The Art of Knitting

Carol Sanger
Knitter and Secretary of the Board,
Franciscan Renewal Center

Some 60 years ago, my mother taught me to knit. I think she’d hoped it would occupy my hands which were running faster than my mouth back then. By college, I had enough basic technique to make a sweater. After dozens of sweaters, and afghans, dolls and baby clothes, knitting had become my door to humility, patience and the importance of practice. My hands learned to knit without thought commands. I learned there are no mistakes, only lapses in attention, and that there is always more to learn.

When I knit a garment – for you, as an example – I think only of you. I consider how the color will look next to your skin, the shape that will flatter your figure, the ease of care. And I allow myself to be carried back to other garments I have made like that – for the boyfriend who didn’t last, my father who died, my granddaughter who will drag it around during her toddler years before giving it away.

Typically, I make my own patterns, choose my own colors and then improvise as I go along. This baby blanket for my granddaughter is an example, but I think her mother has put it away for safekeeping. I’d rather see it out, being used, with a few stains, maybe a little grape juice.

Last winter, I signed on to knit 50 8” x 8” squares as part of the Violet Protest, a collaborative knitting project of Phoenix artist Ann Morton. Fiber artists from all over the country are contributing their handmade squares using red and blue (symbols of differing ideologies) which from a distance pixilate to violet. Each square bears the name of the artist and a heartfelt intention focused on our core values as a nation: respect for the other, citizenship, compromise, compassion, creativity, candor, courage, compromise among among others. The Phoenix Art Museum will display them this Spring before going to Washington DC where 50 squares will be hand delivered to each member of the House and Senate. Do the math – yup, 26,750 squares!

This is one of the ways knitting connects me to knitters and crocheters around the world. (Knitters use 2 needles, crocheters use 1 hook.) We are one body not bound by culture or politics, but by this other thing we do. I want my life to be useful. I want my love for this world to have physical form. Looping stitches through stitches to become fabric to hold my love for its intended – family, friend or stranger – until the day comes when the sweater or afghan cradles the old bones of an old dog and all that love spills freely out into the world.

You can see how this works, can’t you?

Click on the image below to view the knitting video.