I have enjoyed yarn crafts for almost my entire life. For the past several years, I have become a passionate and dedicated knitter. Knitting keeps me calm in stressful meetings; it helps me stay focused on what is happening; it relaxes me after a difficult day. Knitting inspires my creativity as I think about color, design, and texture in the hopes of creating new and beautiful things. But knitting is, for me, also a deeply spiritual practice.
When we knit we take something that is almost useless and turn it into something appealing and functional. The practice of knitting teaches patience. The finished object that I see in my mind’s eye is months from completion, yet stitch by stitch it gets closer. When facing a task in life that seems daunting, I remember the baby blanket that I crocheted for by niece. It was months of the same stitch in the same yarn. At first it looked so incredibly bland and boring. But when it was complete, oh when it was complete it was a work of art and, more importantly, it kept her warm in her first fragile months of life in the NICU and when she finally got to go home.
Knitting also helps us learn the skill of when to give up and let go, and when it is worthwhile to go back and fix. I always loved the idea that Native Americans believe that a work of craft (usually beading, I believe) should have one error in it, a place for the spirit to move in and out of the art. I use this idea to allow me to let small mistakes go and become a part of the design, a piece of what makes the knitted object unique and handmade, as opposed to sterile and stamped out. This is an important lesson in the art of life, as well. It makes me wonder if the reason that humans are so imperfect, even though we are made in the image of G-d, is that it is our imperfection that made us G-d’s special hand-crafted art-work.
A big error in our art should not be let go, however. Sometimes it is worth the effort to rip back a lot of rows of knitting to fix a large and glaring mistake. (Knitters call this “frogging” because you “riiiiiip it, riiiiiip it!”) Frogging can be a heart-wrenching activity. You watch the hours of loving work unravel in a kinked mess of yarn. What may have taken weeks to create comes out in minutes. Yet, without being willing to let it go, the finished object may not have fit, may not have been functional, may not have been beautiful. A glaring mistake in life can be even more difficult to undo. Addictions, for example, can take years to recover from, but the recovery is still a painful necessity in order to be able to move on and make something beautiful out of life.
Knitting helps us envision a future more idyllic and more complete than the present. It is like the prayers at the end of the worship service. “May the time not be distant, O G-d when…” As long as we can see that perfect future when nations live at peace, we can work towards making it a reality. I’m casting on for that future right now.