I’m an avid knitter, but yarn is expensive for this artist-poet-writer-teacher’s purse. So I've taught myself how to unravel sweaters and recycle the yarn to make new things. I had heard of workshops on this but they aren’t free, and I thought, heck, how hard can it really be? And so I bought some 50 cent sweaters at a thrift store one day and gave it a try. After all, I’ve unraveled and re-structured my own life enough times that I should be able to unravel a simple garment, right?
Well, it's exciting to learn something new, to see the reverse structuring of a sweater, which I haven't been brave enough to try to knit yet, and also it's soothing, very calming to the mind. I can do it anywhere - while my son plays, while I wait on the kettle to boil for tea, while I sit at night and wait for that elusive thing called sleep to finally come...and when I finished unraveling my first sweater, I had what amounted to about 5 skeins of yarn, for only 50 cents and a few hours effort. And I also had the pleasure of knowing I'd done something productive in time that could have just been spent idle.
Well, I was unraveling a sweater at a cafe the other day when a stranger approached and asked me what I was doing. When I explained to her that I was taking the sweater apart to reuse the yarn, she seemed aghast, almost offended somehow. "Why on earth would you do that, it was a nice sweater," she said, basically meaning 'why try to make better what already seems to be pretty good?' I thought about this...yes, the sweater was nice as it was, but do we always have to settle for things as they are? If something is already nice, does that mean we shouldn’t aspire to better it somehow? I explained to her that it was a whole process, and that I wanted to learn the skill not only for financial reasons, but also because there is a personal pleasure in creating something, in taking this 'nice' thing someone else made (or more likely a machine made), unraveling it, and creating something new, something that is your own, that's not to be found on a store rack by the dozens, but is a direct product of your own mind and vision. "You mean you're going to make a sweater? How?" She asked. I explained to her that I like to knit, and once again her eyebrows furrowed. "Why on earth would anyone in today's world spend time unraveling a sweater, then knit a new one when stuff is not really that expensive to buy? You must just have loads of free time," She said, shaking her head. Then her order was up and she was out the door, not even a second glance back in my direction. I was left with her words hanging in the air. And I wondered for a moment, why am I doing this? And that being said, why am I doing any of the things that I do? Why does anyone do – or not do – a creative thing?
This lady was, most likely, a person who had never actually made anything other than dinner since childhood. Most likely she did not know the joy of finishing a creative personal project, whether it was a painting, a poem, a knitted garment, a refurbished automobile or a coffee table made by hand. She did not know the peace and clarity that comes to the mind from spending time doing something one loves. And unfortunately, so many people in the world are this way...they associate creativity with having loads of free time, and why make anything that can be bought? Why bother to write a poem when you could just buy a Hallmark card? And take it a step further, why bother at all to think deeply or soul search when hey, we have cable television to watch, and that is much more interesting than anything that could come out of our own heads! We're overworked, we're tired, we don't want to do anything else that might take thinking or effort...and so we tune in to television and tune out our lives, putting off what would most heal and nourish us in order to blindly rip through our days, taking our pleasures from outside sources and never realizing that we can so easily tap into our own spirit to find real joy.
Sometimes it can sting, this rejection of the creative by other people. It makes you feel like people think you are less than them somehow. I had a friend make fun of me for hosting a knitting group at my house on Saturday nights. “You’re like a bunch of old ladies or something, sitting around of a Saturday night knitting,” he said with a laugh. “But what do you do on Saturday nights?” I asked. He shrugged. “Go out to the bar with the guys, or just watch television.” Ah, yes, the productive things in life that bring real joy, going to a bar or watching television. “And how is that working for you, is it bringing you happiness?” I asked, and he looked at me blankly and responded, “What do you mean?”
There are just going to always be people like my friend and the lady in the cafe, people who will choose to mock the creative, because they’ve never seen the value of doing anything deep, anything below the surface or beyond the obvious. But in the end, the lives we create for ourselves depend solely on the effort that we make to be a participant, not just an observer. I'm not saying that everyone needs to have a creative hobby to be happy, but it certainly does help. It gives you a connection with yourself, what you can do, what you are capable of. It helps you be a better person, because most creative things are done in a sort of solitude that gives you time to think and process what is happening in your life. I associate every thing I create with what I was feeling at the time that I created it. Even things I knit. And so I'll forever associate the yarn harvested from that sweater with the lady in the café asking me why on earth I’d make an effort to do something creative, when it could, so easily, just be bought? And I’ll send up a silent wish for her, and for my friend, and for everyone who seems to cruise along on the sidelines of life without ever really jumping in…I hope that you never unravel.
So…I am not your idea of beautiful?
braids in a hand-knit cap,
goofy earrings for the fun of it,
tangerine polish on my toes
teased, tortured hair,
diamonds for the expense of it,
acrylic inserts on top of real nails.
So…I am not your idea of a woman?
strong as the trees that I hug,
secure in my abilities,
Strength is your role.
Security is yours to provide.
Nothing without you.
So…I am not your idea of a beautiful woman?
I am my idea of me.
This article, and many more, can also be found at www.thump-greenwood.com, the Greenwood area's leading magazine on arts and entertainment.