P—W  V° 02:09

Knitting Studies

by Mia Nakaji Monnier

A study in cotton-linen.

A study in cropped, short-sleeve tops with lace yokes.

A study in colors between beige and off-white, each one named after a spice: cardamom, all-spice, sea salt.

A study in the French designer Orlane Sucche, with her clean-lined, feminine sweaters.

A study in the Japanese designer Yucca, whose socks are constructed from every direction: from the toe, the cuff, the heel. I trace the shape of my wide feet, inherited from my mother.

A study in Portuguese wool from the yarn designer Rosa Pomar.

A study in the illustrations on their labels, mostly women and girls drawn in thick black lines, cute and mischievous, imbued with witchy magic.

A study in experimentation, the geometry just outside the reach of my words but within the capability of my hands.

A study in tearing the whole thing out and starting over.

A study in tearing out only an isolated section, trusting that I’ll be able to put it back together. The yarn makes a loose mess, each strand kinked like dried ramen, and one by one, using a crochet hook, I re-loop columns of stitches, hunched over in lamplight, surrounded by dark.

A study in accepting mistakes, correcting them in my next project but not this one, each garment a marker of my proficiency at the time.

A study in ambition and ego, in reaching toward mastery.

A study in piles, piles of finished sweaters that have outgrown my small closet. Piles of yarn, twisted into skeins or wound into cakes, zipped into plastic bags with lavender sachets, the bags piled into storage bins, the bins a pile of two in my closet.

A study in being like and unlike my mother, also a knitter and crocheter, whose piles of Ziploc-bagged yarn flood out of her closet when she opens the door. In my parents’ house, piles have become a kind of geological feature, like mountains, the layers marking time and significant moments in our family history. In these piles, mundane detritus is pressed until it gains a heavy significance, crushing in intimacy. Yarn and books are the main ingredients, but buried among them are also receipts (for my mom’s favorite ponzu, my dad’s favorite yogurt pretzels); hospital statements (for my two brothers’ involuntary stays); elementary report cards (mine saying over and over that I’m still coming out of my shell); lists in all our handwriting; the children’s field guides and encyclopedias my middle brother once loved.

A study in tonal variation.

A study in stubborn continuation, one more pattern repeat before bed so I can watch the colors change or the cables develop.

A study in colorwork: in stranding, carrying secondary colors behind the fabric until their turn comes to be expressed; in intarsia, where colors express themselves the same way on both sides of the fabric, belying the complexity of their construction, the careful twisting and untwisting of bobbins; in mosaic, whose complex patterns bely the simplicity of their construction, stitches slipped to be knit on a later row.

A study in language, in charts and terminology, with similarities and variations across countries.

A study in connection and isolation.

A study in adornment because I love my body or because I always want to change it.

A study in filling time and stealing time.

A study in stitches that mark our time, mine, my mother’s, that of everyone bustling around us as we sit, only our needles or hooks moving.

A study in negotiation between the things we make ourselves and others, between things asked for and offered, things accepted easily or with obligation.

A study in absorption.

A study in tension, the gentle insistence required to manipulate yarn until it becomes fabric.

A study in the things we can afford to buy and the things we can’t afford to let go.

A study in objects that will outlive us, objects we hope might preserve us, objects that drown us.

A study in impermanence, in objects vulnerable to moths and wear and spills and the will of other people. “Will you throw this all away after I’m dead?” my mother asks. “This is something you can wear forever,” she also says, about each garment I make or she makes me.

A study in freeing significance from its objects, relocating it to words or to my memory, so I can let the objects go; in releasing obligation; in seeing the beauty of the accumulation, then tidying up; in spending time with my family just being, not trying to preserve them in anticipation of their deaths; in trusting that I’ll remember as much as I can, even though it’s not everything.

A study in the gentle bite of wool, the click my needles make with each stitch reverberating in my body.

2022 © M.Monnier