“Howl or you won’t find your pack.” –Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Quiet as it is kept, I am not high maintenance as far as textiles are concerned. Knitting a strippy scarf is just fine for me. A picture that a vendor took of me at Yarn Con 2015 of a strippy scarf she created and put on display reminded me of this fact. A strippy scarf was the first knitted pattern I ever made when I lived in New Mexico in 2006. My first knitting teacher had just come out of a 35 year abusive marriage, moved out of state and discovered the joys of textile arts (and a wonderful new husband)! As a direct result, she was eager to teach me everything she knew.
There is an excerpt in the book, Zen and the Art of Knitting by Bernadette Murphy, about someone who taught knitting at a domestic violence shelter. Unconsciously, this same scenario was being reconstructed each time I sat for my strippy scarf knitting class. “This will quiet your mind and build your confidence,” she knitting teacher said. I appreciated her taking me under her wing to give me professional textile arts instruction. She learned everything: knitting, crochet, weaving and quilting. She was so active that the local yarn shop hired her to work for them.
She also taught me about the various textile arts conferences I didn’t know about, such as Stitches, the International Quilt Festival, the Taos Wool Festival and the Midwest Weavers Conference. Just as Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes had advised, I had found my pack and I loved it. The old world of textiles was becoming a brand new and expanded world for me.
I learned Fair Isle and intarsia knitting, the harder stuff, but I never evolved past the beginners mind and enthusiasm of my strippy scarf pattern. For those people who have advanced more than I have in their skills, I aspire to their greatness, but no worries. I was told that there are people who knit in garter stitch (knit one, purl one) for years and it is okay if that is the way I rolled.
Besides, I had other concerns. I was born and raised in Chicago. I found that a strippy scarf went with most of my winter clothes and looked decidedly bohemian and stylish. And given the weather conditions, I needed to have that scarf quick, fast and in a hurry!
Some people get into textiles for meditative purposes, not necessarily to win best in show awards. I found that working in textiles was a new way of relating to the world. Life became more sensual. I wasn’t just sitting back, watching things happen. I became more involved, even if I was moving my fingers with my attention focused on one spot. Life became about living in the present moment, which is great for post traumatic stress disorder. There is no past and no future. Life was taking place right now right in front of me and it was actually enjoyable. And for some strange reason that I cannot describe, anything that was troubling worked itself out better than I could have ever planned.
“Don’t worry,” knitting teacher told me about my nonexistent love life. “I got involved in textiles and found a new wonderful husband in the process. He is very supportive of me and my crafts. Just focus on doing what makes you happy. Then the people, places and situations that match you will come to you.” She also said the same thing Tina Knowles said about her recent marriage to Richard Lawson at the age of 61: “You are never too old to do anything, including find love.” She inspired me!
My New Mexico knitting teacher and her husband didn’t live happily ever after at first, though. “Four days after we got married, my husband was diagnosed with cancer,” she said. “I knitted him socks and prayer shawls during his chemotherapy and radiation. He pulled through and we were just fine.” Leave it to textiles to save the day! Then they lived happily ever after!