Friday, March 24, 2006

in praise of slowness

Originally uploaded by Needleworks, Inc..
I was recently able to raid this too good to be true stash of vintage knitting patterns. If you know me even a little bit, you know how I love all things vintage - dresses, shoes, bags - especially from the 40's and 50's. I mean, just look at the Grace Kelly look alike in that picture. She's so amazing. And that's a hairpin lace shawl she's wearing. Beautiful. I had to keep a few choice pieces

Also in this musty bag of old patterns were the owner's personal notes. There were several scraps of paper with knitting patterns copied out on them. They are well worn and well loved. I couldn't resist holding on to these as well. They were so intriguing. I wondered about the woman who knitted these patterns.

The patterns themselves are incredible. Nothing is knit on anything larger than a size 4 needle. They're meticulous and intricate and designed to imitate the fashion of the day. (Make you're very own glamorous wrap for an evening in the big city!)

By my standards, a 4 is tiny. I try to never knit on anything smaller than a 6. I just don't have the patience. And a lot of people feel this way. At the knitting store where I work, I hear the same thing every day. "I want fast!" "I want easy!" "I don't want to have to think about it!"

I've given so many interviews where I attribute the trend of knitting to a need for people to slow down and relax. Part of a general need for people to "nest". Returning to activities that comfort them, that remind them of their grandmothers or mothers. But I guess if I think about my daily interaction with the general knitting public, this is sort of contradictory.

Looking at these vintage patterns I know I would never knit them. I feel a little guilty. Like I too am part of the Easier! Faster! Culture. I often praised myself for trying to live more simply. To only buy produce that's in season and to make big slow-cooking Sunday dinners. I often take the long way around and choose to walk instead of get on the subway. But the truth is, when it comes to knitting, I want that instant gratification. How can you demand instant gratification from something like knitting?

Have I been fooling myself? Have I been living a lie? Would I be happier or less so if I tried to knit some of these sweaters on a size 1 needle? How do I reconcile my vintage self with my modern self? Is it even possible?

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