Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Knitting as a metaphor for writing

These little bundles of potential have been sitting on my shelf for about 4 months, until I finally had enough of admiring them while I write and started on a scarf (there were originally three). It's not often I buy wool with no 'project' in mind, but these were just so pretty.

Which brings me to my metaphor:

My ideas for writing are these balls of wool. I bring them home, very pleased with them and excited about their potential. The colour and texture are lovely, but with the yarn all rolled into a nice even, compact ball, it seems a shame to undo them, so I sit them on my shelf. I admire them from my desk, but don't touch them.

Then, after they've collected some dust, I look over one morning and think, 'They look nice, but I'm really going to have to do something - anything - with them.' It's time they were put to use.

So I take a skein of perfection, find the loose end and unravel it a bit. A nice simple scarf should show this wool off best. I try crochet, because that's my preferred yarn-based activity, but it's not right for this type of wool, so get out my knitting needles. Cast on a few stitches, and then realise how much work I've got ahead of me (I'm a very slow knitter).

After five or six rows, I'm usually thinking 'Oh God, this is so boring' and go looking for something more interesting to do. Have a cup of tea. I sit down again (maybe days later) and do a few more rows.

After a while, I look at my uneven stitches and think 'Nope, this is awful. It isn't going to work. I should have left the wool rolled up and perfect.' But it's too late! The ball of wool is half used up, warped and deflated. I've ruined it -- even if I unravelled my scarf and rolled the wool up, it wouldn't be the same. (There may or may not be a dummy-spit here).

But half a scarf is no use to anyone, so I keep going, and about one-third through I'm thinking, 'Hmm, it's not looking so bad, and I think I got the width right.' I decide it's worth finishing, and by the time I cast off, I'm fairly happy with my scarf.

It may not be as perfect as a ball of wool, but it's more useful, and far more interesting.

Of course this is where my metaphor stops, because with a story, at least once you've finished it you can go back and edit and fix up the dropped stitches. Whereas all you can do with a lumpy scarf to make it look better is tie some tassels on the ends.


  1. I also leave nice yarn laying around the house to admire, just as I leave books laying around. I just like looking at them! I've always said that the answers to all life's questions lie in knitting lol!

  2. Awww SF!

    Tassels with the little bauble bits are sweet!

    I'm kind of laughing at myself (seriously!! LOL!) because here is my metaphor for my writing inspired by your great piece.

    I'd love to be able to knit to perfection, I tried learning to knit but couldn't get very far - but I was willing and attended all the lessons, darn (no pun intended) it! Same with my writing. I'd love to be able write to perfection. I'm even doing the courses. As for the results... at least I'm willing!


    BTW, the wool is very lovely!

    Take care

  3. Hi KarenG - yep, I'm the same about books too. And there's something about knitting's tangly knottiness that makes it a very good answer to life's questions!

    Hi Old Kitty, loved your metaphor - almost as much as I liked your pun! I'm sure you'll be more successful with your writing than you were with knitting. Some things we take to, some things we don't, even with lessons!

  4. Ha! I love it. Especially the part about getting bored but then figuring, well, i gotta do something with this!

  5. Good metaphor, and great that you reach a point with knitting and writing where you realise it's worth finishing. As you say, the unused yarn/idea may seem perfect but it is a lot more interesting when you turn it into something unique.

  6. Excellent metaphor.

    I have a friend who collects so much yarn that it filled a fairly large closet.

    Generally, I feel good about my writing as I'm doing it, but when I go back, I begin to see the flaws (Dropped stitches). As for my knitting prowess - I'm pretty hopeless, so I hope that my writing is much better.

  7. Rebecca - welcome! Yep, the getting bored bit is the hardest part I reckon!

    Helen - Thanks. I have to admit that sometimes (both with writing and knitting) I get half way and just know that it's really not worth finishing!

    Theresa - Yes, I've got a friend like that too.

    I think it's great that you feel good about your writing while you do it. And also good that you can see what needs fixing afterwards! That's a talent.

  8. :-) most of my stash is hidden away in a drawer, then you don't feel so guilty buying the next yarn that's either too cheap or too lovely to leave behind!
    btw, I finished your birthday present tonight... x