The Harvard Knitting Project

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I may not have gotten around to it, but I am in favor of a manifesto.

This isn't just "The Knitting Project" for a reason. It's the "Harvard Knitting Project" because, since I came to harvard, I've been living what I think of as the anti-lifestyle (or the anti-mindful lifestyle, the anti-knitting lifestyle, whatever). You wake up in the morning if you have a morning class and in the afternoon if you don't, having gone to sleep no earlier than 2, and frequently later than 4. You go to class, come back, eat in the dining hall if you have time, study as much as you are able in your sleep-deprivation-addled state, hopefully find the time to hang out (usually just with your significant other and/or roommates and/or people you run into in the dining hall or laundry room), study more, work at your work-study job if you are me, probably go to rehearsal or other extracurricular obligation, procratsinate a lot, and study as much as possible. At the beginning of this year I reached a point of critical burnout.

I also have reached a critical stash point.

Late last academic year, after knitting a wave-patterned chulo for my boyfriend for christmas, I realized I really missed knitting, and sent off to my parents for yarn. It arrived in boxes and, during their annual frequent-credit-card-flyer's-miles visit, in suitcases. I kept it in my typewriter case. I kept it in my dresser drawers. I finally got a big plastic tub for it during moveout. I knitted two hats, using the yarn I spun when I was in grade school and some noro silk garden. I knitted five inches of an ill-fated cardigan out of ugly purple tweed (which is still sitting at the bottom of the box), and I spent most of the spring and summer working on disgustingly hip fingerless gloves using brown sock yarn and some of that trendy recycled sari silk yarn, until I realized I'd knitted two right gloves, and ripped them out in a fit of pique (R.I.P. in a tangled mess). I was still stressed. I was NOT in the knitting groove.

Then I discovered Mason-Dixon Knitting. I think I read like half the archives in two weeks. Coincidentally, while I was devouring the blog, I was staying with Kay Gardiner's niece Rachel B., who is one of the two Rachels who live in my suite at Harvard... though Rachel doesn't know the first thing about knitting and I didn't figure out the relation until later.

What I had been knitting the most, up till that point, and selling (!), was rocket-shaped, multi-colored vibrator cozies. But in August, Rachel B. commissioned me to knit her some flip-top mittens (which are fingerless gloves underneath and mittens on top). I bought some FANTASTIC black wool (RB is a stern minimalist) and set to work, using a combination of knucks and broad street mittens, but knitting them as one piece, picking up stitches from the back of the hand, because I hate sewing. They were a total joy. Interesting, full of new techniques and knitting theory to learn, and everyone thought they were just the coolest, and asked me to knit them some. I knit a pair of pink knucks for Celine, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Review of Philosophy, and modified fetching for the fabulous Professor Alison Simmons.

I learned to knit socks from the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Rules, which has obviously changed my life. I started using patterns from time to time. I think the biggest change in my knitting universe and universe as a whole, though, is that I started taking requests.

Knitting for my friends, to their specifications, makes a surprisingly big difference. With so many requests, I'm thinking about knitting all the time, and thinking creatively about it. I'm branching out (I learned to do increases! WHOAH...) in technique, color, and pattern. I still love hats, but I have broken free from their tyranny. :)

Knitting at Harvard is different from knitting anywhere else. It's the perfect break from the academic whirlwind --- not too complicated, just two stitches, a knit and a purl. It MAKES SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL. Knitting is the only way I've found to make beauty at Harvard. I've written things that are models of concision, models of precision. There is whimsy here, even in class, but it's buried amid so many rows and rows of people taking themselves way too seriously that it's hard to find. Everything sticks. Everything's harder than it ought to be. Knitting, though, just slips through my fingers: click, click, click, click, and soon the whole ball is gone and I've got a perfect little object, ready for finishing and giving away.

So that's why I knit here. And that's why I teach knitting. Spread the soft, wooly love.

Plus, unless I get this stash shrunk, it's going to eat New York.

I hope there's somebody reading out there, and I hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving.


Blogger aurora said...

You make me want to knit so much!!
I'll come next week, I swear.

8:18 PM  
Blogger spork said...

I miss you!

10:53 PM  

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