Sunday, January 6, 2008

Knitting your heart break

Back in November I read No Idle Hands: a Social History of American Knitting by Anne Macdonald, and it made me cry. One quote in particular, from the diary of Lavinia Porter:
"I never recall that sad parting from my dear sister on the plains of Kansas without tears flowing fast and free. It was like tearing our hearts asunder. But such sorrows are to be endured, not described. Climbing into the wagon, with everything we possessed piled high behind us, we turned our faces toward the land of golden promise that lay far beyond the Rocky Mountains."
Its hard to imagine now, being so far away from your family and not knowing if you'd ever see them again, and traveling in rickety, awful wagons, and being so isolated.
Anne Macdonald wrote about how all through American History women knitted to quiet their minds, to keep their anxieties at bay. During wars and economic recession and terrible hardship on the frontier, women would knit not only to keep their families warm, but also to loose themselves in quiet creative monotony.
My motives for knitting are similar, though my circumstances are much less extreme.
The first thing I knit when I arrived in Baltimore was a scarf based on the one Mary Poppins has. I felt as if my life was way more chaotic than the Banks household, and I needed a magic nanny with the voice of Julie Andrews. I bought bargain bin sparkly yarn at AC Moore, and size 13 needles at Rite Aid (isn't it crazy they sell knitting needles?) and it took me about a week to knit, just doing garter stitch with yarn so small and needles so big. Then I ironed it out with the industrial iron at work, so it would look all lacy like Mary P.'s. It stretched out twice as long. I ended up giving it to my boss, who I have great affection for. So I the only picture I have is the little sample I made on #10 needles.
Right after I finished that project, it became clear that my girlfriend and I were breaking up in a painful way. So I decided to knit her a scarf. Not totally logical, but I thought if I put all my frustration, sadness and anger into scarf form, I don't know, we'd get back together, all wars would end and Julie Andrews would come down from the sky and make me a princess. I made it out of chenille on number 8 needles, with 2 by 2 ribbing.

Obviously I didn't give it to her, not after all that work, and after it came out so warm and soft and lovely. I was really into it too, because it was red and blue and therefore sort of patriotic and therefore just like the knitting described in "No Idle Hands." I've decided I'll give it to the next girl who loves me.
And then I made myself a hat! My old hat was a comfort hat, I would put it on when I was sad or stressed out, and it would make me feel better. But, new winter, I have to make a new hat. I used the bunny ear pattern from the Stitch n Bitch book, but decided to leave off the ears. Because when I put them on they looked really goofy.

This was my first time doing seed stitch, which I was afraid of until I made this. (What do you mean? Knit the purls? Purl the knits? don't you get confused?!) And it was my first time making i-cord! Which is my new favorite thing to do. My father liked this hat so much, I made him one that was gray and had red stars above the ear flaps. I wish I had a picture of that one!
This has been a brief chronicle of how knitting helped me get my life together. I haven't gone over the prairie or sent sons off to fight the rebels. But I know that if I keep knitting, everything will be alright.

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