One of the art galleries on my street has an installation consisting of dozens of knit penises and breasts jutting out from a wall. The first time I saw it, I did a double take to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing, as sometimes I see penises and breasts all over the place when really there aren’t any. Upon further inspection, I realized my eyes were, indeed, not playing tricks on me and I had stumbled upon yet another example of how the knitting world has infiltrated my life. That this particular example involved pink and brown yarns shaped into genitalia and breasts was somewhat shocking, though not as surprising as I would have thought had it happened a few years ago.
It used to be that the only time I encountered knitting involved articles in community newspapers about grandmothers knitting booties for overseas orphans. There were also the odd news stories of grandmothers having their knitting needles taken away from them at airport security. Apart from short daydreams where I’d visualize groups of grannies taking over airplanes, which, I’m happy to say, always depict the grannies combating a terrorist takeover with strategically placed needles to the jugular as opposed to the grannies committing terrorist acts themselves, I haven’t really had a reason to think about knitting that much at all.
And then I moved to Toronto.
I didn’t realize it at first, but ever since the day I arrived and a friend was finishing up a knitted scarf for her boyfriend’s Christmas present, I have been surrounded by yarns and needles. There’s the numerous knitting and craft collectives along Queen Street, all the scenesters and their avant-garde (or is it post avant garde?) knitted accessories and even an encounter with a friend who pulled out his knitting while we were watching Ugly Betty. (For the record, I have had many men pull out many things while watching television over the years, though knitting was never one of them.)
And just when I thought there couldn’t be any more knitting, I stumbled upon those knit dicks and nips, which I must say were brilliant, even though they did make me think about teapot doilies and those weird dolls some of the mothers in my childhood made to cover toilet paper rolls.
When I asked a friend about the resurgence in knitting and crafting culture she speculated it had something to do with the troubled economic times. While it’s true that if I had a dollar for every time I’ve read an article about people learning to do things on the cheap ITTES (in these troubled economic times), I could single-handedly spend the economy out of its recession, I think folks have been yearning to make things on their own again for awhile. And I’m sure Vancouverites, those fine folks from my old hometown, have been knitting with renewed vigour as well. I just didn’t have fresh enough eyes to see it.
Whatever the reasons behind all this knitting, it has given me some simple pleasures like the evening my street car stopped in front of one of those crafting collectives store fronts filled with fun women and a guy sitting along with them at a giant table as they stitched and bitched and laughed and played. Perhaps I need to learn to use my hands more and create more love one stitch at a time.