Ode to Joy (& Knitting Lace)

May 2011 126Just as you are, perfect Just as you are I'll give you the time you deserve

I was listening to an old album the other day while I was knitting up these two swatches. Quite apart from reminding me about another time and place in my life, it also made me think about the place knitting has in my life.

On a very personal level, knitting is about mindfulness. It makes me slow down, it clears my head and it makes me focus on the moment. I have always been very good at thinking thirty steps ahead of myself, of overbooking my diary, and of trying to be too many things to too many people. Knitting has changed me in many ways, but I think this is the most important one.

Some people swear by knitting plain stockinette in the round, others by turning heels and planning toe decreases. I love knitting lace. My head is at its quietest when I follow lace charts - at their best, the charts are simple and elegant ways of conveying complex information - and I love learning intricate repeats of  yarnovers and decreases. And I love the amazing transformation known as blocking.

Blocking is simple: you soak your shawl in water, you pin it out to dry and somewhere along the line your knitting goes from being an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. Look at the photo. I knitted two identical swatches and blocked one of them. Isn't it amazing? Imagine if life could be controlled in the same manner: "ooh, life's a bit lumpy and crumpled up today, so I'll just soak it in lukewarm water for 15 minutes and apply a few pins.."

Today has been a day of making charts in Excel (there are plenty of great tutorials available online, so I'm not going to bother writing one up, sorry!) and of writing about knitting lace. It has made me reflect on the joy that I feel when I knit lace - and how I approach lace knitting.

I do not arm myself with blocking wires, lifelines, or special lace chart reading tools. I just use a pen to mark my position in a chart, I use one safety pin (to mark the centre stitch) and I use cheap stainless steel pins. Words are so interesting: to arm oneself .. as though I was about to wage war on my knitting or seeking to conquer a chart. No. Lace knitting is my personal time. It is self-indulgence (for, lo!, I rarely wear my shawls), it is downtime, and it is peace of mind.

Three quick non-lace links (and congratulations to non-knitters making it this far): + Pop Culture paper-cuts. How many do you recognise? And did you know that Silhouettes are named after Étienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister imposing harsh taxes after The Seven-Year War? I wonder what will be Gideon Osborne's legacy? Nothing as enduring nor as artful, I'm sure. + How to Knit A Giant Lego Brick Doorstop + Top Tips for Budding Lyricists - why you shouldn't write what you know and why it is sometimes okay to make up your own language.