As a new knitter, I am always looking for opportunities to put recently learned skills to use. While cultivating the ability to work on long-term and larger knitting projects is important, I get excited when I see possibilities for using new-found skills to make tiny (and quick) crafts.
I recently learned seed stitch, and it was an instant favourite; I love the stitch’s bumpy and unusual texture. Seed stitch is a 2-row pattern. The ‘bumps’ are produced by alternating single knit and purl stitches on the first row (usually of an even number), then doing the opposite on the second row (knitting the purl stitches, and purling the knit stitches). Voilà!
I tend to hang on to discardables, recyclables and other re-usable items for my crafts, and I had been keeping an empty tomato-paste can, unsure of what to do with it, but bent on re-using it. 🙂 After reading about yarn bombing – a form of graffiti-knitting that transforms objects in public space with colourful knits – I began to look for the things in my immediate environment that could use some yarny love.
From there, I thought that a seed stitch pencil-can cozy would be a neat and quickly craft-able project.
I started out with an empty can.
Using a tough cotton yarn and size 3 needles, I knit just enough of a rectangular swatch in seed stitch to cover the can’s height and circumference. This took a little measuring, but eyeballing it was also a workable strategy.
When I had enough knitting, I cast off, leaving a long tail for seaming.
Wrapping the knitting around the can, I then seamed the two ends together down the side. Cotton yarn stretches, and I found myself with a little extra height on the cozy. As a last step, I hid this height under the bottom of the can, drawing the ends together. This was messy, but in this case, messy was ok.
The results of this little experiment:
“I like to feel like we are wrapping things with love. It’s humanizing.” -Purl Nekklas of Knitta, 2008
I hope to take more inspiration from yarn bombing projects and continue to experiment with knitting for reusing and recycling things that would otherwise be thrown away. While I’ll probably not be covering up stop signs and public bike racks any time soon, I appreciate the ethos of looking for ways to transform ordinary spaces and objects, especially those which are normally disposable (a yarn-cycler rather than a yarn bomber).
I first turned to arts and crafts for relaxation, and as a way to re-kindle my ability to produce after a long period of writer’s block. I am starting to reflect, now, on whether there are broader implications of cultivating a crafting practice beyond the personal benefits – implications such as consuming less, reusing more, looking for creative possibilities in more of the things around me, and finding ways to share my passion for crafting with others.
In her reflections on the knitting life, Betsy Greer describes the act of knitting as a form of social engagement – a redirecting of individual anger and dissent into ordinary acts for the greater good. I’m comforted by her thoughts on the transformative possibilities of knitting:
I began thinking about ways I could visually represent my anger and frustration around certain contemporary issues. I wasn’t writing…I was knitting. As I improved, the rhythm of the stitches quieted my mind and amazingly allowed thoughts to flow and mingle instead of sprinting on through. It was then that I began to realize that maybe there really was more to the knitting than just the creation of warm and cozy things…. I started thinking about ways to knit for the greater good, and I realized that right now…the act of craft is political…. When I unravel a sweater to make a new one, or walk instead of drive my car, or turn off the television and turn my records up, or talk with someone about how they can work toward making the world a better place, I am stitching tiny moments of activism and kindness into the fabric of this untamed world. And it is my hope that you’ll join me, and we’ll continue to wander and explore, leaving points of conscience and activism in our wake, with every footstep.*
* 2008. “Activism Is Not a Four-Letter Word” in Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design. Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl. NY: Princeton Architectural Press.
2008. Betsy Greer. Knitting for Good! A Guide to creating personal, social, and political change stitch by stitch. Roost Books.