I taught myself to knit a couple of years ago. Although it was quite frustrating at first, I persevered because I had this idealized vision of myself calmly creating with my needles whilst traveling, attending soccer games, watching TV, or in conjunction with any number of the more mundane human activities. Now as I am quietly pulling my hair out printmaking, I am finding some interesting parallels between these two learning experiences.
My fairytale print isn’t going well, and I haven’t even gotten to the printing stage. I made the block too big, carved in the wrong direction to the grain, recarved again on a piece of shina plywood that wasn’t glued up properly, and overall I’m not feeling very happy about the piece. But looking back on some of my early knitting projects, I remembered having to frog (unravel) some easy things, like a garter stitch scarf, five or six times in the beginning until things started to roll. Even though my conscious brain knew how to do the stitches, I need to train my unconscious body. Slowly my knitting improved and my hands secretly learned moves that my brain still knows nothing about. Now, as I work on a complex cabled sweater, the needles dance – no frogs. I am starting to achieve that creative, meditative state in knitting that I dreamed about. So I am holding that experience in mind as I struggle with the wood.
I see other similarities in these two processes. Both take a big time commitment and a lot of faith because, as a beginner, one can’t really tell what a piece is going to look like until the very end. That said, people never realize how much time and effort it takes to create something in either of these mediums. I learned early on to only give knitted pieces to other knitters.
But the truest lesson of all I have learned from knitting and printmaking is discovering the wonderful communities of supportive fellow artists that exist out there. People from all over the globe have helped me with joy in their hearts – many without even knowing they were doing it. That lesson goes beyond learning a craft and into the realm of learning about life.