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How to Knit Alone…and Together

21 October 2010

Jennifer of Indulgent Health sent me this lovely video,”How to Be Alone,” because it includes some nice-looking knitwear and a scene of the main character getting to know someone else because she is knitting in public:

Yet another reason to knit in public, even if alone: it can lead to knitting together. Most of us who knit in public have had conversations with strangers about it at one time or another – but my favorite is the person who sees that I’m knitting and just smiles knowingly, or looks closely at my work to see what it might become. Knitters are part of a semi-secret community, and the more we strip away the secrecy, the more I believe we’ll be able to celebrate, not just our identities as knitters, but all of ourselves: the embarrassments and the little joys, the triumphs and the bruises.

[Yes, this is going to be One Of Those Posts in which I wax philosophical about knitting.]

I was a solo knitter for years. I didn’t have female relatives who taught me to knit; I didn’t have friends who knit; it didn’t occur to me to talk to anyone about it. That was fine, but I will say that the same thing was true for me about many other parts of my life. I think I assumed that people weren’t interested. Now, I’m not saying you people (or anyone) should be interested in every part of my day; God forbid. [And, hey, check out this interview with Simon Pegg of Shaun of the Dead and the Star Trek reboot to find out how he handles questions about his personal life.] What I’m saying is that I’d get letters from friends asking how I was and what I was doing, and I’d look at the pages in my hand and think,”They probably don’t want to hear from me. They’re probably just being polite.” Now, people, that is neither normal nor healthy.

[Yes, Virginia, I am writing of a time when people sent each other letters instead of e-mail. I was right on the edge of the switchover when I was in high school, but I was there.]

I’m glad that I’ve gotten beyond that as an adult.  I’m glad that I tell the world about myself these days, even though explaining my knitting obsession doesn’t always make people think I’m more sane.  In a weird way, I think being alone in public is like knitting in public: it lets other people know they’re less alone. Knitting in public sometimes leads to knitting together; being alone in public may lead to new connections, and certainly brings us to solitude rather than loneliness.

I have a friend, an Episcopal priest, who referred recently to having “a ministry of public imperfection.”  She knows that we’re all imperfect, that we’re all trying to get through the day and that isn’t always pretty.  So she lets people see that she isn’t completely put together, so they know it’s okay to be less than perfect themselves.  I like this idea.  Knitters around the world have taken on a ministry of public knitting in the last several years, especially since the advent of Worldwide Knit in Public Day (and, heck, the way the Internet brings us all together).  Why not take on a ministry of public alone-ness as well? It may just let someone else know they aren’t as alone as they think.

One thing.  I’m not saying being alone is easy.  It seems that this video, with its sympathetic tone, assumes right from the top that being alone is uncomfortable.  I have had to learn to be comfortable alone at times, just as I’ve had to learn to be with others.  I think it’s a balance.  Take a look at the pretty video and ask yourself: can I try to do something alone today, in case someone else might need to see me and feel less alone?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 October 2010 12:39 pm

    I think sometimes the best alone is the unplanned alone, when no one else wakes up early on a Saturday morning and the house is quiet. Sometimes the hardest alones are the planned ones, where I’m supposed to be away from my family for just a few hours and decide that sucks.

    PS I like the waxing philosophical posts.

  2. 22 October 2010 11:23 am

    I like the idea of being out in the world, alone maybe, making mistakes maybe, being silly maybe – just being myself on the off chance some one will see me and be inspired and less scared to be herself, too. This aspiration works much better when I get my butt off the couch.

  3. Laura permalink
    24 October 2010 12:50 pm

    From one obsessed knitter to another, I love reading your blog. You are the best.
    Happy Knitting!

    • Kathleen permalink*
      24 October 2010 1:51 pm

      Wow – thank you so much! Your comment made my day.

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