STITCHING TIME

Jenny Diski, in a recent LRB blog, writes about her discovery of the pleasures of knitting. She’s a novice knitter, and there are holes – three – in the striped rug she is making for her soon-to-arrive grandson. But she doesn’t care, she’s far too wrapped up in the joys of knitting – and of hearing too, but that’s another blog.

(It suddenly occurs to me that JD and I have much in common. We are of similar age, Jewish, both of us are writers, have been to Antarctica, we each have a hearing loss modified by judicious use of very expensive hearing aids, and we both like knitting.)

Unlike Diski, I’ve been knitting most of my life. Knitting is one of the few constructive occupations that allows you, simultaneously, to do something else equally constructive. Last winter for example, I knitted a poncho-cloak affair (in a beautiful maroon wool that felt like cashmere) while working my way through a few of the several thousand requiems that have been written in the past four hundred years. A vest for a friend took me through much of Schubert’s piano music. I caught up on a couple of years of podcasts from the CBC’s Big Ideas programme while knitting a perfect little jacket for the two-year-old daughter of Dot’s nephew. I have knitted through classic movies that I don’t want ever to forget, and TV series like Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad – both of which I dumped after the first couple of series: too much blood and too little character for me. Dexter, incidentally, did not produce the same reaction. I knitted through the five seasons of Madmen – very useful given my next novel will be set in the 1950s and sixties, all of West Wing (it was the best way of surviving the Howard years), and more recently Aaron Sorkin’s latest, Newsroom, which, at a time when I increasingly avoid newspapers and TV news and current affairs, reminded me how truly valuable good media can be.

And I have knitted to make life more bearable. When times are tough you just want to get through the hours. Like Margaret Drabble (see her recent book The Pattern in the Carpet) I have turned to jigsaws during bleak periods. But as well, Hollywood romantic schlock like Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle and The Way We Were have proved extremely useful; two or three of these movies and I can cross off another evening and head for bed. But there’s a self-esteem issue with this sort of entertainment: how to justify such a terrible waste of time when there are books to be read and articles to be written?

Knitting has saved me from self-castigation. I watch the romantic drivel and I knit. There’s a completed sleeve to show for the hours during which Richard Gere and Julia Roberts do their Pygmalion, rags-to-riches thing, and if I take into account all the old Meg Ryan movies I’ve watched there’s probably a whole jumper to show for them. Time which might otherwise be crazed with anxiety passes while I knit in front of the screen. And in the process friends and family receive regular gifts of woollies. (One of these friends, when I presented her with a sleeveless cardigan many years ago, said that wearing a hand-knitted gift shows that someone cares about you.)

The Memory Trap will be published in May. Bound proofs are already circulating in the world. The first review – in Bookseller and Publisher and fortunately a good one – has appeared. Instead of squirming in pre-publication anxiety I am knitting a very fetching rug. It’s a log cabin pattern, visually startling and very easy. The squares grow in number, the nights pass, by the time the book comes out I will have a finished rug. I should also be quite sane.

log cabin rug

POSTSCRIPT:

The rug is finished, and perfect timing too. Autumn is here bringing cool, rug-suitable nights. And The Memory Trap will be in the shops next week.

photo

2 thoughts on “STITCHING TIME

  1. Maurilia Meehan

    Hi Andrea,
    I love your log cabin rug. I madly crochet, and it is even more hypnotic to go round as round in circles that never end. At least in knitting you can say, just to the end of this row then I’ll put it down. With round crochet, there is no end of the row, only end of the skein! All the best for your new book. There’s a launch for mine, about a mad knitter/crocheter on 11th April at Readings, 6.00. Maybe I’ll see you there?
    cheers, Maurilia

    Reply
  2. Gabrielle Gardner

    How gratifying to discover you’re a knitter, Andrea. I recently reconnected with a woman I used to work with and only then, about 12 years after we’d left that workplace and lost touch, did we discover our shared guilty secret… we’re both avid knitters. She told me of her experience after the Black Saturday bush fires and all the women who joined forces to create The Chook Project,
    http://www.isiiad.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=288:the-chook-project&catid=17:nillumbik&Itemid=40
    so if you ever feel like knitting a chook…..
    I think picking up your knitting needles and choosing a new project is such an Autumn thing to do, like roasting quinces and making plum chutney. Unlike writing though, for me the best part of a knitting project is the starting, though you can now sit with your splendid rug across your lap while contemplating all those new copies of The Memory Trap lined up on the shelf. A new definition of bliss, surely.
    Well done on both counts!
    Gabrielle Gardner

    Reply

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