Week 0: 1 – 3 January 2016
1 January 2016 / Friday
I had an earlier conversation with my Mom’s friend E about the possibility of replicating my beloved machine knitted black coat. My Mom looks to E for knitting supervision and considers her a guru of the knitting realm. E is a childhood friend of my Mom’s and someone I have grown up knowing. My Mom reminded me that when I was 10 years old E corn-rowed my hair for one of the Amity School graduations. Last year E attended both of the Amity Arts CreativeCore retreat sessions that I offered and I began to know her better.
I had hoped I might be able to persuade E to take on the commission of my jumper recnstruction. However, in response to my question about replicating my jumper E brought her knitting ‘learner kit’ to the feast that always follows the annual New Year’s Day hike my parents attend.
I was unaware of her fervent crusade to spread the joy of knitting around the land…until now. She explained that she wanted me to not only learn to knit but to ‘love knitting!’. Up until that moment I had not considered taking up knitting. I had learned knitting in Amity School at about age 7, but never got beyond casting on and knitting little swatches (I am not sure I even did the casting off myself).
I have fond memories of my fellow classmates helping me to knit swatches that we then sewed together into a little throw blanket to give to my Dad. He kept that ‘blanket’ – really not much larger than a scarf – for many years. That was the only knitting I ever really managed.
I showed E what I remembered about knitting and she was quick to correct almost everything about my technique…She also introduced a slightly ‘unorthodox’ ‘entry of the needle and stressed the wrapping of the leading yearn around the pinky and index fingers of the left hand to feed the needles. Both of these aspects were completely new to me.
She stressed that the wrapping of the yarn on the left hand like this was the key to efficient knitting.
She kept telling me to breath and relax, although I was unaware that I was feeling tense in any way and thought I was breathing quite naturally anyway.
I tried to articulate both my reluctance to take up knitting and my willingness to try to incorporate knitting into my daily life at the same time…
My reluctance being connected to not wanting to take on any more things in my life that I enjoy doing but do not have time to really engage with.
My willingness being connected to wanting to find another way of being – where I had time to do things that I enjoy.
2 January 2016 / Saturday
The next day I found myself still considering E’s challenge when it occurred to me that I could use knitting to resolve a long-standing desire to spend time each day making a visual representation of the day in shades of a single color designated to that particular day of the week:
My interest in this colour ‘meditation’ has evolved over a long term practice of colour-coding my personal life – including the days of the week – and thinking about my embodied experience of time; planning my daily schedules, etc within this framework.
I had been very excited when I realized that the chakra system could be overlaid precisely onto my own (not very original) ROY G BIV(M) spectrum that I have always used for the week. In the last few years this interest has included daily still life constructions, readings, drawings and postures as meditations on the corresponding chakras for each respective day of the week.
I have been struggling for a significant amount of time to find a technique for the daily making I envisioned this meditative process to progress through. My recent ideas had been around using fabrics and making sewn – or maybe glued- collages but I felt discouraged by lack of working space to access the fabrics and assemble.
It occurred to me that knitting would be a very simple and effective technique to arrive at the same – or at least similar – daily practice. Like with the fabrics, I would be able to indulge in various shades of colour and textures for each respective day and (eventually) play with the overall ‘shape’ of the week.
It also had the following attractive elements:
1) I did not have to knit to a pattern
2) Was not simply making a scarf
3) Had a larger context for my daily efforts
4) Had evidence of how much time I put into knitting each day
5) Over the next two weeks I was able to appreciate that this approach also offered me my own training ground to explore the elements of knitting (stitches, patterns, colour, yarns, needle size, etc) without the pressure of producing anything.
On that second day I looked at my Mom’s yarn collection at home in preparation for my first ‘week’ to start on Monday (4 January). There was not a wide range of colour as she had very natural shades of hand-dyed wool from her good friend N.
N lives on an island off of Seattle, WA where she raises sheep, makes her own wool and knits and weaves. N has named a black sheep after me – Ryya. I had already loved the fact that there was a black sheep named after me, but when I learned that she names each of her sheep with a letter from the alphabet in succession (like they do with hurricanes) it appealed to me even more!
My Mom was very excited to share her yarn and demonstrated her obvious affection for the many natural colour yarns she had, so I felt a bit limiting to be so specific and intentional with my choice of a bright rainbow spectrum that was already in place for me as a framework. I was looking forward to exploring the boundaries of the spectrum over the course of the year but not that radically that soon.