Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Purling Through Life

When learning to knit, the first stitch you learn is the...knit stitch. Naturally. Because no one would be perverse enough to teach you to purl first. That's not the right way to knit. So you knit, knit, knit until you decide it's a boring stitch and notice there are other more interesting things to do with knitting needles and you learn to purl.

Combining the knit stitch and the purl stitch allows the knitter to produce a wide variety of interesting pieces such as socks, mittens, hats, scarves--because you can fashion a stretchy cuff or edge. The thing nobody mentions is this: If you turn your purled fabric to the wrong side, it looks exactly like knitting. Why, then, does no one call it purling?

Because we've always done it that way. Knitting, knitting, knitting. Purling would be subversive.

For most of my early life, I did everything the knit way. I went to school everyday, never missed a single day during four years of high school, earned good grades, graduated, got engaged and married, produced a little more than my share of 2.5 children and did all the other things that were expected of me. I even supported the hunk's career by enthusiastically agreeing to move two thousand miles away to a totally different climate where I had no friends or family.

Within six months I had a breakdown.

In the recovery process, I learned something. Knitting is not the only way to get through life. Purling is not only an option--it's a necessity for survival. At least for me, it is. I know there are a lot of individuals out there who adhere to a rigid lifestyle, never wearing white after Labor Day, never eating fried chicken with their fingers, never using a paper towel instead of a napkin. That's okay for them.

I can't deal with life that way. I need a lot of creative stimulation, preferably something off the beaten path the rest of the world is marching along. During my early marriage, I tried out the usual religions--Tupperware, Amway, potholder weaving from those little cotton loops, candlemaking, cake decorating, and in a fit of desperation, paint-by-number. Nothing satisfied my need for challenge and creativity.

So I went to college. I was twenty-eight with three small children and working at MacDonald's six nights a week, closing every night. What could be better?

In quick succession, one night while I was working, we were robbed, the hunk had a car accident that left us with one vehicle, and I got pregnant. I finished my second semester of college in spectacular fashion by getting stuck in my student desk so maintenance had to be summoned to free me. That's when I realized I was not a knitter. I would never be a knitter. If I was ever to survive, I would need to be a purler.

While everyone else marches in formation with the band, I'm out there zigzagging across the field, creating my own patterns as I play my psaltery. As I cleaned my office this last two weeks, it occurred to me my life is littered with the remnants of my purling. Handmade candles sit on my shelf. An Irish calligraphy blessing hangs on the wall. Crocheted afghans cover the couches and chairs. Framed book covers above my desk remind me I need to write. A weaving project waits for my attention on the loom in the corner. Ink and pens and paintbrushes lure me in the afternoons. And always over and above the clamor, the thousands of books on my shelves call to me.

Purling saved my life. Oh, knitting is okay. We all need the safety of a knitted background. But for some of us, our lives would be lost without the joy of purling.  

1 comment:

  1. You're pretty amazing, Anny. You've experienced so much. I'd love to read your nonfiction book. Interesting what gives us peace of mind.