Listen to Your Knitting


Listen to Your Knitting

Meg Swansen
Knitting practically fills my entire life. I spend most of my waking moments either knitting or thinking about it. Having been involved with this topic so deeply for so many decades, I have gathered scores of stories from other knitters about the power and salvation this craft has brought to their lives; how they have been able to survive troubled times only because of the soothing, comforting, and meditative aspect of the knitting in their hands. There are even several books devoted to this philosophical aspect of hand knitting.
    What is it about knitting that makes it so appealing? Is it the repetitive and hypnotic movement of your hands? Is it the ability to put your hands on auto-pilot and mentally escape the reality of the moment? Is it the inner satisfaction of creativity? To attempt a description is almost futile, but each obsessive knitter knows (or rather, feels) the answer for themselves – and, naturally, the answer varies from knitter to knitter.
   Yes, knitting can be exceedingly comforting and calming — but it can also be exciting and riveting. To my mind, one of the main reasons to knit is the endless possibilities this discipline offers. With wool and needles in your hands, you alone are in charge of what you will produce with them (how many other things are there in your life over which you have total control?). These days there is a staggering array of materials to trigger your imagination and, literally, hundreds of handknitting books to inspire you.
      Usually I begin a garment with a rough plan of the proposed journey and make discoveries along the way. Knitting myself into a corner may become the source of an “innovation” as I play the game of only ripping when absolutely necessary. The challenge of finding my way out of a predicament may take my knitting brain along new path. Any number of times I have proven: A repeated mistake may become a new design.
   Occasionally knitting takes on a life of its own, so pay attention to, and listen to your knitting. The shape of the armholes or neckline may be determined by the texture or color-pattern motif on the body and is not even subject to your input. For instance, when I mirror-image a color pattern down the top of a sleeve, I do not bother to chart the design in advance –I simply center the motif at the shoulder seam line, establish the double-decrease frequency, then watch, mesmorized, as new heretofore undreamed of Rorshach-like designs begin to appear. The same bit of magic occurs when you face the necessity of mirror-imaging a very large motif at the side “seams” of a circular sweater body: as long as the main pattern is perfectly centered fore and aft, it matters not where you have to break the motif when you reach the seam; simply use that stitch as a pivot point, work the same chart line back in the opposite direction and marvel at the wonderful new design that appears along the sides. You can hardly go wrong, so relax, be consistent and the pattern will take care of itself. I often tell people that they are in charge of their knitting but considering the above, I see that, frequently, knitting is in charge of itself.
    As you accumulate more and more techniques, you are able  – in almost direct proportion — to achieve the ability to knit whatever you like. For me, exciting and riveting doesn’t even begin to describe it.