Why I Knit

The week after Thanksgiving, I managed to finish the last of the Christmas knitting.

Now I realize that makes me obnoxious to a lot of people, but even more are surprised by my passion for knitting. “YOU KNIT?” they say, as though you can’t have both a career and opinions as well as an interest in the domestic arts.

Yes, I knit. I cook. I can even sew. (I don’t garden or clean very well, but we can’t all be perfect.) I learned to sew at my mother’s knee. You know my mother, Holley Ulbrich, the Ph.D. in economics, the Alumni Distinguished professor, the once president of the Faculty Senate and tax expert at the Strom Thurmond Institute. She’s also the one that likes to quilt potholders.

So, why do I do an activity that seems to be the realm of grandmothers and older aunts?

First off, my knitting ain’t your grandmother’s knitting. It might have started out that way. I taught myself how to knit when I was in college, from a book, just the way my mother taught me to learn about anything. And I churned out horrible looking sweaters, thick socks no one could wear, scarves that shouldn’t be wrapped around anyone’s neck. It really was your grandmother’s knitting and I wised up and set it aside.

But about five years ago, I stumbled across the yarn aisle at Michael’s and there was all this fabulous yarn not available at the Sky City when I started this insanity in college. The next thing I knew, I was buying yarn online and visiting local yarn shops when I was traveling. What a plethora of options out there these days! A friend of mine even sent me a link for yarn made out of possum fur. (I didn’t buy it.) And the patterns! The patterns are wonderful. I’ve made devil hats, skull potholders, custom kitty toys, beautiful socks and best of all, sweaters that finally fit my short torso. How can you resist picking up knitting when there are books out there like “Domiknitrix” and “The Happy Hooker?” (OK, the second one is a crochet book.)

What I have found though, as I got sucked back in to this craft by beautiful yarns and fun, funky patterns, was it was a form of meditation for me. After spending the day thinking hard about solving people’s communications problems, it’s nice to do something repetitive and somewhat mindless at the end of the day. It’s a nice way to catch up on the TiVo without falling asleep, too.

It can also be a spiritual practice for me. It’s humbling to think you have to create every single stitch in a garment and there can be thousands, even millions of stitches. It’s a reminder of our place in the world. Each stitch or person is special, but they are even more so when they come together as one piece or community.

A craft can keep you grounded to the earth in a different way that Facebook can keep you connected to the world. In an age when most of us spend a great deal of our day in front of a glowing rectangle, a craft gives you the chance to work with your hands. Since I’m an art graduate, working with my hands is something I have always loved. Knitting is a good way to continue that.

Of course, there’s the added benefit of giving your loved ones something you created, instead of something you purchased. It just feels like more of a gift when I’ve made it. There is more of a connection to the gift for me. Sure, this puts me in danger of making the fluffy pink bunny PJs reluctantly worn by Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” so I send out an email in January for requests. It might kill the surprise to know they will be getting socks, but at least everyone is happy at the end of the day. Besides, they’ve usually forgotten what they requested by Christmas anyway.

So I will enjoy wrapping the mittens I made for my brother-in-law, the basket I made for my sister, the silly fish hat I made for my niece and begin thinking about what I’ll make for everyone next year. And yes, by the way, I did make my socks. Thanks for noticing.


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