I’m going to make a confession to you. I am an unsociable knitter. Knitting combined with nattering is not for me and while wonderful supportive multi generation communities have evolved around a common love of the craft (and even a genre of “chick lit” has been inspired by these gatherings) it transpires that I can’t stitch n’ bitch. Even the careful selection of specific projects suited as a background activity hasn’t helped me to join in with these social and sociable events and I have come to the realisation that the act of knitting for me is no longer the distraction activity of a hand wringer and cuticle picker but has evolved into an all absorbing meditation.
Finding an inner peace
Quite when this happened I couldn’t tell you. In my twenties I was a keen student of yoga. During this time I was never able to undertake a satisfactory guided meditation at the end of a workout in a smelly school hall, wrapped in a prickly blanket. Perhaps it was the idea of all that sand sticking to me (we were always told to imagine ourselves on a beach!) and the possibility of bugs crawling into my sweaty hair, which left me more tense than relaxed. Similarly the action of staring at a candle flame only resulted in a headache despite plenty of disciplined practice, while chanting just left me feeling self-conscious.
What is relaxing anyway?
My wonderful husband often berates me for my inability to relax as he equates relaxing with doing nothing (something that I actually find quite stressful). I disagree with him as I think that I relax very well but I do have to be concentrating on something repetitive and methodical in order to still my mind. If I have needles in my hand I will be fully engrossed in the action of creating a piece of fabric, slowly, one stitch at a time and as long as I am not struggling with a particularly difficult pattern, what is more relaxing than that?
Enjoying the Journey
Now I am not an unsociable person but I do enjoy my own company and the quiet companionship of my four legged friends. The term “journey” is probably much overused these days as a way of expressing an involvement and investment in a learning experience (of which life, of course, is the ultimate), but I believe it is a word which explains how I have come to view my knitting and other creative pursuits over the years.
Gone is the focus on an end product. This is quite possibly influenced by years of mild disappointment when that final stitch is placed and the physical result never fully lives up to the time, skill and effort involved not just in the making of this particular item but also in all of those items that were involved in the learning and practice to get to this place. Perhaps there is also a mourning of the end of an enjoyable process with the inevitable what to do now state. And of course for those of us who have tried to sell hand made goods there is also the realisation of the very low value that others put on our invested time and skill when the only comparison they have is how much a “similar” item would cost them if they bought it in Primark.
Meditation in the making
While it would be a bit of fib to suggest, when pattern and exhibition deadlines are looming, that a physical end result is not important. However, there is so much to be gained from the process. There is something wonderful about that suspended state where the only thing that matters is total absorption in creating which I can only really describe as a sense of zoning out. Knitting and drawing are the two activities that really bring on this internalised state for me (running with the dog in the local woods has a similar effect although a higher sense of alertness to my external environment is required for obvious safety reasons) and allow me a temporary escape from the outside world. The great thing about this drug free induced state of calm and meditation is that it can be achieved very easily with practice just about anywhere (I never travel on public transport without a set of sock needles and 4ply in my handbag). The downside is that it can become very addictive and some discipline is required if cooking and cleaning also feature on your list of job priorities. It can also lead to the occasional missed train station stop and appointment but hopefully the calming effect of the preceding meditation will over ride the stress of these hopefully infrequent downsides.
I’d love to hear what drives your making. Is it the creation of an end product, or are you all about the process? Please leave me a comment and let me know.