It’s a mystery exactly why I started knitting in high school; I simply don’t remember. The best I Can recall is that I just thought it was neat, so I gave it a try. I do remember that an aunt of mine had taught me years earlier, when I was about seven, but by the time my interest rekindled as a teenager I was learning all over again. I started with the usual basics—scarves, mostly; some simple rectangular pouches; fingerless gloves with holes (only holes, no gussets) for thumbs. It wasn’t until a few years ago, ten years or so after I’d even started, that my skills really began to branch out. Now my sock drawer grows plush with handknits and several knitted tops and sweaters fill my closet space. Another sweater sits currently on my needles. I would estimate a good thirty percent at least of my brain is taken up by thoughts of knitting.
Until I was about thirteen, that same aunt of mine lived on what was once my great-grandparents farm and became hers. As I was growing up, the land was home to pigs, chickens, honey bees, and cows. Emus even graced the space for a time. (What a strange time.) My memory of collecting eggs is faded, but it’s there, keeping company with the memories of fresh honeycomb, waxy and sweet; spicy, red and white radishes from the garden rinsing in a colander in the sink; scruffy barn cats giving birth to barn kittens; and never quite getting the hang of ice skating out on the pond. Backyard badminton. One Christmas at the piano, pretending I could play. It feels like a dream or a period film. This is what they mean when they say the word nostalgia.
I only signed up to TikTok for the aesthetic—specifically, the cottagecore aesthetic. I have wasted many an hour staring at my phone screen, drinking in these dreamy, vintage-filtered videos like cold lemonade on a hot day. I still can’t get enough. The soft pastels, the pastries and berries, the soft breezes in the greenery on my little phone screen. It was comforting; it is comforting. And it’s inspiring. It makes me want to bake cakes and sit in the grass with a picnic. Aesthetic labels—any label—can be limiting, but they can also be such a jumping off point to who you are on one level or another. And as Whitman said, I contain multitudes—but it can be helpful to identify those multitudes sometimes.
Last weekend, I finished my first skirt, the Picnic Skirt from my #makenine2021 post, and I am in love. I want six more, one for every day of the week. I’ve been so satisfied with knitting my own wardrobe pieces over the past few years, and now I want nothing more than to expand that into sewing vintage-inspired pieces. It’s so hard to find affordable, plus size vintage (or vintage-inspired) clothing, and even then it won’t necessarily fit quite right. My Picnic Skirt is, in fact, a little big, but that’s fine because it was my mistake and it gives me the chance to learn how to adjust it. It’s an opportunity that I’m glad to have—and if I’m lucky, with my birthday will come a dress form that I can use to have an easier time with making my own pieces. (I am shuddering with excitement at the thought!)
These seem to be disparate thoughts and stories, I know. But I promise, I have a point. Maybe it’s a result of connection overload; maybe it’s a yearning for simplicity in a time when things seem anything but. I find myself grasping more and more for less screen time, more earth time. I want desperately to tear myself from my little black box and plunge my hands into a bowl of flour and water. I am literally nursing an aching thumb from so much scrolling in the past week, and it makes me remember a time—because I remember a time—when phones had cords and buttons that clicked and beeped and you never knew who was on the other end when you picked up.
There’s nothing wrong with the advancement of technology; it’s an amazing endeavor that brings so much good to the world around us. But I’m finding myself searching more often for the ever-elusive concept of balance between the screen and the simple, the connection and the disconnected. How do I stay connected to distant friends I’ve made over the years without feeling handcuffed to Instagram? Without constantly thinking about my phone? Without feeling that damned phantom buzz in my pocket in the hope that someone responded immediately? And that’s my biggest concern these days, just staying connected to the people I care about most. I spent much of yesterday going back and forth over the possibility of deleting my Instagram account entirely. I settled on unfollowing another two hundred accounts that did not, as they say, “spark joy.”
In the spirit of my One Little Word this year, one concept I clearly need to cultivate is “balance,” and I’m still figuring out what that looks like. I know it’s a lot of slow living and finding beauty in the everyday. I know it’s a lot less time with my phone at the corner of my vision so I can always keep one eye on it. Maybe it’s finally deleting Instagram; maybe it’s not. But for now, it’s settling into my chair to knit this cardigan I’m working on and trying to appreciate the click-clack of the needles as the only sound around me.