Friday, September 4, 2009

Imbibed Knitting

Giving up Icarus for a week to our local county fair was a little difficult. When I give a piece of knitting to someone--whether for a week or forever--I am handing over a little piece of me. I hesitated a little bit when I handed my shawl to the fair official--not necessarily because I thought it would be mistreated, but because I am temporarily severing ties with something I spent so much time with. I can't really say exactly how long it took to knit--perhaps somewhere in the ballpark of a hundred hours? Its not the time that I hold onto, however, its the little scenes of my life knit right into those itty bitty stitches.

I didn't even always like knitting Icarus. The first 3/4 of it was downright boring. I had to force myself to work on it. But I wanted that shawl in a very serious way and was determined it would be mine. I remember it being the only project I took with me on my 7-hour car rides to visit my parents, or the 5-hour trip to Rhinebeck, just so I wouldn't stray from my goal. I remember the conversations I had with hubby while on that trip. I even remember the night I cast-on those first few stitches: it was exactly a week before my birthday, and I had just gotten the yarn in the mail. There were times I knit on it to simply find an escape--to sit on a chilly winter day with a pile of delicate, warm alpaca on my lap, diving into my lace chart with reckless abandon.

Each time I pick up something I have knit--kid sweater, scarf, whatever--I have a brief flashback of where it has been, even if I only worked on it while sitting at the bus stop or hanging out on my porch. Of course I'm always doing a little more than just sitting or lounging around: my brain is often in overdrive, and all those thoughts are knit right into those stitches. Some good, some bad, but all present and accounted for. And they all well up again as my fingers brush the fabric.

I think maybe this is the reason hand-knit items are so darn cozy, why certain people love getting them. Knitters pour so much of themselves into their handiwork that it is impossible not to feel it. Hand-knit items are always warmer, always more comfortable--largely due to the fact that they have soul, a vibrance you can't get out of something you purchased at the mall. When knitters knit for someone, we think about the people we are knitting for while we are knitting. We often fret that they won't like it. But no matter how much we worry about how our gift will be received, we pour ourselves down and out of our needles and into our yarn with near-abandon.

I always think that it is such a high compliment when someone asks me to knit something for them. I nearly always say yes (unless it is a blanket, I *hate* knitting blankets!). I love a good challenge, and if the person thinks enough of you and your skill that they want something made by you, they by all means they deserve your time, thought, and energy. It means they can appreciate something handmade, imperfections and all. It means they are not afraid to wear or use something that has been imbibed with so much life.

Of course there is the other side of the coin, the dreaded turned-up nose, the unspoken scoffing upon receiving something handmade. A knitter always knows when their work isn't appreciated by its receiver. The eyes squish up and the nose wrinkles like they have been forced to eat a lemon. It is awful, it is crushing, and yet we still soldier on, still knit for people who may or may not like what we have created.

Why? Because knitters knit. Its what we do. And when we have knit so many things for ourselves we move on to other people. We knit for charities (more on that in a sec), we knit for friends, we knit for family. We try to wrap as many people as we can into our woolly things. We want the people we care for to know what it is like to cuddle up in a hand-knit scarf, to keep out the bite of winter with something that carries with it the added warmth of our hands and thoughts.

A Word On Charity Knitting

Recently some friends of mine started a wonderful charity, Knitting for Hope. They are requesting pretty much anything that you are willing to knit--hats, scarves, and baby items are all greatly appreciated. Please keep in mind that adult and child sizes are needed as much as baby items. Donations will be collected and sent to the Yurok Tribe of California, where living conditions are substandard.

The charity was first conceived because of this article. The tribe featured is not the one they are knitting for, but the conditions are quite similar--very grim and heartbreaking. The mother of one of the founders of this charity lives on the Yurok reservation, and doesn't have running water, electricity, or even a landline phone--and yet is better off than most because she has a job working at a health clinic on the reservation. It is this health clinic that will be distributing knitted items based on need.

There are many charities out there, but this one is close to my heart, and I would love to see it grow. It is just getting off the ground, so please if you are a charity knitter, consider donating a few items. There is no deadline or minimum, just a great need for warmth.

Some other charities worth checking out:

Caps for Kids
Care Wear
Binky Patrol
Project Linus
Warm Up America
Graceful Stitches

If you are interested in more information about charity knitting, I highly recommend the book Knitting for Peace.

That's it for now from the Blue Bungalow, a smidge shorter and sweeter than last weeks' ramblings. Please feel free to leave comments or shoot me an email. I love to hear from you!

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