Hand Work

One of the things I do to bring some balance to the very physical needs of our life here at Fernwood, is to knit. Well, first I spin, then I knit. This craft of being relatively still, allowing my mind to get lost in the making of stitches, and the methodical nature of needles twisting and clicking, is a gift onto the day. Slow. Restful. Restorative. I really like these words written by Naomi Nye, I’m impressed that she saw the humble craft of needle work worthy of a poem. The ending message, however, also made me feel grateful for the rural community I live in. Here, in the north east part of New England, knitting and crocheting….mending a patch in a flannel shirt, are a part of our language. Seeing someone take out their needles in public in order to make some gain on their knitting project, opens the door for conversation. “What are you working on?” “What kind of yarn are you using?” ” Oh, I love those colors!” , these are all things you might say when one handcrafter bumps into another. We can’t help ourselves, it’s a strong tie.
Yesterday, I spun some of the first angora collected from my friend Sally’s rabbit. I’ll be using that soft and silky yarn in the headband I’m knitting for a friend’s Christmas present. Oh, this wondeful art of sewing, knitting, and crocheting, …..spread the word!

Sewing, Knitting, Crocheting……

A small striped sleeve in her lap,
navy and white,
needles carefully whipping in yarn
from two sides.
She reminds me of the wide-angled women
filled with calm
I pretended I was related to
in crowds.


In the next seat
a yellow burst of wool
grows into a hat with a tassel.
She looks young to crochet.
I’m glad history isn’t totally lost.
Her silver hook dips gracefully.

And when’s the last time you saw
anyone sew a pocket onto a gray linen shirt
in public?
Her stitches must be invisible.
A bevelled thimble glitters in the light.

On Mother’s Day
three women who aren’t together
conduct delicate operations
in adjoining seats
between La Guardia and Dallas.
Miraculously, they never speak.
Three different kinds of needles,
three snippy scissors,
everybody else on the plane
snoozing with The Times.
When the flight attendant
offers free wine to celebrate,
you’d think they’d sit back,
chat a minute,
tell who they’re making it for,
trade patterns,
yes?

But a grave separateness
has invaded the world.
They sip with eyes shut
and never say
Amazing
or
Look at us
or
May your thread
never break.

Naomi Shihab Nye

9 comments on “Hand Work

  1. Knitting and bacon, oh my. I love the poem, thanks for sharing it. Now that the weather’s a little colder, I’m finally moving to indoor sewing projects and I’m ridiculously excited about them. I have an old spinning wheel and an old loom that I’m trying to resurrect. We’ll see how it goes. I haven’t knitted in years, but–if winter lasts long enough–I may take it up again. Or maybe wait until next year …

    • Oh what a delight this winter will bring…..an old spinning wheel to breath new life into and of course you should pick up knitting again! This morning I was so happy to see a little covering of snow, I have been waiting for winter….patiently and even surrendering with some gladness for the warm fall and the opportunities it has allowed….but winter, it can come anytime as far as I’m concerned, we’re all ready to tuck in. Besides I haven’t cut all this firewood just to have it sit idle in the woodshed! Also, Sunday afternoons we always knit here at the farm from 3:00 -5:00…come join us!

      • We didn’t get any snow last night, just rain. Like you, I am more than ready for a good snowfall.
        Once I start knitting again, I would love to join your Sunday afternoons. Thank you so much for the invitation. But I likely won’t start knitting for a while, I have so many other projects lined up. Right now I’m oiling up my little Singer Featherweight for some quilt piecing. It’s been stored away for over a year (while we were traveling) and I want to treat it kindly!

    • Textiles have always been an interest in my life and as I grew older, developed into a passion ( obbssesion). My grandmother was my inspiration for all this, her house filled with cloth, and wool, and thread. So glad you liked the poem….. handwork travels back in time, the skills and traditions pass forward, so often our means of creative expression while bringing balance to a hectic day. Happy day to you, Kerry!

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