Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 1, 2016


In the parking lot outside of Whole Foods, I ran into a friend who recently retired from teaching. She told me how she writes poetry in the morning, and, waving her hands, told me that the rest of the day is devoted to errands, cooking, and caring for things at her home. She misses much at the university, but she said she was glad to have more time for working with food and flowers, doing things with her hands.


I suppose we’re all looking for balance, whether or not we care to use that word. I love Ann Hood’s fiction, and am enjoying these essays she collected from other novelists about the role that indulging in texture and color, focusing on something besides sentences, plays in their lives. I’m just a beginner, and while I admire others’ creations, don’t aspire to be much more than a knitter of scarves and fingerless gloves. I just want some down time with pretty yarn, and am okay with knit-knit-knit on big bamboo needles.

I was also soothed by reports in Knitting Pearls of the role that unraveling and starting over plays. The theme kept coming up of how knitters and writers resist it. Beginning knitters go to teachers to unravel for them. Then there’s the tricky business of finding a new place to start. In the earlier collection, Knitting Yarns, Ann Patchett writes of being a young woman in Ireland and England and approaching strangers, holding out her somewhat tangled work for help, which was always given. It’s good to be reminded of the necessity of starting over and all the possibilities it offers in essays by favorite writers like Barbara Kingsolver, Jane Smiley, Elizabeth Berg, Anita Shreve, all bringing their great prose to the subject of knitting.


And remember that much is easier to start than to finish. Maybe I didn’t need a reminder, but returning to my old baskets to pull out scarves with less than a fistful of yarn to use up, one fingerless glove and half of another pair, reminds me how it’s good to stick the course. And if I keep going, I may remember how to bind off, which used to scare me, but now I see is fun. It’s astonishing to finish something you spent days with, whether word by word or stitch by stich. I’m seeing the end of a revision of a revision of a revision, times many, and just sewed buttons on a scarf that took less time, with a few imperfect knits (I miss the delete button.) Here it is on me with eleven-week-old Kirby, another reminder that progress is rarely straight forward, but well worth every step ahead or back or to the side. I’m hoping to curb his taste for footwear, but for now have learned to keep one foot on the empty shoe while putting on the other.


  1. Very nice meditative post. And Kirby is a doll. Good luck with your shoes!

    • Thank you! Shoes and slippers seem the biggest temptations, but we’re learning how to help that doll/sometimes devilish resist!

  2. This post made me happy today — seeing you in your scarf with Kirby (what soulful eyes!), and reading your lovely words. I’m impressed with your knitting — and those bamboo needles :).

    • Oh, that makes me feel good that this made you happy — you who are always spreading such lavish teas with treats for us. Kirby cause his share of trouble, but yes, those eyes, and we laugh more with him around. Peter and I took him to his first puppy class tonight: he was bit shocked by some other puppy behavior, sometimes ducking under chairs, but had his fun, too. I like the sound of bamboo — but the size of those needles — my knitting instructor would disapprove. But she doesn’t have to know — I’m on my own now.

  3. Such a wise and beautiful post. It’s good to be reminded that progress is rarely straightforward. I need some knitting in my life again.

    • It seems reminders are all around of how much is about stepping back many times for each step ahead, but our heads want to stick to the myth of progress. Knitting is good, and I was glad to finish that scarf and still be able to wear it — with just enough cold weather left.

  4. soul stirring…

  5. Lovely neck warmer, lovely dog, lovely and soothing comments on unraveling and rewriting. You warmed me with all three.

    • Yes, to all that Sarah said.

      Heartwarming picture of you in that window seat, snuggled next to Kirby and wrapped in that beautiful handcrafted scarf. Chewed leather or no, I’ve got a feeling you’ll be sliding into those shoes for lots of outdoor romps with that puppy. Oh, the yarns you’ll spin…!

    • Aw, both of you are lovely and warming, too. Thanks for the kind comments. And yes, that little dog’s legs are getting longer by the day. Lots of walking ahead, with hope I can keep up!

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