I have become something of a notorious knitter. The yarn and needles have been part of my life since I was a small girl. For me, knitting is many different things. The process of winding yarn around needles is always the same, but the experience can be very different. When I am in a meeting, or listening to a talk, the rhythmic motion of my hands forming a repetitive pattern helps me to focus and concentrate on what I’m hearing. At other times, that same knitting, in a quiet place, can be an aid to meditation and reflection, helping me to keep my mind still, listening for the voice of God in the silence. But there are other times when my knitting is a place of refuge and retreat, as I give my undivided attention to a complex pattern or intricate design.
Knitting is wondrously varied. That same process of looping a length of fibre around a couple of sticks can produce such very different products, for hugely varied purposes. Over the past year (or two) I have made a fine, lacy shawls and scarves, toasty warm hats, socks and gloves, summer tops and winter jumpers. Some are tucked away in my chest of drawers to be worn with love (and a little pride). Some have gone on their way to share the lives of those I love – a lacy silk shawl knit as a ‘virtual hug’ for a friend who had lost almost everything in a natural disaster, a sturdy but elegant hat for a friend losing her hair to chemotherapy, a blanket to welcome a new baby, a fun cardigan to remind a special boy that his great-aunt loves him, even though she doesn’t see him very often … .
In recent years, I’ve started exploring different fibres and processes. My frustration at not being able to find just the right colour to bring a particular idea to reality led me to experiment with the dye-pot. Now I regularly create my own coloured yarn or fabric for a knitting or embroidery project. Doing so often leads me into reflection on the diversity of materials and outcomes. Every material is different, and each responds in its own way to the dye-bath. A fine-spun wool will soak up colour, developing depth and intensity, a silk yarn will reflect it back to the world, shimmering richly, while a little cashmere in the blend will make everything softer, not just in feel, but in appearance.