This isn't the post I'd hoped to write today. I hoped I'd be yammering on about copyright and the value of women's work and how we should honor it with the same legal protections we give to men's work. But I'm going to have to save that for another day.
I learned to knit in 2001 or early 2002, when my country was reeling with fear and uncertainty over the terrorist attacks of September 11. I was fifteen years old.
My teacher was Mimi, another sort-of misfit at my ballet studio. As I remember it, she was homeschooled and I had come from another studio and felt out of place among girls who had been dancing together since they could walk. Besides the fact that Mimi took notes on every class, which I found annoying but would totally have done if it felt socially acceptable, Mimi knit.
I've been surrounded by and fascinated by textiles since I was a little kid. Some of my earliest memories are of my grandmother teaching me to sew on the sewing machine when I was about five years old. Also, Andy the cat and playing in piles of leaves taller than I was, but that's besides the point. My mother sews her own clothes, curtains, and sometimes upholstery, and so did her mother, and her mother, and so on. But I always found I lacked the precision needed for sewing clothes. I wanted to play and experiment, not cut a pattern perfectly.
But when I saw Mimi knitting, for some reason I thought it was cool and asked her to teach me how. She said yes, and told me to find some yarn that was mostly wool. I went to the craft store and found a ball of Lion's Brand Wool-Ease in a heathery shade of purple. Mimi said that was good enough, supplied the needles, and taught me how to knit.
Predictably, my first project was a garter stitch scarf, and it showed all the mistakes a new knitter could make. Dropped stitches, accidental yarnovers, inexplicable increases and decreases, and an exploration of tension throughout. In short, it was hideous.
But I found I loved knitting. It was calming and yet strangely addictive and a haven from the storm that was the post 9/11 world that coincided with my teenage years.
Mimi taught me how to purl, and how to read basic stitch patterns, and even how to knit in the round on double-pointed needles. I knit everywhere I could, whenever I could, to the point my ballet teacher thought I was more obsessed than Mimi had ever been and took to calling me Madame Defarge.
At some point, Mimi left the ballet studio. We kept in touch for a while as traditional pen pals, and even had a couple of tea and knitting parties, where I learned the joys of a good cucumber sandwich.
But keeping in touch has never been something I'm good at, and there was a war going on. My parents and church seemed to lean hawkish, so I did too. As a Quaker, Mimi was on the opposite side of the spectrum and wasn't afraid to say so. Shy, nonconfrontational, and not sure what to say in return, I drifted away from Mimi.
I was left to my own devices and and the fledgling Internet, where I had to fight my little brother for time on the computer and listen to those awful dial-up sounds. But mostly, I knit simple scarves that had no pattern other than the ones I un-vented.
I'm not quite sure where this fits into the story, but I think it bears saying: seasonal depression is something I've quietly dealt with since I was 15. Knitting helps, but any one thing can only help so much. This year has been different, and so much better than years past - I have my own family business that doesn't take too much of my time, and I'm no longer stuck in a miniature cubicle day after day. But just yesterday, it felt like everything came crashing down around my ears and I realized I might not escape the seasonal depression this year after all.
Until yesterday, the only time I've cried about our nation was in those days right after September 11. So much has changed for me in the last fifteen years, including my own political leanings. I believe that politics can coincide with love and compassion and hope and justice, and feel a pit in my stomach at the idea that the opposite of those things, hate and bigotry and fear and ignorance have won the day.
There are some things I can accept, and some I can't. I can accept the results of the election. But I will not accept hate, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, closed-mindedness, isolationism, bullying, ignorance or fear. Gone is the teenager who accepted that this is the way things are, or that this is the way things should be. Gone is the teenager who avoided confrontation above all else. If some people think that's nasty, then I'm prepared to be considered nasty.
I'm reminded of a quote from Elizabeth Zimmerman, "Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises." Though my confidence is feeling quite shattered today, I will knit on. And I suspect that if anything good comes out of this crisis, there will be a knitter involved, somewhere.
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