The large afghan I’m working on, lengthening as the nights lengthen, serves the dual purpose of giving me something to do. and contributing to my warmth as fall air grows chillier. This particular enterprise has been dragging on over several winters, partly because I’m cautious about muscle strain and partly because my old incentive to produce material goods has lost some steam. It seems the focus should be more about taking away things instead of adding them at this point. I am eyeing our possessions through the lens of adult children who will one day sift through everything we own.
Still, there’s something magical about conjuring something useful up from strands of yarn. I was once very comforted by a kind person who tucked around me a handmade knitted blanket she’d received as a wedding present. My mother went through a phase of gifting knitted Phentex slippers for others: warm and sturdy, they were worn until worn out. There were blankets, sweaters, hats, scarves, dolls that have been created over the years. Before COVID struck, our Itty Bitty Knitting Committee at the local library enjoyed conviviality while clicking away, admiring the creativity of each other’s work.
This is a skill that has been passed down through generations and cultures, taught by mothers and neighbours and volunteers who gave of their time at local schools. Some of these teachers patiently and cheerfully untangled knots and picked up dropped stitches while still managing to encourage would-be yarn artists. And, in my turn, it was a joy to spend time teaching the grand-daughter who found my casual knitting so intriguing that she clamored to learn. This summer, we worked on a little knitted bear, but also took an opportunity to add crochet to her skills.
As the family prepared to drive home, her mother at the last minute noticed that a large ball of yarn, still attached to the crocheting in her hands, had fallen out of the back car door on to the driveway. How far down the road that ball could have been unwinding!
Seven hours away is quite a distance, and so that yarn could never connect us, but in a strange way, conveying this skill was in itself an invisible bonding. Yarn and patterns are only material things, and so may fall short, but the time spent together between teacher and student is like a synapse that relays essential knowledge. It’s only a beginning, but there’s opportunity for discovery and growth and experimentation. And, for our loved ones, it’s also about creating heart strings that will hopefully span great distances of space and time.
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17