Generationally and Subconsciously

In order to be aware of who we are, we must be aware of our patterns.

My grandmother was drawn to crochet a snowflake blanket while she took my grandfather to endless medical appointments at the end of his life. The symbolism of the pattern itself, which is designed to be a relatively infinite series of snowflakes, is striking in the context of death. As each frozen flake falls to the earth in winter and covers nature with its cooling kiss, resilient nature fades until the final snowflake covers soft earth and a chilly death, a blanket of snow, covers a once vibrant summer. She had the urge to make a blanket, a piece already symbolic of life and death, but a blanket made out of several identical pieces that would then be stitched together to make a whole. I am struck by the metaphor, as I see the process of death through cancer happens in pieces, a little bit at a time, until it’s sewn together in completion. Whether my Grandmother was aware on a conscious level of the exact poeticism of what she was doing is irrelevant. It is impossible for me to miss the stark symbolism in my Grandmother’s need to make a snowflake blanket at the time of my Grandfather’s passing, as it has become with all of the woven and sewn items that she has made throughout the years.

While the example I have just written about is crochet, a craft with a different myth and a different story, knitting, in terms of pattern hunting, is entirely the same. The last time in my life I was called to knit a blanket I was undergoing a deeply transformational process. About five years ago I remember being surrounded by fog, asking my Grandmother if she had a blanket pattern that I could knit. I went to visit her and we sat together near her “crafting chair” and flipped through patterns. Eventually I found my pattern. It was wavy and loopy and full twists and turns. It was knit in three sections and stitched together with a gentle fringe on the bottom. It would have made sense now that I look back, I spent most of that summer working as an understudy on a boat, feeling the gentle rocking of waves as I was called to knit wave upon wave into a piece. At the time, my need for freedom was insurmountable yet the only adventure I could live was in my imagination, or perhaps in my blanket, with twists and turns and surprises every five stitches or so.

Now, as I scoured the internet for another pattern, I imagined my Grandmothers chair emerging in the mist, her hand clear and bright passing me a written pattern, this time a pattern to guide me on much different journey. Though I wasn’t aware of it until much later, I happened to pick a pattern similar to what I had found with my Grandmother the first time. A blanket knit in three sections with gentle fringe hanging from the bottom. This time, however, there was a divergence. This time, my environment was in chaos. I was physically weak and had lost all sense of understanding my own behaviors and patterns- everything I thought I knew about the world I lived in seemed to have been turned upside down. I felt an overwhelming inner need during those days for clear boundaries and structures, for something that had a clear beginning and end, and so unlike the first flowy blanket pattern I had chosen with my grandmother, there were no skipped stiches in this pattern. No loops, no holes, no waves. This pattern was clear, straight and transparent.   My body knew I needed the time it would take to make a blanket and somewhere inside, I could feel this, but I had no words to express the need. When people would ask about the knitting or try to grasp why I was perfectly content to spend countless hours a day, alone, simply knitting, I had no words to describe what was really happening. If I could have let my body talk, it would have been clear. My body wouldn’t stop. It was as if the knitting had become a fifth appendage.

We pick the pattern that we are subconsciously called to, whether it is clear to us in that moment, or ever, is irrelevant. I realize now that you could write a biography solely featuring the pieces a person has made throughout their lifetime. The baby blankets, the stockings, the sweaters and the snowflake afghans telling a story that perhaps would do more justice to a lived experience than words could ever do. We choose to knit what our body is hoping to process most, as is with most of our decision making processes. You have the desire to create something, and the next question is what- A towel? A potholder? A sweater? A scarf? Each item holds a poetic significance that can teach us about the space we are currently in. A friend of mine told me she knit herself a scarf after a breakup- I see this now as a clear need to protect her heart space. Another friend worked to knit a sweater for her newborn baby boy- a mother’s instinct to create an earthly womb for her son. A girl I knew in college knitted endlessly- through course work and while socializing. The sweaters she wore herself, a clear armor, a labor of love used to protect herself from the world she felt she had to knit in.

In order to be aware of who we are to be, we must be aware of our patterns, both generationally and subconsciously. Knitting, for me, was the key. I will need to pick a new pattern again someday, a new key, and who knows what it will be. Next time, I welcome it. As Rilke says, “I live my life in ever widening circles…” and I wonder what I’ll learn on my subconscious deep dive, especially if I go in a bit more prepared to face the depths. I wonder what blanket will emerge from my next submersion. I wonder if my Grandmother will be there, to help me pick the pattern.

Musterstickerei; provided by vintage pattern collector- Germany
Photographs; found at Boxhagenerplatz Flohmarkt - Germany