We were out of a few essentials last Friday afternoon, so I stopped by our Costco in Coralville, Iowa. The vast parking lot was nearly full and the checkout lanes were holiday-season long. I did my shopping quickly. After I settled on a line, I reached for my knitting. The night before, inspired by MDK’s Dishrag Revival, I had cast on a Ballband Dishcloth in pumpkin orange and apple green, garish and joyful. Pleasurable, portable knitting, perfect for inevitable waits and unpredictable pandemics. Already I envisioned creating a colorful pile of cloths.
What’s nice about the Ballband Dishcloth pattern is its predictability and its ease, allowing me to knit and observe. All around me, shopping carts were stuffed to overflowing with the expected and the unexpected. No doubt, though, that under the bags of frozen veggies, the sacks of potatoes, the glass jars of pasta sauce, the containers of yogurt, and the monumental bottles of scotch, was a tightly wrapped bundle of worry. Our collective worry. The uncertainty of what will happen next. Will we have enough toilet paper to survive? Did the cashier wash her hands? Who will we be when this is over? Who will help me carry in all this stuff? Will the schools close? What about the library? Should I get my hair cut? Did I really need all those chips? Who sneezed? Will I get sick?
I believe the clicking of our needles comforts not only us, but others, even those waiting in line impatiently, with heavy hearts and full grocery carts. When we knit on in public and in our homes, we model calmness. After all, knitting is an act of faith and hope. It is about believing in the future, a time when you will use all those dishcloths.
In Knitting Without Tears, Elizabeth Zimmermann famously wrote, “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.” When my children were young, I thought knitting on was a way to weather the ups and downs of motherhood. Back then, in the thick of balancing it all, I knit myself a simple pullover. Only after a good ten years of wear did I happen to notice one cuff was finished with a 1×1 rib, the other 2×2. The sweater was knit ostensibly for winter warmth, but even more, it was knit simply to knit on.
These days, I am more mindful and less distracted. This comes with age, I suppose, and with age, too, comes a deeper understanding of what Elizabeth Zimmermann might have meant by “knit on.” She was born in 1910, and lived through two world wars, the first one as a young child, and the second, which made her and her husband refugees in America, as a young mother. She survived the 1918 flu epidemic and the Great Depression. Knitting on through all crises was surely not limited to the trials of personal life.
“This, too, shall pass,” my mother would tell me when I worried. She is long gone, but I am here. The torch has been passed and I am taking up her mantle of reassurance. With needles in hand, I will knit on until this, too, passes.
For all of you, wherever you are, stay open to goodness and what brings you joy. Dip into your stash. Dig out your impulse buy, the one you were saving, and create something wildly soft with it. Fearlessly take on the funky sideway socks lingering on your someday knit list. Tackle a Latvian mitten. Muster bravery and strike forth on a sweater with a steek. Knit a Ballband Dishcloth. Support the knitting world; order promising patterns and savory skeins. Keep your needles clicking.
Model calm for yourself and others. Be safe. Be well. Knit on.
Celebrate dishcloth knitting! If you feel like swapping your knitting needles for colored pencils, here’s an illustration by Michelle Edwards to color in. Click here to download a printable copy. Thank you, Michelle!