Following the pattern

One of my mother’s knitting patterns, late 1960s or early 1970s

One of my mother’s knitting patterns, late 1960s or early 1970s

My mother taught me to knit when I was about 8 years old and I must have been about 11 when I embarked on my first project - a yellow cardigan from the pattern below. I still have a memory of going to the wool shop to choose the pattern and the wool, taking some home and some being kept in the shop for us to go back for. It’s a fond memory of doing something special with my mother, part of growing up and being taken seriously.

I learnt how to read and follow the pattern, how to keep count of rows. I was a novice in the intriguing language of purl and plain, casting off and making a stitch, and the peculiar abbreviations used in the printed patterns.

Twenty years later I was teaching English to recently arrived migrant children from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their mothers knitted jumpers for the children with complicated designs. But they did not use printed patterns. Instead, they knitted to fit the child, holding up the growing piece against the child and casting off for armholes or neck when it was long enough. The designs they knew by heart, probably learnt from their mothers too.

I found this interesting - I had thought that knitting WAS following a printed pattern, had never imagined it otherwise.

The more I thought about the patterns I learnt to follow, the more I realised how much they controlled our creativity - cutting material to make clothes with a pattern, ironing inked patterns on to cloth for embroidery, ‘painting by numbers’, cooking from recipes. Saving my pocket money into a box with sections for Holidays, Birthdays, Christmas. A white wedding.

Patterns provide security, safety. They contain the distilled wisdom of those who went before. They support us in doing something new, but often it’s not very daring. They help avoid risks, but those risks avoided by following the pattern might have produced something no one had ever imagined, something much more interesting.

We benefit from patterns, and perhaps we don’t need to follow them as closely as we think we do.

Where in your life are you following the pattern when adventures might lie just beyond?

Catching the Whispers

Your steps to a more poetic life! Course registration closes on 21 August - be sure and catch your place on this round!

Details here

Lynne CameronComment