Friday, 21 August 2009

Farewell My Lovely

Just a few knitting-related pics of my wonderful feline companion Solomon who sadly passed away on Sunday 9 August, 11 years after we moved into "his" house. Sorely missed.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Slow Knitting

Progress has felt quite slow on all knitting fronts lately, although in fact I've just completed Module 3 of my City & Guilds Hand Knit textiles course. I've thoroughly enjoyed it too, playing around with print-making, line and mark-making, embroidery on knitting and lots more besides. See some pictures here.
C&G Module 3 pics
I think it's a general sense of stuckness I'm feeling, as I'm frustrated on a number of projects. I feel that I need to press on and complete several of these but various things are blocking their completion. Most of these are actually to do with finishing things off to a satisfactory look, rather than the knitting itself. And some of it is about feeling that I don't have enough time or energy for everything I'm trying to do at the moment.

I have of course written abour Knitter's Block here before, specifically on 20 July 2008, when I see that I wrote that: "Far from representing stuckness, knitter's block can create progress." Creative blocks (in both senses) have been very much on my mind for the past three months as I've been working my way through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. This week I'm completing the final week, Week 12. It's an amazing book, full of insights about how our creativity becomes blocked and the steps we can take to recover. In fact it's a 12 step recovery programme for blocked creatives! The exercises in the book are certainly helping me to resource a way forward and I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to explore and improve their creative abilities.

All of this has led me onto thoughts about Slow Knitting and as I've been mulling over what that might mean, I've had the image in my head of broken bones slowly mending. Indeed, this is sometimes described by the medics as "knitting together". Julia Cameron talks about the need to take baby steps on the journey to creative recovery, to go at things slowly, not running before you can walk. Slow Knitting might also be likened to the Slow Food movement, something that brings the pace of life and eating back from the frantic "sandwich-lunch-at-your-desk" to a more meditative and sociable time out to enjoy the good things in life. In this sense, knitting can become meditative, a contemplation. The root of the word, contemplare, means to see things as they really are. To be here in this moment, now, and to know it for what it is. "The Kingdom of God is here, this is it, now." Annie Dillard, that wonderful writer about the natural world and the spiritual life has it thus: "A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet." (The Writing Life, 1989)

There is certainly plenty of opportunity for a life of the senses as a knitter: more stash, more projects, more patterns, more magazines, more courses, more blogs, more websites, more events. It's a wonderful world of sensation and delight and I'm certainly not against it. But, as Meg Swansen said about Ravelry in a recent interview, it's "like taking a shower under Niagara Falls, there is so much information that it is impossible to take it all in." (Yarn Forward, Issue 16, August 2009) And eventually one can begin to reel from a kind of Stendahlismo , named after the nineteenth century novelist Stendahl who experienced sensual dizziness when faced by the artistic and architectural richness of Florence.

Slow Knitting may be the life of the spirit for knitters, a point where the simple act of hooking loop over loop in a set pattern becomes meditative, centred entirely in the moment, this Now, which is all we every really have but which links into something else, perhaps to another unknown knitter clicking her needles in the same spirit at the same moment, or to a sense of Other, knitting into a piece of eternity.

In the spirit of Slow Knitting, I've been knitting a letter E for the Poetry Society's Knit A Poem event (pictured above). The aim is for individual knitters to knit a square with a letter in it plus some blank squares, which will eventually be joined together to make a giant knitted poem. We don't know yet which poem it is. Knitters are asked to think about the poem that they would like it to be as they knit...

Doing this has also been good practice for Intarsia, which is a bit of a bete-noire for me - and also a big element of City & Guilds Module 4! You can read more about this project on the Poetry Society's website and there is also a Knit A Poem group on Ravelry. And talking about Ravelry, that great Niagara Falls, I have now finally developed a profile there as Stileknits, so do go and take a look and, if you are a Ravelry member, do drop by and say hello.

I'm off to the Bath Fashion Museum with some of the Oxford Jam Factory knitters next Friday to look at the Bill Gibb exhibition, the Supremes' costumes on tour, and peek behind the scenes at their collection of 20th century knitted textiles. A few pictures below of the wonderful Bill Gibb show from my last visit.
Bath Fashion Museum visit 3 July 2009