I can tell you about myself through my knitting — stitching together pieces of myself as I would an afghan or sweater. If you were to examine all of the garments I have created, you would know me. Each scarf, mitten, vest of slipper is a chapter in the complex novel of my life.
We women can know each other by the stories we tell about the objects we have created. We can learn from the knitters who have come before us, the women whose histories we share.
Sadly, I have learned from my grandmother, who wracked by countless electric shock treatments, sat in the chair of her lonely room at Eastern Psychiatric Hospital, knitting one grey square over and over again. It was the one shape she still remembered how to make in the only color yarn they would give her. She never bothered to bind off; she just ripped out her handiwork when she reached the end of the yarn, rolling it once again into a ball. Then like a tireless Sisyphus, she would cast on the stitches anew and begin again the task which had come to represent her life. The shock treatments had burned from her her memory and her imagination. With no history to attach it to and no story for it to tell, her knitting was useless, her life meaningless.
Then there was my mother, who stopped knitting just as suddenly as she stopped believing in my father. One day she woke up to discover that she had been knitting with nothing. She had yoke the yarn of her heart into an invisible cloak which couldn’t keep her nor her children safe and warm. My mother created her husband out of the very thin air into which he vanished. The day she learned of his infidelities, she laid down the double pointed needles which held the argyle socks with their interlocking diamonds and counterpoint stitching and carefully turned heals. She never knitted again.
I am not my mother nor my grandmother, though they were my teachers. Their knitting stories instruct me, but they do not define me. For me, it is the process of knitting which nourishes me. Knitting provides the thin string which forms a bridge across a canyon of needs I cannot name. It becomes the thread which darns me together when I have been ripped apart. Knitting has been like meditation: knit one, purl one, a mantra takes me to a trance-like state of total concentration and utter peace. Knitting is the union of opposites I am constantly seeking; the yarn in my hand holds the tension between process and product, between subject and object, between mind and body, between imagination and manifestation.
Knitting helps me de-tangle myself. I can use the raw materials of my life, the colors and textures of my abilities, emotions and experiences to create something singular. I am a work in progress. I can change shape. I can unravel and re-stitch the rows of my existence. I can knit myself anew.
L’dor va dor — From one generation to the next. Tyler, wearing a sweater knit my me, his Bubbie.