Creating Order Amongst Chaos
I bought myself Kate Davies's book " Wheesht" for my birthday in the hope it would provide some inspiration for the forthcoming year. It's a series of essays on the creative process along with some exercises one of which calls upon you to knit stripes. Christmas is a difficult time for me, particularly this one which saw the end of a decade that robbed me of my daughter and then my confidence, friends, career and life as I knew it. The act of knitting has brought me immeasurable amounts of comfort through recent years and at this time I tend of hide away more than usual and knit my way through the cacophony. The Lord of Misrule came into my home this December and brought chaos, in a stroke of irony that was a metaphor for the previous 6 years , the cooker blew up rendering Christmas dinner null and void and the electrics out of action, and then our basset hound got sick cleaning out the rest of the bank balance so I decided to take up Kate's Book of Haps and knit stripes stoically. There was nothing else for it.
Stripes are simple, they go up and down and backwards and forwards. They are linear and create order out of chaos. At a time when I need order, when I need things to be straightforward, stripes are reassuring. When you first learn to knit you learn garter stitch, it's usually a scarf and you knit backwards and forwards endlessly until the wonky bit of fabric that's full of holes gradually develops straight edges, it becomes uniform and in time evens itself out. It stops being hard and you begin to be comforted by the gentle motion of the knitting and the soft ridges. That is the knitting I needed , something comforting and familiar
When I think of my daughter I think of her sat here on the sofa with a book wearing her stripey woolly tights, they were simpler times. The last thing I knitted for her was a fair isle hat, my first attempt at knitting fairisle and knitting in the round. The pattern sung to me, black, black black, black, white, black, white, black, black , black.and I knitted my love into that song, I, Love, You, White, I , Love, You. So even if she didn't known, she would be wrapped in my love. I think as knitters we knit love into each garment we make.
I have a photo of my father as a little boy wearing a pullover his grandmother had knitted for him, made of scraps from outgrown sweaters from previous recipients of her knitting. Every garment tells a story, like scrappy socks - leftover bits of knitting, of socks I made my mum for Christmas, my first attempts at hand dyeing yarn, my dad's birthday socks, socks I made for a friend's 50th birthday. Stripes have history and tell a tale of their own.
I realised that through the process of knitting I am not only learning new skills but also documenting my own story and journey. Through this medium I am also gifting my love and passing that story on. In doing so I'm also trying to bring some peace and quiet into my own anxious thoughts.
This year I've also discovered other knitters who are navigating a not always easy path . In a search for new ideas to soothe my anxious brain I came across Woolly Wormhead who does amazing things with technique and became obsessed with her use of short row stitching to create amazing shapes and patterns. At first you sees swirls and patterns but the Rhinebeck hat is essentially stripes but done in such a way that creates these beautiful leaf shapes. Like in Life , you go backwards and forwards and then pause a while and repeat old ground before carrying on your journey. It's quite ingenious and something I shall be exploring in more detail next year.
I've also tried to share my love of knitting with the unknittered, those who've only previously knitted wonky scarves and never got to the bit where the edges start to proceed along an even keel. I don't set goals anymore as the year ends. I don't plan, I don't want to be surprised, I like things to follow a path, I yearn for the mundane and peaceful. I have discovered the joy of knitting podcasts, I spent December watching The Grocery Girls and loving the moments where they hold squishy hanks of merino up to the camera and marvel at shades of peach, and cerise and peony.... I don't know what colour peony even is, I've made that up, I don't even like pink!!! I have a desire to knit stripes, to teach the world to knit and to bring the simple joy of knitting to those who like me have found themselves awake at 3 am and really don't know how to carry on and make sense of what life has thrown their way.
The seeds of a cunning plan are formulating and possibly some simple stripey knitting patterns for the uninitiated or the curious. Either way what stripey knitting has taught me, it's not the destination, it is the journey and the people you meet along the way .
Rebecca Jackson December 2019