I’m a terrible knitter. I struggle through easy patterns, drop stitches with gay abandon, restart projects after unpicking them all the way back, and eventually end up with something approximating what I started out to do. Almost.
One of the first scarves I knit was for my son. I was knitting while I was distracted by the television and the centre part of the scarf ended up widening and widening. I eventually caught myself and started dropping stitches and shrinking it back. My son graciously says that it’s perfect as it is because he can put the wide bit up over his nose if he needs it in the cold.
The point of all this knitting talk is that knitting is a lot like writing. You start out with a pattern, it may or may not work out the first few times, you have to unpick and start over, rerolling the yarn into a ball, trying not to tangle the threads. Then you start bravely again, maybe with new needles or a simpler approach, gradually working toward the ending of the piece, which may or may not look like what you wanted it to be.
My mother-in-law knitted wonderful things for my kids, but she’d send them to me wrapped up with a note that the yarn she’d used was made of “100% unknown fibres” and she didn’t know what would happen when I washed the items. I remember thinking that if I was going to spend time knitting, I’d want to knit with good yarn, so that it would feel nice on the needles, and so that the final product had half a chance of looking pleasant.
Now, when writing, I try to use the right words, struggle to get the metaphors bright and meaningful, use phrases carefully to try to create beauty. As with knitting, I’m not good at following a pattern – I prefer to make things up as I go.
Sometimes, it’s all a mess and I have to give it up and start over. Sometimes I tuck it away and pretend it never happened. But gradually, with practice, I am creating things that are worth showing to other people, giving away, even if imperfect.