I recently bound off my first knitted dishcloth. I’ve made sweaters, socks, scarves, and hats of varying intricacy, and I wanted an easy project I could do while barely paying attention. My little dishcloth was the perfect project.
After binding it off and weaving in the ends, I happy waltzed over to the kitchen and hung it up with the other dishcloths on the handle of the oven.
Even though I was excited about it, it wasn’t until the next day that I got to put my dishcloth to use. It felt so satisfying to wipe up grime and mess with my handmade dishcloth. It was beautiful! And useful!
A few days later, a friend of mine came over, who also happens to be a bit of a knitter. As I wiped up the counter, I showed her my new dishcloth. Isn’t it nice? I asked.
Oh no! She said. But what a waste of such a nice little knitted thing to wipe up messes like that!
I thought it was a little funny she would say that. It’s a dishcloth! I made it for exactly this purpose. If not for messes and holding hot handles, what would be the point of its existence?
Last weekend, my girlfriend and I went on a trip to Vancouver, BC. The weather was forecast to be a bit chillier than our hot Southern California weather, and I excitedly pulled my own knit sweater out of its home in the back of my drawer.
I finished knitting this sweater right as it began to warm up around here (the end of January, I know, that sounds crazy), and I haven’t gotten to wear it more than once or twice since I finished it. So of course as soon as I saw temperatures below 60 in the forecast I knew I wanted the chance to show it off!
As I put my sweater in the pile of clothes destined for our suitcase, I said, Look what I’m bringing!
My girlfriend said, But it’s so nice! Are you sure you want to bring it?
Of course I was sure! What is the purpose of a sweater that is never worn?
I know that the intentions of my friend and girlfriend were good. They were complimenting my work – work so fine that, in their opinion, it should be cherished and not used.
But I enjoy using these objects precisely because they are so fine, and were so difficult and time-consuming to create. I feel proud when I use them. Not only did I make them and they are useful, but they are beautiful as well.
Knitting is always a meditation. Even those stitches done quickly, automatically. Even those stitches when my mind is somewhere else entirely. At least a small bit of my consciousness is dedicated to moving my fingers just so, grasping the yarn and pulling it around, sliding the needles through the right loops. Every stitch has some part of myself dedicated to it.
Painting is also a meditation. I’ve always been an artist. There is part of myself in every stroke of the brush or line of the pen. But when the drawing or painting is done, its only use is its own beauty. It’s a use not to be taken lightly, of course, but one that cannot worm its way into the ugly and mundane moments of life quite as nicely as knitting can.
What I love about knitting is that it is art that is useful.
It makes me think of the ancient artifacts you see in museums. Imagine all those baskets and water jugs and bowls at the Met in New York City, gathered from ancient ruins all over the world. All of these objects had a definite use, an everyday use. What could be more elemental than the simple daily act of gathering water? But despite their utilitarian nature, their creators took the trouble to make them beautiful. They are useful works of art.
To me, knitting is a way to bring some art into otherwise boring moments of the day, like grabbing last minute groceries (I’ve got a mesh grocery bag on the needles right now), putting on a sweater for the nighttime chill, or wiping off the counter.
Who wouldn’t like just a little bit more beauty in their life?