Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ode to knitters

I had no more than posted my definition of bummer (which I really should have called something like "small bummer", or "bummerlet") than offers came in to send me a scan of my pattern. Ellen had me covered, and even sent me a written out version of the next several steps to tide me over until she could scan it, and Mary Lou was my backup, in case Ellen couldn't get the scanner to work. How lucky am I? So I'm back in business on the shell, which is probably just as well, as I'm going to get far more use out of it in the next month or two than a pair of socks (I'll start those soon, though, just wait and see).

I pretty much missed my first blogiversary, but I realize that this week has felt more to me like an anniversary of some sort for my blog, as it was almost exactly a year ago that we were up here, visiting with Grandmom, and I had just started the blog. During that trip, Grandmom got severely dehydrated, and we had to postpone leaving so that we could be here with her. I kept writing on the blog, deviating from the planned knitting content perhaps a little sooner than I might otherwise have, under the strain of sitting with a delerious Grandmom while managing the reactions of two young children. And people checked in with me and commented. And people have done that since, and been incredibly encouraging when I most needed it (I couldn't possibly link to everyone who has helped me through some rough spots this last year, but you know who you are, and how much I appreciate you, I hope).

What I love about knitters is the combination of practical and caring natures. I think that it goes with the craft. We knit for the people we love for practical reasons: to keep them warm, so often. But because we love them, we also try to knit for them what they want, and to make it beautiful. This combination of practicality and empathy makes our craft a pretty wonderful one, if you ask me. Yesterday at the deYoung Museum, we went to visit the Turkmen textile exhibit, and I was, as I so often am, completely awestruck by the beauty of handmade, practical items. One might think, and I think that a lot of people do, that people who were, by our standards, impoverished, who were living on the edge, might just throw together the textiles that they needed for everyday use (many of the weavings we saw were meant as storage containers), but they didn't. Each and every one of those weavings was a work of art in itself (and each one started with handspun fiber, which was only mentioned in passing once, but which I thought should have been the central theme of the exhibit -- every one of those rugs involved not only the time-consuming weaving, but the spinning of the fiber to do the weaving, and all of it was done by nomadic women on the move).

You might think that, given how much time people were spending on these things, they'd want to get them finished quickly, but in fact, just the opposite is true, I think. It seems to me that if you're going to spend that much time on something, you will be using it for a long time, and given both of those factors, it seems that many people historically have chosen, and continue to choose, to spend the extra time (relatively little, in the grand scheme of a project like that) to make each object beautiful, an exemplification of art and skill, something that will delight the eyes and please the spirit.

To me, knitting is like that. Eminently practical, worthy of the effort of beauty. And knitters reflect their craft: practical (after all, I got my pattern when I needed it most), and beautiful in the way that they move through the world. Regard yourselves with love and admiration in the mirror today, my dears - you are art.


Rachel said...

Oh,Thank you! and Happy Blogiversary to you, we are lucky you decided to start this here blog :)

KnitNana said...

Happy Blogaversary!
I'm so happy to have met you here...and I love to read your thoughts...and experiences!


I had no idea that you've been blogging only a year! Good job!

About the textiles, here are my disjointed thoughts:

Skills were learned at an early age, either by being taught outright or by watching. Kids weren't packed off to daycare.

There may have been a competitive aspect to doing one's best work.

Not everything was perfect or lasted. The examples were well made and lucky.

And, there was time available to do the task. No TV, no radio, no restaurants. It may likely have been a cooperative environment where child rearing, cooking, etc were shared, this freeing up time for one or two Individuals to weave.

Marianne said...

What a beautiful and sweet post.
Happy Blogiversary and SO glad you're here!

I've had to take a few minutes to sort out some thoughts on this also.. it's that 'impoverished' thing.. certainly their lives were completely different, choices slim, but what a wealth of time... that there are pieces that have survived for us to see and appreciate the beauty, has me convinced they weren't 'really' impoverished..
or I could just be nuts :^)
I enjoyed fuzzarelly's thoughts also.

SO glad you're HERE!!!

EGunn said...

Happy Blogiversary! We're glad you're here!

Bea said...

Wow I love this little essay. HAPPY BLOGIVERSARY!!! I'm happy to have met you so I'm glad you decided to be a blogger!

Anonymous said...

Happy Blogiversary!

You've come so far this past year in your fiber knowledge and abilities. I love how you are a thoughtful knitter/spinner. I've learned much from your posts and observations.

At the spinning conference in Salem last month a woman (said she's an anthropologist) claimed there's no way ancient spinners would have taken the extra seconds necessary to throw or remove a half-hitch because of their need to produce everything they used. It was sad that she didn't seem able to step away from modern mentality of faster, yet faster. The artistry of many of the old samples shows there was more to life than "saving time". (What ever that means.)

twinsetellen said...

Happy Blogiversary! Ditto on Fuzzarelly's comment about surprise at the short time you'd been blogging.

It would be interesting to see what the textiles of beginners looked like compared to those who were highly experienced. As I think of that woman working to supply her family with needed household items, I imagine that her first piece might be simple - just learning how to make the piece. Her second might be a more beautifully executed version of the first, and maybe her 3rd or 4th would start to incorporate elements of gratuitous beauty, as much to keep her interest in the work once she had mastered the craft as anything else.

I know my work takes on more and more technical and design challenges as I master new elements. Of course, I'm not doing sustenance crafting, so I may be all washed up on this.

mehitabel said...

Was it William Morris who said you should have nothing in your home that you did not find to be useful, or think to be beautiful? And don't we all really enjoy using tools that are beautifully made? I'm thinking of my favorite crochet hook, a Brittany walnut with lovely graining and a turned knob on the end. It's just as easy to have something beautiful as something ugly...

Alisha said...

What a sweet post.

Happy Blogiversary!