Knitting LOVE

I do hope that all of you reading this blog realise, by now, just how important you have all been to me over the past year. It has been a very strange and challenging time for me, but you have all been there every difficult step of the way. It has helped me enormously to read your encouraging and supportive comments, and at key moments, you all helped me to stay on top of things. You were willing to share with me your own experiences of loss, illness, disability, and the endless, weird frustrations of brain damage and fatigue. You assured me that I could deal with these things. Coping with serious health issues can put one in quite a lonely place, but, because of this space, I have never felt alone. I was incredibly moved by the cards and letters you sent to me while I was in hospital, and since then, the postman has continued to deliver things to me from my ‘virtual’ friends that I have found both touching and heartening. And, a few days ago, as the first anniversary of my stroke approached, a package turned up whose contents really floored me.

Check out my new felted-tweed scarf! What a thing of knitterly JOY it is! These mitred squares were designed by Pam; the co-ordinator of the whole collaborative enterprise was sneaky, wonderful Heather; and eleven other women were involved in its production. I had the pleasure of meeting Heather in 2009, but the other knitters / crocheters are only ‘known’ to me, to a greater or lesser degree, through the interweb. I have their blogs marked in my feed reader; I follow them on flickr; I favourite their ravelry projects; I read their comments here. A couple I do not ‘know’ at all, but they know of me, and cared enough about my situation to lend their hand to a shared project that might bring me love and cheer.

In my other life as an academic, I’ve spent a lot of time researching eighteenth-century women’s correspondence, their commonplace books and albums. I am interested in these books both as material objects and as works of collaborative authorship. Transatlantic gift-books particularly intrigue me as, on many occasions, the contributors to, and recipients of these books never met each other, but felt a close connection that was just the same as if they had been friends in person. Often, (and particularly in the case of the many Quaker women I have looked at) it was the bond of family or religion that first forged that connection; but women were also brought together in the material world of the letter or gift-book through their political affiliations, a love of gardening or stitch, poetic talents, or other shared interests. Contributing to a gift-book allowed dispersed communities of women to consolidate a virtual connection in and through a material object.

Now, academic folk like me can be sniffy about drawing casual comparisons between moments and cultures that are otherwise vastly different, but particularly since my stroke, I have been very struck by how close-seeming the worlds of the transatlantic eighteenth century and the contemporary craft-related internet can be. Myself and the makers of this lovely scarf ‘know’ each other because of our mutual interest in making things; our shared likes and dislikes, our favourite patterns or techniques, our tastes, our knowledge and our expertise. Just like an eighteenth century gift-book collaboratively produced by women who did not personally ‘know’ one another, this scarf is a material object that illustrates just how meaningful such ‘virtual’ connections can be. Though I have never met them, I can see the individual signatures – the ‘handwriting’ – of my friends in their personal choice of yarn colours or design, their different gauges, and their ways of making stitches. Like many an eighteenth-century woman, I am massively cheered and comforted by their gift, and by the shared affection it suggests. And certainly, this scarf is, to me, just as precious a thing as a gift book would have been to its eighteenth-century recipient.

I love this beautiful scarf, and I love what it represents. I am grateful to its makers, and, in a larger way, over the course of the past year, I have become increasingly, incredibly, grateful to the larger knitterly community of which it is such a heartening iteration. Sometimes it seems too easy to be sentimental about knitting, but, bloody hell, over the past year I have been in need of bucketloads of knitterly sentiment. I have indeed felt the knitting LOVE.

So I am grateful to Alice, Anne, Ashley, Babs and big Babs, to Christy, Carolyn, Erin, Heather, Lauren, Maryse, to Sarah, and to Pam. And I am grateful to all of you who come here, silently or vocally, and who have all, in one way or another, buoyed me up with your good wishes. Thanks for sticking with me over this hideously testing but, in many ways, strangely re-confirming year. Big knitterly love to you all.

xxx

106 responses

  1. Kate, your photographs and sentiments are always beautiful, but these past two posts have been overwhelmingly so. You are such an inspiration. Next time, or if ever, you are feeling clumsy or especially fatigued, take a look at these photos (esp. the 4th from the top here) and remind yourself of the grace and beauty you bring to the world. Thank you!

  2. Hi Kate,
    Well done, each and every step. You’re an inspiration and your generosity has touched many people.
    Thank you,
    Margaret

  3. Oh my goodness! I just love these pictures! The work is just lovely. The fact that you took these pictures outside in nature, really show off the beauty of them. Was the pattern difficult with all of the colors involved? I haven’t ventured into work with many changing colors like that. Truly lovely!

  4. Kate, you are a wonder to us! Thank YOU for sharing your world with us.
    The scarf is very beautiful, even more so for the reasons you have written about above. x

  5. Your writing is as beautiful as the scarf. I hope you will lay the scarf out so that we can see it from start to finish. I cannot improve on the comments already made; I can only assure you that your sharing has made, and continues to make, a real difference in many lives.

