Knitting and GHG reductions
There is an author of novels whose work I admire and re-read often. She’s sort of a modern-day Louisa May Alcott in that she writes with no antagonist, only people working to understand their own value and place, and working together to better their community as part of their role in being human. In Deborah Geary’s books, there is also magic, good cooking, and a knitting shop.
In one of the stories one of the characters faces a difficult problem and does not know how to approach it. It is beyond her grasps as to how to begin. The problem is too big and involves too many people and steps and possible right or wrong plans. Her mentor calmly points out that she has knitted so many complex and beautiful things and they all come from just a few simple stitches, repeated.
This idea of complex and beautiful creations coming from just a few simple stitches is so pure and uplifting I have to share it with you all.
When I get frustrated about picking up one piece of river garbage even while I see hundreds of bits of flotsam from my kayak, I think of knitting. When I get bogged down by my workplace being just one little cog in a big wheel of government in just one state in just one country, I realize the step I take can be the beginning of a pattern or a piece of a pattern that will become a beautiful heirloom that will be passed down for generations. I also reassure myself that a split stitch or a dropped stitch can be repaired, even if I have to rip out a whole row or two. The effort is in MY hands.
And let’s look directly at knitting: the craft of it. Think about the Maker Movement and the notion that crafting something, such as a knit sock or a wood table, affects so many aspects of our lives that must change if we are to be greener. Check out the Center of Gravity in Troy, NY as an example of a community drive focused on integrating making, learning and sharing.
First, there is the concept and relation to time. When I knit I am absolutely in the moment, in a way I cannot be when I am surfing Twitter or the ‘net on my i-pad, or watching a movie filmed in the past, or reading a book that takes my mind away from the here and now. I knit and hear the wind chimes, see the cat prowling nearby, reflect on the family fighting in the house behind us (okay, it’s not always perfect in the “now”). I have taken to knitting at long update meetings when the group is amenable to it. I can better focus on the discourse while my hands are busy, and I stop reading e-mail on my phone or planning future work in the margins of my agenda. I remain present.
Second, there is the understanding of value. In making something, especially something that takes development of a skill and use of time, we begin to understand the value of the things around us and we move away from our developed cultural preference for instant gratifications. If we value things we will begin to care for them and perhaps to invest in longer-lasting items that will not end up in a landfill. We may even learn to save up for them instead of buying on credit. And perhaps we will begin to value the time and effort of humans again as well.
Third, there is knowledge in how the item is made. This ties into value as well. When we make something or understand how it is made, we are more intimately responsible for its upkeep. The last couple of generations have learned to select purchases that absolve the purchaser from responsibilities. We just replace things that break. They’re cheap enough and it’s do-able. No harm, no foul. And it’s not just responsibilities of repair and maintenance, but responsibilities for where the item came from or where it will end up. Times are changing and this change in awareness applies to anything. I now know how to darn a sock, because I knit and that has translated into a lack of fear about the construction of a knit item. I know what it takes to write policy on GHG reductions and many of the parts and pieces that are woven into that work. I know how to communicate with the people and organizations taking part and I respect they may have a different style or perspective than I do. I can understand the origin of a goal and take better, more complete responsibility in crafting the implementation.
Fourth, there is the connection to the materials cycles. As a knitter I understand what goes into a sweater or scarf. I am learning about the different weights of yarns and the styles of spinning. I may try my hand at spinning yarn from sheared wool or other fiber. I then understand this came from an animal – what animal and how were they tended? What does it take to care for this llama or sheep? What is the life of that farmer, and where are they located? All of these things come to my awareness and awareness of the cycle of materials, and this knowledge should be celebrated. This increase of awareness MUST occur if we, as a society, are to become greener. We will then make choices rife with information as opposed to buying what is one sale regardless of where, who, why and how it was produced. Check out the Story of Stuff (below).
Not everyone can be a maker of things. Craftwork such as knitting or carving or electronics each take skills. But everyone can find something that helps them be in the moment, better understand value, and gain info on the full cycle of a product. Each person can do one small thing that would be of huge import if everyone did it, such as picking up garbage on a trail or choosing a cereal with less packaging waste. Most importantly, each person can reflect on the effect their one stitch (a good clean one, or a messy split stitch) will have on the stitches around them; the natural and built environments including the people in their community.
Complex and beautiful knitting comes from just a few simple stitches, repeated. Each of these efforts is a single stitch in a patterned, strong and intricate web of greener living and working.