Does that mean I'm getting somewhere?
My name’s Meg. I’m an image taker, movie maker, and devoted explorer of human character. I started working with Making Things a few months ago to document maker processes, worlds and ideas. As someone whose only knitting experience was a rainy weekend at my grandma’s house as a restless eight year old, I was shocked to find myself completely captivated by the people and lines of thought I encountered. I needed to know more. I wanted to understand! A cinephile to the bone, I believe wholeheartedly that stories have the power to engage and enrich. But in order to truly tell a maker story, I had to learn the craft.
They say an early tendency in learning a second language is to memorize sounds, and maybe make a vocabulary list. You hold all the words in your head, where they wobble and float around and semi-slip away from you until it’s time to use one, at which point you make a decision tentatively, hoping the gibberish that comes out of your mouth makes sense.
This was my approach to learning knitting. Swatch was like watch but with a ‘sw’, purl one, knit two together was a phrase I rote learned like I used to in ballet class; plie one, degage two, together three and four, and only after four weeks of saying cowl like cow did I realize the word was not the same as the animal. I then went on to thinking a cowl was a KAL, which brings me to a totally new layer of complexity - makers shorten everything!
I say “this was my approach to learning knitting” like I’m a knitter now, like I have a WIP (learned that one last week, I know, look at me go), and I do have a WIP. But unlike most people, I didn’t learn knitting to knit, I learned knitting to make films. I’m a storyteller, and filmmaking is my preferred vessel - the paint to my brush, the vinyl to my turntable, the yarn to my needles. But ever since I first set up camera in a room full of yarn, thus dipping my toe in the fibre community, I’ve somehow found myself totally submerged in it and soaking wet from head to toe.
And so I became Alice. I tumbled into wonderland before I had the chance to work out where I was going or what on earth was going on around me. The fibre community is A LOT. If you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, you don’t. So in order to swim and not sink, I needed to immerse myself in the maker world. Vocabulary lists only get you so far.
Things that happened the first time I walked into a yarn store:
Enter Interviewer Meg. Yes it’s my job to ask a lot of questions, but also my job is just a disguise I get to put on so that asking a lot of questions isn’t weird. I’m obsessed with other people’s brains, how they digest memory and collect things that they like as they navigate time and people and places in their lives. The question when did you first learn to knit? is simple, but I think it’s one of my favourites because it lends itself to reflection and nostalgia in a way that invites those lucky enough to listen into a home. It’s about couches and sweaters and hot chocolate and the internet. Family, dogs and feet tangled up in yarn, and dogs’ feet tangled up in yarn and then running away with it and spreading it across the house like a room with treasure in it protected by lasers. Something lovely that was said to me early on goes like this, “when I knit, I’m happy. And so when I wear something I’ve knit, I’m literally wearing a happy memory.” That got me good. In that moment, I was grabbed by a cheeky hook, looped into the fibre world and fastened securely.
I’ve learned that sometimes people knit just to hold on. Which is why I think it’s very strange to criticise people who knit for themselves. Making something for your own body, for no one else but yourself, is powerful self assertion. As women, we live in a world full of images of our lives that we did not create. We’re used to being told we must regulate our body to fit the norm, that we’ve failed if we aren’t seen as sexy or desireable. Designing and making gives women the chance to build their own narrative, stitch by stitch. What’s cooler still, is the internet and modern media has given makers a place for discussion and sharing, a place to promote work that may not have set out to be revolutionary, but is sending a message to young girls not to let anyone tell them what they should look like, how they should dress, or that they do not own their bodies. While I haven’t been on this journey long, I’ve seen women create things for themselves, and in doing so create themselves. And I think it’s brilliant.
Before long, I got my hungry hands on some needles. Learning to knit made me feel like a little kid again, which is a rare and special thing when you’re not one anymore and you’re unable to figure out why you can’t just like stuff the way you used to. Maybe this is because yarn is soft and making stitches is mesmerizing. Or maybe it’s because it takes me back that special weekend years ago when my grandma taught my cousins and me the basics. Trying on a WIP feels like playing dress ups, like twirling in skirts. It’s an all encompassing, energising adoration of how it feels to wear something a real person actually made.
I’m just a beginner with an ugly as quarter-finished scarf in my bag at all times. And knitting is the best kept secret I don’t want to keep.
They say an early sign of conquering a second language is when you begin to dream in that language. Last night I dreamed I dropped a stitch, does that mean I’m getting somewhere?