I Knit in Public

After writing the Knitting Meditation post, I wondered if I might grow tired of knitting and let it drift away, as sometimes happens with things that seems like the thing when they first appear. The opposite has happened, actually, and this surprises me.

I missed World Wide Knit in Public Day this year. I was in San Jose and didn't find (or have time for) a knit-in anywhere in the area. When I got back home to Portland, I visited one of my favorite yarn shops, Knit Purl, where I picked up some gorgeous organic cotton yarn (which became the scarf below, that I finished and wore on my daughter's wedding weekend).

I chatted with the woman helping me about how bummed I was to miss knitting in the park with them. As I was leaving, she handed me one of their little I Knit In Public buttons, and in that simple gesture, something in me shifted.

I stuck the button onto the handle of the big polkadot tote I use for a knitting bag (literally stuck it, eventually, with super glue, because I kept knocking it off), and started carrying the bag, and the knitting, almost everywhere I went. I'm still carrying it. Somehow, that button gave me permission to go forth and be a knitter, any time, and anywhere I want to.

I'm on a knitting rampage. I knit in restaurants and bars. I knit at the movies, while I wait for the lights to go down. I knit while I'm waiting for coffee, and given Portland's near-legendary "slow hipster service," that can be a considerable amount of time. I also knit when hanging out with friends, a glass of wine alongside for the social time. They ask me what I'm making and keep tabs on my progress. They're interested. And to my surprise, I don't feel like a weird old lady, but more like a somewhat fascinating, creatively driven person who's fortunate enough to be able to make stuff everywhere she goes.

What started out as a few minutes in the morning, when I ease into the day with some knitting meditation and tea, has settled in and become a big part of my days. Some "sit", I knit. In a lot of ways, it's the same thing.

As a result of all this knitting, I'm accumulating more knitted objects than I really need - or have room for. The result of that is I've started selling a few things. I really don't have room for a new scarf every week or two, so selling them supports my very tasteful yarn habit, and also makes some of my non-knitter friends happy.

There's a lot of stuff in this world. Stores full of things, mostly made by machines. But there's something so increasingly rare and soulful and alive about handmade objects of any kind. With knits, and other things we wear on our bodies, handmade will always feel friendlier than machine made. Every stitch carries with it something of the maker, whether it's her (or his - men knit too) general personality or mood, or actual intentions worked energetically into the fabric. I do that sometimes, and I think putting Love, Gratitude, Balance, Joy, and Compassion into the stitches, one at a time, is something that can be felt by the wearer. Crazy maybe? I'm okay with that.

I think I want to keep sort of a knitting journal here on the blog. So from the beginning, the first scarf I sold was this one, made of baby-soft organic cotton.

When I finished the pink one, made of a cotton-hemp-tencel blend, I wrapped it around my neck and said, Mine.

It's big and drapey and soft, and somehow seems to go with everything. I'm not a pink person, but this  shawl/scarf just speaks to me. It was really fun to make too, so I made another one, this time blue, and a fantastic blend of cotton and bamboo. I offered it in my little shop (I say little because so far, there's only one item in it at a time), and it was sold almost instantly.

I had a hunch the handmadeness of these things I'm making would resonate with certain people. I'm happy that it does. It makes my reach in the world broader, and lets me share some of what brings me so much comfort and joy.

I've named this the Portlandia Shawl, because I imagine draping a gigantic one around the lovely and powerful Portlandia statue that's perched on the Portland Building downtown, reaching her hand down to those who pass below. (I know, you though it was just a TV show...) I walk by her often in my rounds, and I always stop and say hello.

Next on the sticks is another Portlandia Shawl, the one shown above, next to my tea cup. It's the same cotton-bamboo yarn as the blue one, but this time a dreamy, soft dove gray. I hope I have enough yarn to make two of these, because I really want one for myself... and I really want to share one too.

A side note: In poking around for information on the statue, I discovered that her likeness is strictly copyrighted by the artist, which explains why she's not gone the way of other public art, such as the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, turning up on everything from coffee mugs to refrigerator magnets. Portlandia is public art, paid for by public funds, but she is not allowed to become a public icon. Interesting. And I suppose I might have to change the name of the shawl design...

Anyway, if you're interested in having one of these (or maybe something else I'll be adding to the shop soon) for yourself, or to give as a gift, you might want to put your name on my mailing list, so you'll know when something new comes up. Really though, if you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, that's always where I share things first.

Gotta go now. I need to knit. Preferably in public.


  1. I'm not a knitter, I prefer to crochet. There's something so magical about making loops in a single string and turning it into a fabric and something functional. I, too, have made more things than I could possibly use. I have enough dish cloths to have a clean one every day and a big stack of them to give away. I've made scarves and placed them around town with a note that it's not lost and take it if you need/want it. Now, even though I'm not into organized religion, I'm making prayer shawls for my neighbor's church to give to people that need them. My prayer is just that they comfort the person that receives it. Meditation and manufacturing at the same time! If we lived closer we could share a pot of tea and spin yarns!

  2. I love what you're up to Zoe! I'm hoping for a few friends to knit with to magically appear in my world. Might happen faster if I went in search of them! :o) Wish we did live near each other. It would be fun!

  3. If there's not one in place already, try setting up a group through your local yarn shop. Our group meets at the shop once a week, but she has a big table and anyone is welcome any time to come in and work.

  4. This is so great! Thank you for your so inspiring posts!

    Hi, Kim,

    I started following you at another blog (PV) and now I discover you're a fellow fiber artist (I didn't think of myself as a fiber artist till I started reading Stacey Budge-Kamison's blog, UrbanGypz. There are so many inspirational fiber folks online).

    I taught myself to crochet a few winters ago (well, thanks to YouTube videos!) and from there got into hand-painting yarns and a bit of easy weaving (with a peg loom, which I thought would be silly, but it's fun and relaxing and I've made several wall hangings I love).

    Lately I've been yearning to pick up knitting (my eighty-five-year-old Japanese mom has been knitting pretty much all her life, so she taught me some when I was a kid, but somehow it didn't stick). The crocheting became an obsession for a few years -- I crocheted all the time, everywhere -- and I have a really good feeling about knitting. Looking forward to reading more about your knitting journey (:

  5. I have a few friends that knit & I tried it but couldn't get both hands to cooperate.

    I have to admit being irritated about the statue. If it was paid for my public money then it seems to that the copyright should belong to the public.

  6. Seems like... but we humans are funny about the strangest little things. Oh well!

    And if knitting isn't a good fit, maybe crochet would suit you better. Or maybe something else entirely! Gotta give you credit for trying!


Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!

Popular posts from this blog

cats are not dogs, and how tangling string untangles frustration

where to buy what i make

soft spring scarf

yarn that speaks for itself

and what do you do?