  6. I love the thank-you almost as much as the scarf, and they both make me glow a little to be a knitter as well. Very much love to all concerned.

  7. To have the gift of a circle of friends is a wonderful thing. Thank you once again Kate for reminding us how to support each other.

  8. An incredibly moving and inspiring gesture. I have treasured following you on your journey over the past few years, and I hope to be able to do so for many years to come.

  9. Yours is just the best and the most beautiful blog. I don’t even knit! I just love the exploration of landscape, history, and culture that exists in every post. You enrich the reader with every word, and uplift them too. Thank you so much for making me stop and look, and please keep going.

  10. You are an inspiration!! Thank you for all that you bring to the knitting community. I love to hear from you!

    Sharon

  11. I agree with many of the comments already posted. Just the beautiful images on your blog are enough to brighten anyone’s day but your work, your words, and especially your attitiude are inspiring. Thank you for sharing it all with us.

  12. I wold like to thank you for the inspiration of your wonderful designs, writing and spirit. I followed your blog before the stroke and alway loved it, that any comments or healing thoughts or support I can send can help you in any way is a privilege.

  13. Kate, I discovered your blog just around the time you had your stroke. I had just finished reading your archive when it happened. I have followed you throughout this year and I rejoice to see you looking so graceful and strong, in this and the previous post.

    It is a wonderful scarf.

  14. A remarkable post, from a remarkable woman. You richly deserve to be wrapped in love … I’m so happy that your friends were able to take such loving care of you in this way!

  15. Hi Kate, what a wonderful post, I have spent all year sending you the most special thoughts, whether I have commented or not. You are so clever and your photos knitting and prose is always just a wonderful inspiration, which I actually revisit when I am feeling down. I am so glad, that you have been able to remain you except for those physical challenges. I am grateful that I can share you thoughts, thank you so much. And the scarf is wonderful! Anne

  16. You’ve given us the gift of wonderful patterns to knit warmth and love for our loved ones – the least we can all do is send a little back to you (via comments or happy-knitting-thoughts or otherwise).

  17. What a wonderful gift! And how lovely that for you it holds the extra resonance in terms of your affinity with women’s history and relationships.

    Reading your blog is an inspiration and a delight, and one I look forward to popping up in my Google Reader more than any other.

  18. What a beautiful and loving gift! Thank you for another wonderful post. Kudos to the photographer! Those are lovely pictures of you.

  19. I rarely leave a comment, but I read your every post. It constantly astonishes me how your world has been turn upside down but you are still you. I especially admire your ability to think of these situations in an utterly different way than most people.

  20. I’m amazed that you’ve come so far in just a year. I know it might seem like it has been a lifetime, but you are a truly inspirational person!

  21. A beautiful post. A beautiful scarf. I suffer from chronic, severe depression and have found this virtual community of fabulous women to be such a support; there is always something joyful to look at and “oo and ah” over. And the actual act of blogging, I have found, is a very therapeutic diversion that has made me look at my own world with new eyes.

  22. It’s a pleasure to read your blog, one of my favourites. I appreciate the effort you make in keeping it on, even during the first weeks… It hasbeen a lesson on strength and preserverance. Thank you, Kate!

  23. Dear Kate

    I was going to write A Mighty Scarf for A Mighty Woman…and …well …I have, haven’t I?

    But I thought I needed to make my comment more academic-like… so….being the lazy “academic” that I am, I went straight to Wikipaedia and there I learned that “Historians believe that during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Cheng, scarves made of cloth were used to identify officers or the rank of Chinese warriors”…..well Kate – you are our Mighty Warrior and I think you know that we rank you very highly ….wear this magnificent scarf of many colours very proudly as a badge of honour :) And wrap yourself virtually in all these lovely posts too when you go into battle won’t you?

  24. I have just heard about an exhibition at The Women’s Library in London called Hand Made Tales and it focuses on the role of crafts in women’s lives. It seems to link with this blog entry. It is on until March.

  25. I’m a relative newby to your blog Kate – but I look forward to each new post – to learn from your spirit. Thank you for your blog.

    That scarf, well, what a show of Knit support and love – what a beautiful gift – enjoy!

  26. Such a beautiful scarf ~ and post. How you related it to women supporting each other reminds me of the novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. While you feel that you have received much through the support of your readers you have given so much of yourself through your blogging that it is no surprise that you have received so much Knitting Love. Enjoy ~

  27. Big big knitterly love to you. Wonderful post, fantastic scarf and hurrah for the knitters of the world! I also love the links to commonplace books which I know nothing about but sound amazing! Xx

  28. That is a beautiful scarf, what wonderful and thoughtful people they are that gave their time to make it. You give us so much with your writing and inspiring photos so you truly deserve it. x

  29. Oh! Such a statement of love from your friends. But you have given as much as you have received. Your struggle and determination to meet the challenges of your stroke have been inspirational to me and I am grateful to you.

