A Lesson in Knitting

I am sitting here, knitting, with memories of old projects running through my mind.

For those of you who have never done it, knitting has an almost meditative quality. After a while, you find your hands know the stitches so well that they continue without your conscious mind paying attention. You are free to float along to wherever your fancy takes you, to carry on discussions with others, to go on trips in your imagination. More than a way to relax, it's a chance to leave this time and space, and move along to somewhere slightly different. I never know quite where I'll go with a simple pattern. I knit, and my mind wanders off, and the item I am knitting grows longer, and my thoughts flow more easily. I learn life's lessons in knitting.

A knitting project is nothing more than several million stitches, repeated one after another. It's essence is the same two motions, repeated, ad naseum. Knit and purl, purl and knit. Thus, knitting is not just about careful consideration: for pattern, for fit, for colour, for fibre choice; and it is not merely about my time; it is a lesson in dedication. When I continue with a project long past the time when I am interested in it, through the time that I am frustrated, and through the time when I am seemingly making no progress, through to a finished project, I am learning about devotion. Knitting is a gift of my care for another, it is a visible demonstration of my love.

And in this meditative place I am thinking of the first baby item I knit, a few years ago. One of my most dearest and oldest friends called, to tell me that his wife was expecting their first baby. The friend who inspired whiny Thursday, he's also the man who gave me away at my wedding, read the prayers at Gabriel's funeral. He's someone whom I treasure. And I could not give him my best wishes that day. I stumbled through congratulations and wished him well, and hung up the phone and wept and raged: that they, so soon married, would be expecting a wee one, while Mr. Spit and I would continue on with an office, not a nursery.

And so, I resolved to knit for this babe to be. If I couldn't give them my good wishes, I could give them knitting. And I scoured pattern books, carefully consulted the mother to be on the colours, and decided upon a baby blanket. For 8 months, I picked it up almost nightly, and knit more and more rows. 9 squares in all, each made of a 12x12 block. The same colours, the same stitches. Repeated. Then I picked up stitches on the edges, and knit the lace around the edge. Into each stitch I put what love I could. As time went on, I made my peace with this wee one. I truly did knit until I was glad for his birth, until I knew that babies are wonderful things, truly a testament to God's wonder and grace. I learned I could be happy for others amidst my own tragedy and sorrow. My hands knit the stitches, and God knit happiness into my heart. I doubt the parents were aware of my pain, or the depth of the gift, or the lessons I learned in that blanket.

The morning before my diagnosis with pre-eclampsia, I was back at the wool store. I picked out alpaca spun locally, chose a pattern of Shetland lace. I thought of the amazing woman who was guiding me through my pregnancy, and how I could thank her. I thought of the lessons in motherhood she was giving me. I found something perfect for her. The morning before the testing began, I dyed the wool a soft agate colour.

I came home from the hospital on the 12th of December, and I began knitting. For hours each day, I knit. My mind so numb with grief it was not possible to knit and speak, to knit and watch a movie, even to knit and think. I knit. Fiercely, grimly, with an all consuming fire. Into every stitch, into every yarn over, I knit my thanks, my care, my concern and my gratitude. I prayed for a woman who walked with us through our darkest hours, who held me as I wept, who caught our son in her strong and loving hands. Who stood in the valley of the shadow of death, and was not afraid to be there. And I gave back to her what I could, the only skill, the only accomplishment I had left. I knit for her. I put my chaotic and heartfelt prayers into a shawl to keep her warm. I prayed it would see healthy and happy births. I learned the lesson that when you are lost, when there are no answers, pick up what you are working on, and start on the first stitch. I don't need to see the pattern, I just need to knit each stitch as it comes.

Tonight I'm knitting for my husband. A hat of soft wool, in blues and purples and blacks. Wool he chose this last weekend. It is cashmere, hand dyed, enough to knit a hat. I want to remind him of how precious he is.

While I knit, my mind is thinking of a pattern that I found in that first search for baby patterns. Never even considered for the wee ones of others, it was held aside for my own child. As a "Maybe" - a faint hope of a dream. Not shared, not often even thought of. Captured on paper, a photocopy, tucked in a bookshelf amidst all my wool and other patterns. The someday of some day's. Made of cashmere, with cables, designed as either a dress or a cardigan sweater. Grey heathery wool, with black Scotty dogs knit in, I held it in my mind as the perfect outfit for a first birthday in March or early April.

Warm enough for a cool spring day, made of countless stitches, repeated over and over. This time the stitches wouldn't be careful hopes that I could be happy for someone else's baby, they would be joyful thanks for one of our own. A statement that my child was loved, and wanted, and his mother knit! Dedication and determination, but above all else, thankfulness for a wee soul to knit for. A child of my very own heart. A lesson in gratitude. I knew that I would need to start it early to finish it for a first birthday. I knew that knitting time would be scarce once our child was here.

Tonight, I have all the time in the world. So I'll put my head down, just for a bit, to weep for a baby that wore a hat someone else knit, a hat that a stranger made, for the child of knitter. And from deep within me come sobs, a heart wrenching lament, deep and agonizing pain, all for a pattern that sits on a shelf. For wool that remains unpurchased, for hopes of a baby sitting among wool purchased for the children of others.

Tomorrow I'll pick up Mr. Spit's hat, and I'll again revel in the softness of the wool, and in the way it stripes, a line of blue here, a line of purple there. I'll think of socks, and of shawls, and hats, and I'll be better. I'll hope and dream and be thankful for the lessons from Gabriel.

Tonight, I'll give over to memories and shattered hopes, and dreams, and a small baby wrapped in the love of God, and not his mother's knitting. God has lessons to teach us that are intensely painful, and I have more to learn.

This is the lesson of knitting: I'll knit to show Mr. Spit he is loved, to put my body and mind back together, and to learn about patience and devotion and dedication.