Knitting and the Power of Possibility by Caleb Talbot
Each time I add a new skein of yarn to my stash or a new pattern to my library, I am confronted with the question of “why?”. Why do I buy new yarn and new patterns when I already have so many that are ready to be used to create socks or shawls or sweaters or… whatever?
The closest I can come to an answer that feels “right” is to say that I do it because of the idea of possibility. As a maker, when I see a skein of yarn my mind fills with the possibility of what that bit of string can be shaped into when I grab it and a couple of sticks, pair it with a well-designed pattern and get to work. In this way, what I am seeing when I eye a skein or a pattern is a future accomplishment, a sense of self-sufficiency and ability, a reminder that I am skilled and talented and creative and that I have what I need to craft something for myself with just my two hands and a few simple tools. All of these ideas are wrapped up in that idea of possibility, and that one idea is at the heart of my love for knitting.
[Otte by Jared Flood]
As I have acquired new skills and grown as a knitter, my love for the craft, the yarn and the patterns that make that yarn useful in the hands of the knitter has also grown. I think this is because the world of possibilities has only become wider for me as I have become more confident in my abilities. I look at patterns and infrequently think “I can’t knit that” or “I’m afraid to work on that”… in essence, limitations that existed because of technical skill have begun to melt away a bit. But, where that world of possibility has at times continued to hit a roadblock (and those limitations have in turn remained) is at the intersection of fashion and gender. There I have often met with a pattern and asked myself “is this for me” even when I loved something about that pattern, and this question has steered me away from more than one potential project. Likewise, I have, at times, been disheartened by the fact that so many patterns are presented as explicitly gendered making it difficult to see myself wearing them in a way that feels authentic to me.
[Fehling by Emily Greene]
As a cisgendered male who comfortably presents in a typically “masculine” way, this has only felt like a problem because I have, at times, found it difficult to find a stylish and modern pattern that would bring something new to my wardrobe. When this happens, my choices feel limited relative to the sheer number of patterns available, and, in turn, I feel limited as a knitter. It is in those moments that the sense of possibility I previously felt so acutely seems to somewhat diminish and this can be frustrating and disheartening.
It is important to note that I do recognize that I have the privilege of seeing myself represented often, and I also acknowledge that I feel confident in my ability to make many garments work with my style regardless of who they were designed for. Because of this, I am often able to express myself through knitting in a way that feels authentic even when working with patterns that weren’t designed with my body in mind, so that sense of possibility that I crave seems to bounce back repeatedly for me without issue.
But I think it’s also important to acknowledge that the gendered nature of garments is a more complex issue for others, and, for those people, I wonder about what possibility they might see in a skein and how it might be the same or different from mine. And I also wonder if there are people out there who have turned away from knitting and the joy of possibility that it can bring because they may not see themselves represented. At the same time, I wonder about who can be brought in and made to feel included by an increase in gender-neutral options that are designed for all bodies and presented as such in a way that is genuine.
[Forbes by Jared Flood]
I wouldn’t advocate for a world where an expressly feminine or masculine design couldn’t be presented as such because those things are authentic and true to many people’s sense of self and personal expression. But I do think we have so much to gain from a world where that rigid gender binary is relaxed; where more gender neutral patterns exist so that all people can find garment patterns that allow them to create something through which they can express themselves in a truly authentic way. In turn, I think that almost magical sense of possibility would be more readily obtainable for so many more people, and I would love to see who all might join us on this knitting journey in that world.
[Otte by Jared Flood]
By Caleb Talbot, a knitting software developer who shares his love of making on YouTube
Photographer, Model & Stylist: Caleb Talbot - IG @drowninginyarn