  30. how lovely. and how glad I am that knitterly love has helped to buoy you through this difficult time, and I’m happy to have formed a very small part of it when you were in the hospital. part of me wondered then if a small token from someone you’d never met would make any difference; I don’t wonder that anymore, and I’m very glad I decided to send it. All the best.

  31. How beautiful. A scarf knitted and given with love so you can be surrounded by knitterly love. The internet has truly united people in way we could only have dreamt of many years ago.

  32. I feel that you give out a lot of love for the world, so I’m glad you get some back! The best blogs (and yours is one of my favourites) go beyond self-absorption, and I always appreciate that you write with sincerity, honesty and thoughtfulness, even when you cannot write happily. (It also helps that you take such good, interesting photos and that there’s the lure of a possible new knitting pattern!)

  33. Indeed Kate, you are a beautiful, talented and smart woman, you put so eloquently what many of us have felt, that our virtual knitting friends are real, they are for us when catastrophe happens, it’s not pretty, empty words, but genuine caring, in some cases more loving than our own families.

    I wish you the most pain-free and thorough recovery possible, knowing as only you can, the sheer force of will and persistence that is and will be required.

    All my best,
    Shelly

  34. It certainly is exactly as you describe – and the knitterly, sisterly love passed on to you through your scarf is still marching out across the world through your words. Beautiful.

  35. Kate, you can now wrap yourself in thousands of wonderful woolly, warm, welcoming stitches every time you step out on a chilly day. I cannot think of a more thoughtful gift for someone such as yourself. This past year I have followed your progress up hills and down dales and up hills again. I have been with you to Shetland, chased after the ball with Bruce, knitted with the fisherwives, joyfully admired new patterns oh, and so much more. So, here’s to you and yours a big hug and thank you from Over Here.

  36. I’m quite a new knitter and I found your blog late 2010 via the owls pattern (which I love). I’m quite shocked by what you’ve been through in the last year but not at all surprised that you’ve inspired a random selection of women to make you such a beautiful scarf or at the moral support that comes from your readers. I hope you continue to get stronger and that you keep on writing and doing the things you love.

  37. oh man. this is almost as good as the knitted nativity.
    seriously, it has brought tears to my eyes.
    love to all. and to you who have inspired this.
    xxx

  38. as a new person on your blog (a blog i LOVE and read like crazy, by the way) i feel a little weird about commenting here, but the eloquence with which you articulate your gratitude for that treasure of a gift in this entry has just moved me to tears. it is plain that you are quite a special person. thank you for your writing and your creating and your perserverance in the face of the challenges you have confronted this year. all my very best to you!

  39. I look forward to reading your posts – so you bring us a great deal. Thank you for sharing so much with us.

    ps; Caller Herrin is done and I’ve had many comments on it. I lok forward to more fair isle patterns

  40. What a story you tell! Came to this blog through a recommendation of inspirational reading for those facing health challenges, and bless the day that I did. It spun out from a virtual circle of love and care and has sent more joy and hope than I could have dreamed. Tears indeed, but of gladness for you.

  41. Of course I’m dorking out about the transatlantic gift book. I wonder if I can add this scarf to my tenure file? I’m so glad it’s there to keep you cozy :)

  42. I feel like if there was any post of yours I should comment on, it should be this one. And yet I’ve got nothing exceptional to add.

    I’m so, so glad that you like the scarf. The things that you’re interpreting in it are exactly the things we intended.

  43. It was, of course, the least we could do. The news was a shock, and Heather knew that we had to do something with our sense of powerlessness.

    Wear it in continued improved health!!

  44. I wish I could remember from whence I followed a link to your blog just days before your stroke. Then came the wait without a post before your kind husband let us know what had happened. Your writing, even when you are low, is so intelligent and engaging, I cannot help but think of you as one of my ‘e-friends’. Please also extend our thanks to your husband for his beautiful photos which show how much he loves you. It’s catching.

  45. On this night, I needed to come here. Thanks for the re-affirmation that family is what we make. Warm wishes for a fantastic 2011… for us all.

  46. Oh my–beauty beyond measure, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. What a community to belong to–the community of knitters.

  47. I have been one of the mostly silent ones over this last year, but that last photo of you WALKING as nice as you please just warmed my heart. Well done. Well done.

  48. It is indeed a wonderfully heartfelt gift for a truly deserving recipient! Wear it in good health, Kate, and god bless.

  49. …and here’s to the continued, freely given loads of knitterly love circling around us all. Much of this can be seen to spring from your blog, and which in turn has energized a wonderful and true community – that scarf is a brilliant example. I really look forward to your blog posts, they’re both thought provoking and inspiring of ‘good feelings’. We can’t have enough of those!

