Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Knot Theory: Part I

..my mother, licks her fingers,
and twirls the severed tip around, and then
creates a darkness: hiding the thread
within itself, she ties a tiny knot...
"The Knot"
by Irving Feldman

The darkness in thread and fiber holds many mysteries. Knitters expect to pull out perfect, pristine yarn when we tug at the skein but sometimes that is not what we get. To say that one, small knot can derail a project is, perhaps, an understatement. What is done must be undone and that undoing interrupts precious needle and knitter time.

Knots have long been objects of magic and power. According to the Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols by J.C. Cooper knots represent the, "powers of binding and also imply those of loosing...Loosening knots is freedom; salvation; the solving of problems." If knots hold such old and deep mythic significance, shouldn't we appreciate them more?

When I tried to tackle my very first tangle and wanted to take a scissors to it, my Knitting Sensei explained that Japanese children were given knotted yarn in grade schools to teach patience. Is it possible that I, contemporary knitter eagerly (and sometimes desperately) squeezing knitting time into my overly busy schedule can re-imagine knots as part of the path to enlightenment instead of a frustrating speed bump on the road to completed project? Welcome to the beginning of my personal knot theory.

In science, knot theory helps," scientists think about concepts like the shape of the universe or four-dimensional space-time. That's important for physics. Knot theory also helps scientists understand how enzymes in our cells help DNA untangle before cell reproduction. That knowledge helped lead to a new cancer drug." (Kowalski, Odyssey, Nov2007, Vol. 16 Issue 8, p29, 3p)
If Science (yes, with a capital "S") and Humanity (ditto with "H") can benefit from knots so can the contemporary knitter.

Knitters, think twice before sneering at the next snarl. Re-imagine it as an invitation to connection, skill building, and contemplation. Knots connect us to a power inscrutable but one entwined with our fates since they also represent, "continuity, connection, covenant, a link." (Cooper) When you are knotted up over a knitting problem think of the link you have with your knitting ancestors. There is a comforting continuity with other crafters that will teach you patience and perseverance. They encountered and conquered knitting glitches and so can you. I never did cut that first knot; I untangled it and felt unexpectedly triumphant. My wish for you is that same feeling of overcoming the (seemingly) impossible; if you knitted your way into a problem you can knit your way out.


Wabi Sabi Knitter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wabi Sabi Knitter said...

Hello All,

Just a how to from a tech writer. The first comment for this post was accidentally deleted. I now realize some of my favorite knitters are new to Google and, some new to the Internet and blogging. I hope the following helps!

Here is how you get a Gmail account:

1. Log-on to the Internet.
2. Open your browser (Netscape, Safari, Explorer, etc.)
3. http://www.google.com/support/
4. Click on the Gmail link under the heading, "Help with emailing, chatting and socializing."

If you need help email me at wsknitter@gmail.com.

Happy surfing and knitting!

Penny said...

I'm so sad about the deleted comment! I'm left wondering, my creative mind hard at work...Who was it? What did she have to say? How will it have changed my life...?

Wabi Sabi Knitter said...


The comment was from one of my knitter-friends at the library. It was the first time she was using her Google id. Wonder no more! She said, "I love it!" Honest! Perhaps it was better left a mystery?

Jame said...

This is beautiful. I love your big brain!

Anonymous said...

what a great post Chris -- what else could I say? The best thing I've heard or read all day and then some.