It’s that time of year again when knitting gets a hold on me. As soon as the leaves start to golden and the nights start drawing in, my thoughts turn to my knitting projects for the winter. A trip to John Lewis’s Haberdashery (what an old-fashioned name) department sets my heart on fire. Debbie Bliss and Maggie Jackson are two of my heroines. My shelves are full of books such as ‘Oh, not another scarf’ and ‘Simple knits in luxurious yarns’. My family start to make requests for winter woollies. Well some do; others would prefer a jumper by Top Shop or M&S. See Sooz in Top Shop.
If you prefer shop knits I can’t compete. But then their knitters don’t care who wears their jumpers. My knits are all infused with love and thoughts for the recipient. I stick to simple patterns but use quality yarns, wool, mohair, cashmere. I like Italian yarns – Rowan have these. In fact the lady in John Lewis told me that ‘lovely men came over from Florence to describe how the yarns are made’. Thoughts of George Clooney again, I was won over.
Gloves and hats are always a popular gift. I’ve given up on socks, you’d have to have just three toes to wear mine. And I can’t get to grips with three needles – where does the third one go? I once went to a knitting class with Emma aged 30. She was the youngest by far. The Rowan teacher gave us loads of tips for finishing off. She assumed a level of competence we didn’t have. Not a good teacher. You can do all sorts of classes in our local craft shop. They even do ‘all night knitting with wine’ occasionally. Haven’t tried that. Get into knots when I’m sober, don’t know what it would be like after a few Merlots.
I read about some uni students who knit as they listen in lectures. Apparently it aids concentration and helps to anchor information in the brain. I understand that. Not only do you have a product at the end of your efforts, you feel more relaxed. Knitting roots you to the spot. When I watch tv I am a fidgeter. I can’t sit still. Knitting makes me. It’s also a kind of therapy. I find it calms me down after a day’s work, particularly when pressured. There is something about the rhythm and automaticity of the action that soothes the agitated spirit. It’s also a pleasant sensation. You tend not to dwell on the past or worry about the future. Almost a kind of meditation. And because knitting is portable you can carry this therapy around with you. Perhaps like worry beads. Knitting is also supposed to support memory. Moving the eyes from side to side for 30 seconds each day can improve the memory by 10 per cent.
There’s also the colour and texture of the wool. It can help relieve any greyness in your life. Simply looking at my creation and feeling the wool makes me feel good. You don’t have to have any talent and it doesn’t make a mess. It is a good use of the hands. I feel sometimes that I overuse my head to the exclusion of my hands and other senses. Knitting brings a whole lot of benefits.
I rarely knit in a group or with another person. That would be too granny like. But knitting is conducive, like walking, to relaxed conversation. And people are fascinated. I knit fast without looking at the stitches. Gets me in a tangle sometimes and then I have to unpick. I knit loosely and often too large. This happened with a sweater I knitted last winter – see pic. Didn’t matter though. It’s my comforter when it’s really cold. I learned to knit at primary school. We all did, girls and boys. And I come from a family of knitters, my Mum, my Gran were knitters too. I like the fact that the skills are handed down. There is no excuse for not learning, if it takes your fancy. See video jug and YouTube for easy lessons. I learned how to do raspberry stitch this weekend.
Join ravelry.com for free patterns. And try stitch n bitch books for radical knitting. At graduate shows I’ve seen all kinds of political messages knitted into items. I hadn’t thought of knitting as a subversive activity til then. Whatever your motivation try it, it’s fun.