Some twenty-five years ago I started a sweater for my husband for Christmas. One year he received one sleeve. The next year, he received the second sleeve. The third ear, he received a back, and yes, the fourth year, the front. Did the pieces ever come together? No. When attempted, the connections between back, front, sleeve, and neck never fit. I gave up the project for ten years or so. Recently, I came across the bag of sweater parts and yarn. I tried again to understand the directions. No go. I went to the wife of the electronic geek and asked for help. Her answer was that I should discard the entire project because the yarn, she said, had aged to the point it was weak. Moreover, she pointed out a couple of moth holes here and there. Alas.
How could I give up something I’d worked on for so long and so hard? And how? Would I bundle up all that yarn—that lovely, lovely, beautiful yarn in a color I have yet to find anywhere else—and throw it in a garbage pail? Toss it in the fire? Perhaps I should keep it to wrap around a favorite cat as a burial shroud. But our cat is very much alive and doesn’t seem close to dying. What’s to be done?
This is somewhat akin to the problem writers have with old compositions or stories begun perhaps as early motivations for an essay or a novel. Does one tear an old writing apart and begin from scratch? Should one toss an old composition into the fire? Put it through the shredder?
I decided to discard the sweater and use the usable yarn as ribbon for gifts. After all, it’s a lovely, lovely, beautiful shade of blue-green with hints of heather reminiscent of misty Scottish landscapes. I can’t use it as twine. People don’t wrap and tie packages anymore—they use packaging tape.
And how about those old written compositions? I have yet to decide. I will put the question before some of my writer friends. And about knitting: -- it isn’t just for women. Men knit. For hundreds of years fishermen knitted their own sweaters and hats until manufacturing made it easier. Knitting is relaxing and creative and has therapeutic benefits. A Harvard Medical School study found that “the repetitive motions and focus of needlework elicit ‘a relaxation response and a calming, meditation-like state’ that causes heart rate and blood pressure to drop.” One attendant at a knitting retreat for men (sponsored by Vogue Knitting magazine), stated, “Knitting speaks to everybody differently. I love fiber. I love the creativity.” Another male knitting aficionado is working on a dog sweater although he doesn’t own a dog.
Perhaps instead of getting frustrated when I wonder what to do with some of my old compositions, I should pick up needles and cast on a few stitches.