Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I can’t knit any more. Too many decades of constant computer use have left me with repetitive strain disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome. From my fingertips to my shoulders, I’m essentially a train wreck, a bundle of tingling nerves and sulky muscles that rebel any time I type more than a few sentences or click my way through too many Etsy pages.

I’ve compensated by turning to voice dictation software, ergonomic mice and keyboards, a yoga ball instead of a chair, and by practicing certain forms of restraint. Like making the decision to stay away from online Boggle’s siren call. And giving up knitting.

It’s been a sacrifice, especially for someone who has a tiny bit of a problem with compulsion. Basically, I’m a productivity junkie. I like to keep busy, and I find it difficult to watch television without also doing something “useful” — a character trait of mine that Rachel barely puts up with (“When I watch television, I want to ... watch ... television,” she will say, when I suggest that we could fold a couple of loads of laundry while catching up on season three of Weeds.). Knitting was a perfect way for me to quell the voices while getting in good-quality bad-television time.

Mostly, I have come to accept the fact that my knitting career is over, although every so often I think that maybe I can find some small way to jump back on the craft bandwagon. So when my friend Judy, who has of late been indulging — beautifully, heartbreakingly beautifully — her own knitting and felting obsession, mentioned that she was going to repurpose a couple of hand-knit sweaters into felted mittens, I offered to unravel them for her. If I couldn’t knit something, I figured, I could un-knit something and make myself useful.

I made that suggestion on a Sunday morning, at Judy’s house, where my family had descended upon hers for our standing brunch date. I was thrilled to be there, mostly because being there meant that I wasn’t at home on a frigid morning corralling increasingly edgy children.

Or maybe I’m the one who’s edgy. Lately, I’ve been finding Rowan more challenging than I usually do: chalk it up to some combination of bronchitis (his and mine), PMS (mine), defiance (his), and a general ranginess, but I’m not exhibiting all the qualities that I would like to exhibit as a parent in terms of patience, modelling appropriate behaviour, and the like. Midway through the weekend, I had nearly had it, and the prospect of French toast at Judy and her partner, Jill’s, house was exactly what I needed.

We came home from brunch with a sweater. Isaac napped, Rowan watched a video, Rachel read, and I sat at the dining room table blissfully picking out the sweater seams. The day passed, more or less a study in average parenting skills and equally average four-year-old behaviour. Before bedtime, I sat on the couch with Rachel and Rowan as she read stories to him and I unravelled a sleeve.

“What are you doing?” he asked me.

I explained my project to him.

“Can I do it?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, passing him the sleeve.

And we sat together in silence for a good 15 minutes, working together, him pulling the yarn intently, me winding it around itself into a ball — our own little prayer service (I asked for more patience and more parental grace) at the Church of Craft.


  1. And now I'm going to read it all over again and probably cry some more.

  2. aw. your sweater's nearly finished, BTW. a couple more Weeds episodes should do it.

  3. Judy's crying. I'm laughing. And tonight I will be ... watching ... television. ;-)