• Claire MacKenzie

What Knitting Taught Me Today

This is for myself and any of my friends who want to be about the work of dismantling racism.


I’m knitting a hat for my husband. I am a slow knitter and was feeling anxious to get it done. It is a replica of his favorite hat that was destroyed in the washer mistakenly so I am really keen to finish it and see him enjoy it.


As I was nearing the end, I felt myself rushing; barreling through and admittedly impatient to cast off. In my hurriedness I lost track of what row I was on and even though I thought I knew the pattern, I wasn’t following the directions. Argh! I’m thinking, time is short and I want it done already! But I also want it to work for him and for him to love it, so I unknit a few rows and began again at a slower pace and with more intention. As I reworked it I also considered that I want to pour love into this work and not treat it like a task.


As I continued, the current societal unrest was on my mind. The cancer of racism was on my mind. I was thinking about my friends of color and about how I once thought I was immune from racism but held ignorance and subtle assumptions that kept me from really knowing and empathizing with my friends. I thought of how in so many cases I wished I was a better friend. And I let myself feel the sadness while I kept knitting and sat for a while in silence.


Our relationships are like knitting. Our work to dismantle racism is like knitting. Even if I think I know the pattern, I might be wrong, or forget, I might need to slow down and pay attention and listen. I will likely get it wrong and need to unknit several rows. It is uncomfortable and discouraging undoing the work you thought was good work. Undoing your work feels like you are getting farther from your goal, but in reality it is bringing you closer to creating something beautiful. When you have to undo your work that was done in error it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep going or give up entirely on making something beautiful, It just means you messed up and need to go back. Also the longer it takes for you to acknowledge the error, the more work it will be to undo it. Tangles happen. Sometimes when you put your work down you drop stitches that need to get picked up again. That's all a part of knitting. The more you work at it, the better you get and the more fun it gets. Sometimes it’s more like walking a labyrinth than a straight line. It takes work and time, but what you end up with is something both useful and beautiful.


Also... decentering! The hat turned out a little too small, so I will unravel part of it and redo the hat so it fits my sweet man... because... this isn't for me, it's for him. And he (and my friends) are so worth it!




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©2020 Claire Astra MacKenzie