knit | spin

knitting into the spine

December 9, 2019

Sometimes I find knitting a bit of a slog. I know as spinners and knitters, we laugh at time, but really sometimes knitting just feels arduous and interminable. It can take a long time to get any where useful.

But when I knit lace, something curious happens.

It always starts awkwardly with counting and recounting, stops and starts and many readings and checkings of the pattern. Then slowly, I start to predict the stitches required from the pattern emerging on the needles. I start to see the relationships between the different parts of the pattern. A knit stitch section reduces by twos with paired decreases that lean inwards whilst paired yarn overs in the adjacent section line up like soldiers and then just when the knit stitches are swollen to full, the pattern shifts and decreases begin to reduce the number whilst yarn overs swell a new knit stitch section. And then…comes that moment of flow, when you stop counting and reading the stitches and the work just unfolds.

It is like knitting into the spine of the universe, into a DNA helix, into the atomic structure itself. The clatter and dross drops away to reveal an infinite world of mathematical relationships, where everything exists in complementary harmony. There is no effort, no grasping, no striving. The mind empties while the hands continue knit a code that brings forth incredible beauty row by row.

The feeling is exquisite. I don’t care about finishing anymore.

The yarn I am using is my own handspun lace, spindle spun from raw alpaca. You can read more about that process in my previous post, Spindle Time. The pattern is a Shetland lace pattern reproduced by Susan Crawford in The Shetland Vintage Project (2018).

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  1. Ahhhhhh. I don’t do much lace anymore….but the same thing happens with colorwork for me, my latest love. I can look at the pattern after some rows that have been counted and squinted at…then suddenly it clicks and the fingers take over. Beautiful

  2. This happened to me lately too, knitting a lace border on a shawl. At first I had to count the rows, referring constantly to the pattern instructions, and then slowly slowly I began to remember the pattern and it almost seemed as if the stitches knitted themselves and the knitting just flowed. It was sad then to come to the end. (Still looking for the next project and feeling a little bereft to not have a current knitting project!)
    Your lace shawl looks so lovely. I’m in awe of your spindle skills too. The yarn is so fine and even yarn. Simply beautiful!

  3. I wonder how much knitting needs to be done before the “flow state” you describe kicks in. It sounds rather like the endorphin hit that long distance runners get. Except knitting takes far longer. You are a hard core crafter who should be an inspiration to elite sports people.

  4. Lace, I do like knitting it but only when I decide what I want! My sister asked if I would knit a shawl for her and of course I said yes……she said I could do it in my sleep = kiss of death 🙂
    I like the type of yarn you are knitting with but this is 4 thread like strands making 1 finstrand!
    200 stitches foreward and backwards………after the first 20 rows I should be good to go. Got to get there FIRST, LOL I do know what you mean re falling into a rhythm and just going for it!
    Beautiful pattern you are knitting.

  5. Your brain is clearly more agile than mine ? I struggle with lace patterns, it does evolve for me somewhat along those lines but I rarely get to the point of not counting or checking the pattern frequently. I have huge admiration for those like you whose knitting skills transcend like this. I do still appreciate the beauty but for me it’s all magic rather than science. ?

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