Next month KnitTraders will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Very early on in the process of opening and running my own business I realized that such an overwhelming project was much like a human relationship: you have to listen and learn VERY carefully to make it work. As in any relationship, the store and I went through a period of post-honeymoon frustration about 5 years into our time together – the move to our present location was nowhere on the horizon, and the long hours and solitary responsibility for all of the duties at the store were dragging me down. In chatting with a customer one day, she spoke of a book that had transformed her way of looking at such times of doldrums: The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. And so began my brilliant time of observing creativity around me and from within.
-You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm. – Colette.
What a boost for my soul to be (re)introduced to the all-encompassing value of Creativity: I came to appreciate the subtle changes that customers brought to enhance their projects, books and movies became mainstay topics of conversation at knitting class, and most of all I began to look at different ways to view changes and challenges that popped up in running the store.
About 15 years on I again realized that I was having difficulty, this time with relating to the richness that knitting brought to the lives of my customers – which is not a good mental or emotional place for an LYS owner to find herself. As it happened about a year and a half ago, through a series of staffing changes, KnitTraders acquired a fresh new way of looking at things with the addition of Trisha and Daina to the group. They added new skill sets, enthusiasm, knowledge and a wonderful sense of passion and compassion. Their creative outlook to life, among other things, spurred me on to seek a knitting challenge that would be fulfilling yet manageable both in time and the energy that it required.
Over the years, every time that I was restocking the book: The Great North American Afghan, I would linger over the pictures and try to wrap my brain around the techniques used in each of the 24 squares that have been developed by some of North America’s most skilled knitting designers. This spring I decided to take on the challenge; I brought home the pattern book and a lovely assortment of colours in Cascade 220 and a new Chiao Goo needle and I was all set. This below is what I have completed so far of the project:
Five blocks, each of them quite unique, requiring colour choices (I could never just use what is suggested,) new techniques (I’ve gained an entirely new appreciation for “life lines” and stitch markers,) and skills (who knew that there could be so much embroidery to knitting?) But I’m loving it. And this is where I came to appreciate the intelligence quotient that Einstein speaks of in creativity. It is stretching me in so many ways, including a commitment to avoiding the need to rush to get it finished; I look forward to the time I get to spend on the blocks as a treat which is a reward to myself instead of a task to be accomplished. Who knows when it will be completed, but it will be someday.
The influence of creativity is so broad – I recently returned from a family reunion where talk flowed so freely that my voice was froggy for a week afterwards. We laughed ourselves foolish comparing stories of childhood pranks and punishments. Were the sharing of these stories any less creative than the exquisite music that was also part of the gathering?
The e-newsletter that is sent out from KnitTraders at the beginning of each month is another venue where I’ve observed creativity at work. I begin with a list of about 20 things that I want to include in the issue, and somehow themes, connections, other ideas and observations come together between topics to develop coherent articles and features. It almost feels like a miracle, or at least magic, but it likely has more to do with being open to enjoying the process.
I love good writing and I’m now reading a book by the very skilled Andrew O’Hagan called Our Fathers. This is what he says about the grandmother and her knitting: “What she wanted was perfect peace. And sometimes I’d think her idea of order was there in the knitted rows she held in her lap, those staticky, coloured bands. A universe of virtues foretold in those gloss-paper patterns. The finished garments held all that was good to her mind. She stared into those fuzzy rows for most of every day, and there, I’ve come to think, she saw strength and goodness, and usefulness and purity. All through these long years, her ambition had slid down those pit-pitting needles, and day upon day her hopes had unfurled with the wool in the basket.”
And later on the old man asks the grandson if the grandmother has been telling the young man his secrets. ‘My granny would only know a secret,’ I said, ‘if it set fire to her knitting basket.’ – is that not writing brimming with intelligence and fun. I could reread a passage like that each day and still find new things to delight me.
I love the fact that it’s now acceptable and often recommended by medical and other professionals for adults to buy and use colouring books. They are full of our own secrets that pour out in colour choices, intensity and whimsy. They are effective and nonthreatening doors into the world of creativity.
Now I’m off to make a carrot cake for a birthday this weekend. Sure, I’ll follow the recipe to a T, but I’ll be tasting a few raisins, sniffing the cinnamon and playing with the grated carrots to appreciate the experience – and appreciation is creativity too.