Stitches of Life August, 2010
You can tell a lot about a person from her knitting. I recently spied a woman wearing a beautifully knitted shawl. She’d used a multicolored yarn: pale yellow, deep red-purple and shades of green. The colors flowed one into the other, like a painted landscape. Row upon row of perfect stitches made up each half of the wrap, and these halves were joined with a loose stitch, forming a back seam. The shawl fell into an inverted triangle, its fluid colors softly draping her shoulders and back.
I’m telling you about the look of this lady’s handwork, rather than describing a knitting technique, because I’ve scant knowledge of knitting. Eons ago, in dreaded Home Ec class, we were made to knit a simple square. Most of my classmates produced tiny, even stitches. Though my pink-for-girls yarn was ever-hopeful, my stitches went from proper to promiscuous. The result was a sadly misshapen square.
These notions about knitting have little to do with intricate handwork and everything to do with how we live. Like knitting patterns, life goes from simple to complex, and I wondered if the woman’s life mirrored her stitching. I imagined that her evenly-knitted right triangles, ultimately forming the whole, mean a tidy and well-managed life. While the loosely sewn back seam said she is open to change, welcomes love, knowledge, pets and grandchildren.
Stitches of Life
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On the other hand, some people are like properly-knitted pieces from my Home Ec. class. They lead safe little lives, hesitant to venture beyond familiar boundaries. They willingly forego adventure, growing pains and the benefits of making mistakes. Let’s hope such individuals go to the yarn store, look for more intricate patterns and give life a shot.
There are also many who live lopsided lives, much like the ungainly pink square I knitted. They are inconsistent in parenting, work, decision-making, falling in love and the pursuit of vices.
Now if this bunch went to a beginner’s knitting class, struggled and mastered basic stitches, they might learn to overcome life’s ongoing insanity. Like knitting, life requires a good bit of tenacity and lots of patience. A knitter’s goal is a well-finished product. Our goals should be happiness and living well, whatever our definition of living well might mean.
Real knitters know about ribbing and raised stitches; about curved and straight needles; about yarn weight and borders. And people’s lives are a lot like variously knitted yarn. Some are tightly knit and controlled; some open to change, others not. Some are square and solid and contained. Others are out of kilter in varying degrees. Sadly, some seem close to hopeless. And sometimes in life, as with knitting, we have to tear out the most intricate stitches and start over.
It’s tedious, but it’s the only way.