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Creation, Community and Knitting

January 17, 2011

In a world of separation, where we don’t know where our food comes from or how any product really gets to us, who made it, or how it is made, it is the solid and earthy things that bring us back to understanding the ground.  And for that matter, I’d say they bring us back to understanding our place and space in this world as stewards and creatures of this wonderful (and, dare I say, woolie) creation.

It is in that light, that I would like to look at the practice of knitting.

First, knitting is a centering pursuit.  It’s meditative and gives us time to think in a world where we seem to be busy and running all day.  It is akin to prayer, once you get the hang of it.  It allows your brain to sort through everything in the world around you, pay better attention to what is going on, and relax.  I have also witnessed knitting carry people through very difficult times in their lives, providing something productive and soothing for them to do when they can’t really seem to do anything else.  There is power in a practice like knitting and it internally affects us.

Second, it brings us into a community.  And I don’t just mean a community of knitters, which it does, by the way.  Remember those mittens, knit with love, by your grandmother?  Those.  You hated them as a child.  They made it hard to make snowballs, but now you wish you had just one pair by which to remember her.  Knitting connects us to generations past and present.  It connects us to all of the households throughout time where people have spent time eating, playing, and working.  In addition, it brings us close with our friends and loved ones as we knit for them or with them or are knit for by them.  It allows us to put wishes and blessings into each knit garment, and it allows us, in a very tangible way, to help in God’s good work of keeping others and ourselves warm and comforted.

Third, it reminds us of the earth.  Wool is not so abstract.  Ask small children where wool comes from and they’ll say sheep.  Ask them what a sheep says, and they’ll say baaa.  The further I get into my fiber arts career the more I am reminded of creation.  I now know many people who interact with that creation in an intentional way on a daily basis.  This has increased my appreciation ten-fold for those who love the land and animals and sacrifice many things to steward them.

Now that you know my basic theology of knitting, a brief, recent example from my own life demonstrates the second thought, that knitting brings us into a community.  My mom, recently retired, has started knitting again after a fifty year hiatus.  I re-taught her.  She and I are both busy knitting for my baby who is due in June.  He or she needs wool soakers to go over cloth diapers.  My mom has knit a blanket.  I am working on some six month old and larger sweaters.  She regularly calls me up to get on skype so that she can show me her most recent creation.  Although 2000 miles separate us, knitting has brought us close together on a weekly basis.  To me, few things are as magical.

Cosette Cornelius-Bates (aka Cosy) is our current featured artist.  She is a fiber artist living in Pittsburgh, Pa.  She has a background in the fine arts, and she has an MCS from Regent College in Christianity and the Arts. She is the author of Knit One, Embillish Too, and you can purchase her work from her Etsy Shop.

Image Credit

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. Amy Dykes permalink
    January 17, 2011 2:41 pm

    Beautifully said.

  2. January 17, 2011 5:10 pm

    thanks amy!

  3. January 17, 2011 6:52 pm

    Thank you so much for this lovely reflection on one of my favorite crafts. In the last several years I have been meditating on the concept and practice of “home,” and one mark of a home for me is a place where things are made by hand. I look forward to reading more from this Domestic Crafts Week.

    • January 17, 2011 10:23 pm

      hi bethany,
      you’re welcome. i’m looking forward to the rest of the week too.
      cosy

  4. Anna permalink
    January 17, 2011 8:50 pm

    Cosy, thankyou for your thoughtful, insightful, and well-written post. It’s great to have you here! I grew up around sheep and grandmothers who knitted and crocheted blankets and clothing almost incessantly. And who taught me to do the same. Putting the process of shearing, throwing the wool on the classing table, and jumping on the wool to push it down in the bale made it all seem fun even as it was invariably hot and sweaty work. I can still recall the slightly greasy smell in the air and the feel of that grease on every wool surface that comes from the wool itself. I remember watching my grandmother spin wool (though she didn’t do this all the time) and then turn that wool into beautiful knitted or crocheted blankets or jumpers. I was under one of these blankets the other day thinking about the way i felt a connection with her there, and felt safe and protected. You see, my beautiful grandmother passed away on the 7th January and i’m grieving. I already feel as though the creations of her hands, especially those blankets, are going to be important to me as I come to terms with her not being here anymore. I knitted and crocheted as a child. Maybe it’s time, like your mother, that i relearn.

    • January 17, 2011 10:25 pm

      hi anna,
      sorry for your loss… but it does appear that it might be time to re-learn. especially tempting with your past being full of sheep. thanks for the lovely story of your grandmother and her knitting and the comfort that it gives you.
      cosy

      • Anna permalink
        January 18, 2011 2:26 am

        Thanks Cosy. It’s a big loss, but it makes me smile through the tears thinking about all the love she put into those creation. It was years of sheep! but my dad thinks they are a little daft, so we don’t farm them any more (though there are still plenty in the area – it’s said that Australia’s prosperity was built on the sheep’s back). I will definitely look at knitting and crocheting again! I’m really glad your post has engendered such a great response! hopefully my post tomorrow about preserves will find a similar audience! A.

  5. January 17, 2011 11:08 pm

    Love this post! I’m glad that this meaningful hobby got me linked to such wonderful people here in the burgh.

    p.s. any blog that has over the rhine listed as a featured artist is automatically pretty awesome.
    p.p.s. is that beautiful yarn up there for sale??? I want!

    • January 18, 2011 1:53 pm

      hi rebecca,
      i’m glad you found us too. and yes, i have that beautiful yarn in my stuff.
      xoxo
      cosy

  6. Grace permalink
    January 19, 2011 12:28 am

    I really enjoyed this blog, Cosette. What kind of soakers are you making? Are you using a pattern or just making it up as you go along? I’m expecting my 3rd child, and most of the diaper covers I used on my first aren’t going to make it through another child, so I’m quite interested in making some replacement covers. I use primarily PLU fabric for diaper covers, but the wool ones are so nice for the hot, humid summers we get down here.

    • January 19, 2011 2:45 pm

      hi grace,
      i started out with the Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern from knitting without tears, which i liked a lot. but now i’ve moved on to this free pattern: http://www.curlypurly.com/pdf/soaker.pdf (PDF). i may end up trying a lot of patterns before this adventure is true. if you make some, don’t forget to search for how to lanolin them, so they’re waterproof in the soaking area good luck!
      cosy

      • January 19, 2011 2:46 pm

        whoops! not knitting without tears, it’s actually in the knitter’s almanac, which is the best value for a knitting book ever – $8! and has some other cute baby patterns to boot.

  7. January 19, 2011 4:06 pm

    As I’ve continued to reflect on this post, I keep returning to a stanza from Tolkien’s “Mythopoeia.” Although I know he’s using the image of loom metaphorically here, I often think of this line as I do my work, whether writing or studying, knitting, spinning, or sewing:

    Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
    that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
    that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
    though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom
    weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
    hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

  8. Jill permalink
    January 20, 2011 5:44 pm

    Knitting also puts me in touch with the seasons. I’m strictly a winter knitter. I knit the white away with vibrant socks while I wait for spring and my garden.

    • January 20, 2011 6:08 pm

      I agree with that. My knitting takes a very distinctive turn with the seasons too, although I knit through it all. Winter also means thinking about what my family would like knit for them.

  9. January 29, 2011 4:50 pm

    Well said! Knitting really helps us in some sort of a way. Whether we are busy of something else or not, we always end up knitting. I recently finished my mittens and my neighbors want a pair also, so, back to work again.

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