My appetite for knitting is currently ravenous. You can have the Ben & Jerry’s, but I swear I will bite your finger off if you try to take away the seemingly infinite $1 cone of yarn I found at St Vinnie’s a few years ago. Good yarn is expensive, and next to my jar of instant coffee from Trader Joe’s, the several thousand yards on this cone are the biggest bargain in my house. You don’t want this yarn anyway, believe me. It is skinny, skinny yarn, that takes forever to knit up. But when you need to knit a lot, on a budget, there is nothing wrong with yarn that takes a long time to go anywhere.
Recently someone sympathetically suggested that, given the year I have had, research proving knitting and meditation use the same parts of the brain, could explain my need – and it is a need – to knit an hour or more every day. Google reveals lots of variations on this possibility in popular media. Surrounded daily by a boisterous and irreverent cast of knitting characters in the building where I live, I have an alternate theory.
The real volume knitters I know talk while they knit, an activity usually considered incompatible with meditation practice, even Tantric (oh, baby, say my name, say my name). Granted, even for experts, talking and knitting don’t mix when counting long sequences that change unpredictably; but this is virtuoso stuff. The history of knitting includes more socializing and multi-tasking than contemplation and solitude. The more you knit, the less you need to attend to what your hands are doing. Illuminating manuscripts, it ain’t.
For my money, knitting is less like focusing on the breath, and more like chewing gum – basically unproductive, but it feels good. Knitting takes fidgeting and transmutes it into a scarf, the way a hamster wheel could make enough electricity to charge your cell phone if only we had the technology. I knit to knit, and the fact that the needles spit out something I can wear or give away is nearly coincidental. Plenty of knitters might argue, but how else do you explain knitting and re-knitting the same project to correct a mistake only you know is there, when you could just as easily be, you know, napping?
The possibility that knitting is good for people with ADD or even ADHD does ring true to me. Although learning to knit is tedious, once it clicks, you can literally knit forever without frustrating yourself (unless you choose to), or paying much attention. Knitting and talking also provide a rare instance where it is both acceptable and possible to simultaneously ignore and pay attention to the people you are with. This combination of parallel activities is like heaven for the easily distracted – a blissful union where everything can happen all at once, and no one will yell at me.
So, if you want to make me really, really happy for Christmas, you can give me a reason to knit you something and the budget for doing it. But I get to pick the yarn. And the project. Fine. I’ll just stick with my bottomless cone. I hope you like aqua.