Today I decided to try something different … I did the artwork, hehe provided a funny picture, but I let my husband craft the words. What he came up with truly surprised me and warmed my heart. I hope you enjoy his words –
adjective \ bril·liant \ˈbril-yənt\
: very bright
: very impressive or successful
: extremely intelligent
adjective \ en·cour·ag·ing \-i-jiŋ, -ri-jiŋ\
: giving hope or promise
adjective \ dif·fer·ent \ˈdi-fərnt, ˈdi-f(ə-)rənt\
: not of the same kind
: not ordinary or common
Three adjectives, all describing an evolutionary step in what was your grandmother’s hobby: Knitting.
I walk down the isle, casually glancing to my left and right, in what can only be described as Crafter’s Paradise. 50,000 square feet of paper, stamps, paint, yarn, and every imaginable tool a sane person would need to complete any task even remotely related to the hobby. Need beads; they have over a million different kinds. Need paint; not only do they have every color on the pallet, but every type of paint too. Need yarn; they have it. Need fabric; there’s a whole wing dedicated to it. Need (fill in the blank); yup, they have it too. More thread, in more colors, made of every synthetic and natural fiber you can think of – blends as well. They even teach classes here, just in case you have a weekend or two free. [I know you don’t] Why? Because I live with a crafter. I’ve lived with crafters my entire life. But this one, the current crafter in my life, this one has taken it to a whole new level. This one is the Bill Gates of crafting. The Donald Trump of crafting. The United States of Crafting!!
These kinds of super-stores didn’t exist 50 years ago. I know, my mother was a crafter. These kinds of websites and technology didn’t exist 30 years ago either. I know, my sister was a crafter. What I’ve seen in the last 10 years would make any grown man blush, perhaps even elicit words of sincere apology, because we too have had our meccas. The Sears store of years past; where every Craftsman tool could be bought. Snap-On; where a truck would pull up and 40 year old men could be kids again. The High School shop; where we learned the trade and perfected the skills necessary to strip down a chevy small block engine, and turn it in to a high-compression, multi-carburated, monster commanding 400hp and 525… I’m sorry, I digress. Where was I??? …super-stores. They are the first line in what has become an industry that’s taken crafting from a quiet corner of grandmothers living room, to what is now a multi-billion dollar enterprise. And while you can pick your craft of choice for this evolution, I choose knitting.
From an outsider’s perspective, knitting is nothing more than chopsticks and twine. Knitting, we’ve been told, is that god-awful winter sweater waiting for us next Christmas from Auntie Susan. Knitting is, the great time suck of crafting. And then, I’m handed my first gift. The first thing I notice are the colors. As an engineer and a photographer my eyes are trained to notice details, and the first thing I notice are the subtle shades of green. Rich, vibrant colors intermingled in ways you’d never find in Macy’s or Lord’s. Then there’s the patterns, intricate repetitions of hand-work that could never be reproduced by machine. And as the fabric touches my skin, I feel a softness unlike any cashmere or silk I’ve felt before. All with the purpose, weight, and use an everyday garment commands. This is something that will last me a lifetime, and something I can wear not only to a chilly fall wedding, but also to the hockey game next Saturday. This is something that only a master-crafter could make. Only instead of wood, or steel, or stone, this is made of fabric. And made with nothing more than the tools and skills of knitting.
So let’s go back to those three adjectives: brilliant, encouraging, different. How do those three words define knitting? The techniques used are sheer genius. Never would I have imagined that by knotting fabric with ‘needles’, could such a wonderful garment be made. Anyone can do it. Literally, anyone. And while this craft has been passed on from one generation to the next, most recently it’s been reacquired by crafters who enjoy it as a take-it-anywhere sort of hobby. That, more than anything, is what gives this old craft a new beginning. Finally, no two crafters make the same garment the same. Sometimes, the same crafter will find it almost impossible to truly reproduce the same pattern. Each item is unique. Each item is hand-made.
I believe in the years to come, with new generations of crafters, we will see novel and unimagined techniques take the fore. As crafters communicate outside their normal cultural boundaries, using the Internet as a conduit, they will grow in ways never thought possible. They will put unfamiliar fabrics together, lace them together in patterns never before tried, and produce garments unlike ever before seen. Think poncho meets Antarctica meets British royalty. What these new artisans are doing is brilliant, is encouraging, and is as different as anything we may have seen 50 years ago. The fabrics, the tools, the techniques, and resources available today never existed back then. But the craft did. It was called knitting back then, and with yarn, needles, and a little time grandma could whip out a pair of socks, or a hat, or a scarf for those unexpected occasions. Today, those garments look, feel, and wear in a whole new way.
So smile the next time you see that knitter magically working their craft, headphones on, bag to the side. Because what inspires them is what inspired artisans over 100 years ago. Making something from nothing. Just a pair of chopsticks and some twine. With just a pinch of love.
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