane, but at particularly stressful periods in my life I have purposefully chosen a complicated pattern to keep from obsessing about my problems. Lace scarves with 27 row repeat patterns are perfect for this sort of diversionary knitting as there are too many rows to memorize and allow your mind to wander to the sore spot.

To outsiders, knitting is a passive activity, especially when performed alone and in public. They see us sitting quietly, working away and think our minds are blank slates. One person even said that it must be boring! While I will be the first to admit that row after row of stockinette stitch will kill my interest level faster than you can say "yarn sale", I am rarely bored while knitting. I actually find knitting alone in public somewhat intimidating. People very rarely talk to me. If they do, the most popular question is "Is that knit or crochet?". I think others view it like reading, which is actually closer to the truth than it would seem, and feel that it would be rude to interrupt. This is especially helpful if you are prone to eavesdropping on other people's conversations; it's like wearing an invisibility cloak. While knitting, I am definitely engaged in the process, but not in the same way I am when reading a book. Both effectively serve the purpose of allowing you to look like you are doing something rather than having the aura of loneliness that seems to surround people dining alone. I am much more comfortable, however, reading while eating in public than I am when knitting. It seems too revealing, as though in a strange way, my knitting is a too personal and private pursuit to share with strangers.

Social knitting is a whole different animal. The talk may certainly be animated, but inevitably, one of these conversation stoppers will be uttered:

"Hold on, I'm counting, 2, 4, 6, 8 ...oops lost count 2, 4, 6, 8..."
"Damn, dropped a stitch!"
"Crap, I lost my place!"
"OH NO! I have to rip it all out!" {Everyone groans}

After a bit, someone will also say (mockingly): "Knitting is fun! Knitting is so relaxing!".

The fun thing about social knitting is that you can say these things out loud and know that everyone in the room knows exactly what you are talking about. No one will say "Huh? What does that mean? Why do you do that if it's so difficult?". This is also the time when those boring old stockinette stitch patterns really come in handy, especially if they are knit in the round. If I know I am going to be knitting with someone else, I will bring a simple project to work on or start (one more excuse reason to have multiple projects on the needles). Maybe it's just me, but I cannot knit and fully engage in a meaningful conversation at the same time; one always suffers, even if just a little. This may also be why knitters in groups frequently bitch about their spouses: it's like a bad sit-com, everyone knows the punch line. (Multitasking is over-rated anyway. It's just a way of bragging about how little you're paying attention.)

Truth be told, I actually prefer knitting alone. I feel that it allows me to completely relax and focus on what I am doing, and maybe, just maybe, it will turn into one of those rare moments where I really do disappear and all that exists is knitting, knitting, knitting a beautiful thing for eternity... even if it is only for 10 minutes.

1 comment:

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