Thursday, March 12, 2009


I picked up the old sticks and string last night, after an absence of a couple of weeks. The hacking cough situation, and the lack of focus and concentration that went along with it, meant that I haven't knitted for a while. The Vinnland sock the first has consequently temporarily stalled just after I turned the heel and started on the leg.

Returned WWI soldiers knitting as therapy. The guy in the back is using a hand cranked sock knitting machine, a sophisticated version of the cotton reel with nails many kids used to make long thin knitted tubes. Only this machine even had fittings to allow a proper angled heel.

But I was spurred on to do a bit of simple knitting by the arrival of new yarn! I ordered some inexpensive, hard wearing, fine gauge wool from Bendigo Woolen Mills to tackle the crazy fun project I've had in mind for a while. Oh yes, the 1920s bathing costume will become reality. So last night I swatched, or knitted up a simple square to check that my yarn and needle size was equal to the gauge given in the pattern. (I need to go up a needle size, as it turns out.)

At a guess I think this guy is actually doing some sort finger braiding, not knitting. But still, the therapeutic quality of yarn!

And while I was swatching I was enjoying the therapeutic quality of knitting. Once you get past the cuss-worthy stage of feeling like you're about to drop ever third stitch, or you're tackling some mega-hard masochistic pattern, there's a unique thing that happens. A sort of zen space. Where you can have half your brain watching the yarn, the interplay of the needles, the feel of the stitches under your fingers, and the other half thinking/daydreaming or listening to music/the telly/conversation. The rhythm, the art of creating, the way 'muscle memory' comes into play so that your stitches get neater and easier the more you do it, well it's kind of magical really.

More WWI soldiers knitting as a group. Not dissimilar to what we do every Sunday, except we have beer. (And we don't have chenille bathrobes.)

I'm sure it's good for my blood pressure. Even if it doesn't have a physiological effect, it certainly feels calming. I'm not a very tense person, but I can't imagine being tightly wound when you're knitting. Maybe you can, but with only the half of the brain that isn't watching the process. So potentially that's half as stressed? Maybe? It's also quite possible that jittery, tense people aren't drawn to knitting at all, but then maybe they should.

Knitting, weaving, basketry were all crafts that were traditionally used as medical therapy. (I treasure a woven scarf I have that my mother wove in a sanitorium, recuperating from tuberculosis back in the 1950s.) My feeling is that it's more than just the repetitive activity, the gentle use of muscles, the soothing effect of the activity. I think it's also the act of creating. The encouragement and pleasure that comes from looking at something that you've made, even if it's just a little gauge swatch.


yani said...

Every time I hear you wax lyrical about knitting like this I get a little twinge of regret that it's never been something I've actually been able to do... I'm not sure that I'd have the patience anyway, but you do make it sound lovely.

Megz said...

lovely lovely lovely.

(I'm reasonably sure I'd be a basketcase or have killed someone if I didn't knit.)

M-H said...

I guess you're feeling a bit better. Glad to read this.

Cecilia said...

What a lovely post! That is exactly how I feel about knitting--most of the time.

Hope you're feeling better!

Tall and Handsome said...

I think chenille gowns at the CourtHouse would be very derigeur.

I'll have to pack one for next visit.

Like M-H said: you sound like you are on the mend & that is a good thing

The Other Andrew said...

Thanks everyone! Yani, practice makes perfect but if it isn't for you, then why not try crochet?

T&H, I must admit that there have been times I wished I could just stroll over to the Courthouse in my dressing gown...