Knitting and Being Handy: An Occasional Series

At an SF convention once, I was on a panel with Peter Heck and Hannah Shapero.  Peter is the author of the Mark Twain detective series, but he is also a fine banjo player.  Hannah Shapero is an artist of some note in the genre.  It was one of those panels about how we create things.  I said, “When I get an idea, I have to tie a word to it. Once it’s tagged with a word, I can manipulate it.”  Peter said, “Funny, I do the same thing, only I have use a musical note.”  And Hannah said, “I have to use a color.”  Then the panel disintegrated into one of those how-can-you-possibly-do-that discussions.

The point here is not that different creativities express in different ways — you knew that.  What I want to think about here is the word ‘manipulate’.  Because that’s what creation came down to for all three of us — the working of the raw material, by hand.

Some creative people don’t rely solely on their hands — dancers, opera singers, actors.  But a huge majority of creativity is all hand work — everything that has to be made or managed in a physical form: bread, houses, spaceships, wine.  It is no coincidence that opposeable thumbs are so imporant to humanity.  The loss of your hands is crippling.  (Look down — do you have your hand on your mouse, right this moment?)

For me, at least, writing is a hand work, just as much as knitting or painting.  I wrote many books by hand with a mechanical pencil on 8 1/2 by 11 notepads.  Although I’ve switched over to composing fiction straight on the keyboard into a Word file, lots of other stuff just has to be written down by hand: maps, lists, diagrams of the plot with swooping arrows to connect one bit to the other.  And my computer table also has the current knit project sitting in front.  When I can’t think of the next word or the next sentence, knitting a row or two helps loosen the system up.  Wherever I go, I always have a knitting bag and a book.  Planning trips always involves laying out a knitting project (has to be long enough to encompass possible airline delays) and books (if necessary, disposeable paperbacks that I can abandon en route) before mundanities like clothing and shoes.  If I have to sit still without doing something with my hands, I fall asleep.

Luckily the handy quality of my writing is very portable.  For years I went everywhere with a pad and pencil.  Nowadays I am mulling over a jump to something like an I-Pad.  Then I could write and read everywhere!    And I could get a case like this.



About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Knitting and Being Handy: An Occasional Series — 7 Comments

  1. I had never thought of using knitting to break logjams, but it sounds crazy enough to work. (Hurries off to put current knitting project into work bag to take to coffee shop this morning. Will report back on success/failure of same.)

  2. Makes total sense to me — I used to do that, when I could use embroidery that way (went through a long period of not being able to grab a needle.) Now learning to crochet, since not sure my joints can handle the pressure of knitting needles. But how do you get the needles/hooks through the security lines? I was warned about that from people who have lost valued hooks and/or needles. I just packed mine in the suitcase and shipped it through.

    I pick the books to travel before anything else, too!

  3. Tatting shuttles go through security just fine, plastic and metal though my favorites are cellulose. But the hook ring! That’s like a metal guitar pick that fits over the finger and has and its bitsy size 0 metal crochet hook welded to it. Can you say lethal weapon equivalent to a nuclear bomb?

    Bone, plastic, or wooden knitting needles go through xray with no problem. Several brands of wonderful tools now available in wood. Wonderful polished wood with smooth grains.

    I use handwork for the long mulling process of working through language, dialogue, and action and how to present them. I can’t work just one row while I’m finding the right phrase. I need a problem to chew on that’s going to take a least 4 rows in a big project. All my projects seem to be big and complex.

    Bobbin lace is so detailed and takes so much concentration I use it to take a total break from work and reality. Total immersion.

  4. I have advised travelers to print out the list from the TSA web site to carry with them, in case of arguments. But in fact the screeners have a wide latitude, and a lot depends on what has happened in the system the day you’re traveling. If it’s a day when someone has tried to set off a bomb in their underwear, everything tightens down. Plastic or wooden circular needles are the way for a knitter to go. Straight metal needles are genuinely dangerous; with a pair of nickel-plated steel Addi Turbos in a big gauge I would undertake to pin a man to the back of his airline seat like a butterfly to a board.

    I find crochet harder on the joints than knitting, but every handworker’s mileage varies on this. Basket-weaving is the worst!

  5. There are a huge number of products intended to help hands available. Hand-Eze gloves come immediately to mind. Alas! A growth market, as we age! Surely we can imagine something sfnal that would help knitters and crocheters with arthritis. Waldoes? I already have high-wattage color-true lights, and in another decade may be resorting to powerful magnifiers on swing-away stands. The goal: a system that would let somebody like Stephen Hawking knit…