Knitter’s Notebook: Wool Words
Strickenfreude: the deep wish that someone had knit that for you.
“You know what you should write about?” Sarah asks me.
We are deep in the nether regions of Hickory Hill, a wooded park near my house, on a steamy day in an early spring that has been cold and snowy. We are approaching the Pappy Dickinson Reserve area, where one summer, I stumbled upon the remains of a sky blue 1955 Studebaker [my husband identified it by its tail lights] submerged in leaves, mostly stripped of its wonders; an amazing find nonetheless. Ever since, this has been where I go when I want to explore, hoping to find another treasure. This day, Sarah leads us here because she is always on the hunt for morels, and it is morel season in Iowa.
“You should write about what it feels like to wear something someone knit for you.”
Sarah is the accomplished creator of The Magic Thief, a well-loved middle-grade fantasy series. Her newest book, The Lost Books: The Scroll of Kings, has a thinking mitten in it, earning her an honorary membership in my knitting circle. We also share a studio space and collaborate on picture books, including one about hunting for morels. She’s opinionated, faithful, and fierce, with a dragon tattoo, and a sword hanging over her garage door. I have great respect for her sense of story, so when Sarah suggests I write about something, which she rarely does, I listen.
“Like when I wear the scarves or wristers you or Jenn (her BFF) made me, I feel you are with me. It’s a great feeling.”
“Thanks,” I tell her. “I’ll give it thought.” In truth, I am touched, but not inspired.
Sarah pauses only a moment more; we are on a hunt. Morels and knitting are equally important, but morels only pop up once a year. We trudge on, poking here and there, not finding a single one.
Sarah goes home, and continues her hunt in her wooded back forty. Later she texts me: I found 36, then after a few minutes—no, 44. She sends a picture of her bounty. That’s Sarah Prineas, ever grateful for morels and handknits.
On a Saturday morning, a few days later, the weather has turned cool. I am sitting in my knitting chair, waiting for my husband to bring me my morning cappuccino. I am about to start a swatch for a new sweater and I trying to make friends with the wool first. I haven’t picked the pattern yet. In my mind’s eye it will be light, warm, and perfect for me to wear on a morning like this. The windows are open and I am cold.
As I cast on, I reflect back on how Sarah spread her fingers that day, as if she was showing off her handknit wristers, and feeling, even there in the woods, the knitterly bond of what her friends had made for her.
There should be a word for what Sarah feels, what many feel about knits that loops us in friendship.
When I was a child my mother knit me pink mittens with googly eyes. Goofy googly eyes that charmed me back then. There must be a word for that kind of knitting memory.
Long ago, when I was a poor grad student in Iowa City, far from home, my friend Isabel sent me a heather blue turtleneck sweater with cable in the front. The sweater gave me strength, knowing Isabel had knit it for me.
This winter, on a trip to Philadelphia, I found myself unprepared for the frigid weather. I longed for the woolens I had foolishly left at home. Then my youngest daughter, Lelia, arrived and surprised me with a dream cowl of historic warmth, her first knit. I wore it all day and slept with it on at night.
Memories and artifacts of what is made for us, what we make for ourselves and others, accompany us through life. Companionable warmth. We really need words for this, right?
And why stop here? Knitting is about so much more than warmth. I think that’s what Sarah was trying to tell me to write about, and what leads me now to wish for words to give a more robust dimension and precision to what we do and make and feel.
Like when you know you have made yourself something spectacular: heads turn, compliments are given, and you reply, “Thank you, I knit it.”
See what I mean?
Dear Readers, with your needles clicking, whistle up your brains, as Elizabeth Zimmerman would say. Please help create words for the moments in our knitter’s life. Send them in! We wait with woolly anticipation.