    Thank you Kate for that gift.

  50. What a beautiful scarf, and so beautifully written about – it brought to mind a comment I read in a very old book ‘The Art of Needlecraft’ just last night:
    ‘It is said that those who can knit or crochet are never lonely or discontented, and perhaps this is true’. Perhaps indeed, it doesn’t necessarily feel like that when I simply fail to read a pattern correctly or a bit of shaping just isn’t happening, but certainly, the webs of connections I have with my ‘knitterly’ friends, real and virtual, certainly addresses any potential for loneliness and enhances and deepens our friendships so I guess it’s not just the practice of knitting but who we become through it. Thanks for reminding me just how precious that is.

  51. What a wonderful present. Knitters never fail to amaze me and the virtual community is a truly amazing one. I’m so happy to see you enjoying being out,about and walking your favourite routes again. I am fascinated by the sound of the 18th century gift books – is there anywhere we can read more about them?

  52. What a beautiful, beautiful post for such a heartwarming and loving gift. Both works are inspiring. Thank you for sharing this year, your writing, and your thoughts on craft, and what it means to women.

  53. I’m sure I speak for many when I say that I walk this (virtual) road with you out of admiration and respect – not pity – and a great appreciation of your talents.

    You continue to inform and inspire me about this marvellous craft that binds us across the globe and threads through generations, but also – more importantly – about life.

    Thank you.

  54. Thank you again for your knitting blog well worth reading. Not only your knitting and designing but your writing make my early mornings bright. Thanks for expressing thoughts that it hadn’t occurred to me to record.

  55. I suppose I one of those that comes here quietly, I rarely comment on your posts but they never cease to amaze me with your strength in dealing with what life has handed you and your candidness in sharing your experiences. I always tell people I know about you and your ongoing recovery because it has really touched me and given me strength in my own challenges. And that is a beautiful scarf, made more so by the undoubted love and care so many different people put into it.

  56. I think that all your readers would love to add a square to that gorgeous scarf, but then, what would you do with such a large thing? Just know that I, and no doubt all your readers, send you warm, woolly love and thanks for all that you share with us: your amazing work, words, thoughts, designs, courage and inspiration.

  57. Wow. I only just started following this blog and learning this story. What a wonderful illustration of what the online community can be and the incredible power it can have to do good things and be an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your story and your scarf. It’s lovely; its origin is even lovelier.

  58. Bravo, you are a trooper. thank you for sharing your beautiful scarf and heartfelt thoughts. I especially like your reference to the 18th century book shares. Your recovery has been a inspiration to many. Best wishes.

  59. Oh ye great Scot, heralding your victory from the hilltop
    Claim the height, the sight below
    Unfurl your colours rampant

  60. You have no idea how thrilling it is to see you wearing this scarf! This was a labor of love from start to finish, and I know I speak for everyone when I say that it was a pleasure to make this for such a Dear One! *sniff*

  61. oh fer fuck’s sake! i’m going to cry at my desk! hurray for the knitterly love! hurray for knitters! hurray for healing!

    love! xo

  62. What an exquisite gift! Thank you for sharing your story, and for the bit of history. This is a phenomenon that very few folks outside the knitting (fiber-crafting) community seem to “get” – even the ones who participate in charity events otherwise.

  63. What an amazing scarf, and how lovely to see the connection between the Internet today and the gift-books of the past. I have made so many good friends through knitting and it’s lovely to see such a thoughtful post about this.

  64. A wonderfully thoughtful gift and a touching post. I’m glad the blogosphere has been a support in this past year. As far as knitting and crafting go, I am definitely on the outer periphery peeping in, but I so appreciate the glimpses you give me. As for academia, I didn’t realise that women’s commonplace books were your ‘thing’. I have a good friend in Ottawa – we met as postgrads in England – whose research specialism is women’s commonplace books of the 17th C. Wonder if your paths have ever crossed.

  65. I am one of the silent ones. But I read your blog every time you post. I love it.
    Wishing you the best sincerely and always.
    Blessings.

  66. I haven’t been reading here for very long, but it only took moments to fall in love with your writing and your knitting. I hope the coming year will bring even more healing your way. And congratulations on having such wonderful friends. That scarf is such an impressive gift. Love, indeed.

  67. Never have I subscribed to a blog. Then, this evening, moments ago, I read your blog, and as soon as I post this note I’ll do whatever is necessary to subscribe to this blog. Your knitterly words are inspiring to me, a now-and-again-but-always-sort-of-laissez-faire knitter, but the outpouring of love for you, the hunger for your thoughts, the wishes for your health & continued healing, inspire me to subscribe. How can it be so many love you? People have spent their awesome talent on creating a scarf of love for you. It is imbued with lovinghealingpower.

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