knitting

Felted Bag

Knitting as a Metaphor

As a late bloomer, it took me longer than most to learn to appreciate the value of accumulated effort… in knitting, for example. I was raised as a military brat—my father was in the Air Force—and there were a number of years when we moved every eighteen months or so, which translates into thirteen schools for me from K through 12. I had very little focus in those days, since I was always the new kid and was completely clueless about continuity and what it might mean. Mostly, I lived inside my own head, reading lots and lots of series books. In those days, books were my real friends.

Knitting eventually changed that for me. In the past few years, I’ve made scarves and shawls and hats for friends, and most recently, felted bags. I love making felted bags, because you get to play with color in ways that you might not if you’re knitting a scarf in a single type of yarn. Mixing up the colors in a bag is my favorite thing to do… next to picking out a fabric for lining it. While knitting, I watch NetFlix on InstantView or listen to librivox.org, where all of the works read aloud are in the public domain. I must recommend Brenda Dayne’s reading of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. She interprets that novel beautifully, with all of its many nuances. It’s an especially topical read these days, too, given that we are living through another gilded age, of sorts. However, in Wharton’s day, those who were not good stewards of the resources allocated to their care were often ostracized by those in the most elite circles. Financial disasters were social disasters, too. Unfortunately, we don’t see much ostracization happening in the present climate. A little shunning of some less worthy elites by their betters is exactly the sort of thing I would welcome.

Knitting has become a metaphor for the way things tend to go in my life, similar to the way some men’s lives trend, depending on how their favorite sports teams are faring. I was probably around eight when my grandmother taught me to knit and purl. My daughter says I taught her when she was three, but I’m pretty sure she was more like four. I had been knitting a large afghan in a fisherman-style pattern, a project that I’m sorry to say I never quite finished. I’m pretty sure it’s in a closet, and at some point, I’m going to revisit that pattern and finish it up, or maybe start it over again with some better yarn. Back in those days, one often could not find really good quality yarn. Local yarn stores were not as common as they are now. My daughter was very determined, sitting there in my rocking chair, with those metal needles and that cheap Red Heart yarn. The strip she was knitting would narrow and increase as she dropped and added stitches. Every few years she’d take another turn at knitting, drop it, and then pick it up again a few years later, until in her late 20s, she took it up with a passion. That’s when I began to knit again, too, and to complete things.

I used to be someone who had big ideas and started many things, but often I did not finish them. Now, I love being able to give someone something I’ve knitted with my own hands. I’m constantly trying to refine my felted bag-making technique. I long to add zippers… the next hurdle. But to get back to knitting as a metaphor…

The FDL community is an uncommonly close-knit group of very disparate people from so many different backgrounds and with such diverse and complementary skills and abilities, something like a very complicated Fair Isle pattern, or maybe a fisherman’s sweater with many complicated cables. Bloggers and commenters here have long-time relationships that continue to grow and thrive, again, based on that principle of accumulated effort, the principle it took me so long to comprehend. Perhaps the efforts are not always successful in the ways we wish they would be, but they still knit this community together in a way that does not happen in many other online communities.

One of the many strengths of this site is how well Jane and Christy understood the importance of being inclusive, but also of making people mind their manners. This site knits together numerous bloggers under one umbrella and, at the same time, allows the rest of us to post diaries, based upon our own experiences… our own ways of knitting things together. And the posts and diaries are not only about politics. We have posts about music and films and food and Art. And there is always room for humor. There is room here at FDL for a relatively integrated online life, simply because there are so many people involved in the site and because they share their many talents and areas of expertise, and because the work of posting is shared by so many.

What kinds of things do you knit together, either literally, or metaphorically, in your daily life?