SUNDAY FEATURE: The Romance of Hand-Knitting!

Knitting is a craft in which sweetness is infused and calm induced

“In the rhythm of the needles, there is music for the soul”

That time of the year when light breeze gently feathers across the skin and the sun cheers everyone with the loveliness of its sunshine. When the earth smells of ripeness and fullness, fruit and bounty; and the air is filled with notes of love and laughter. It is then that many sitting in their cozy nooks pick up the needles to knit comfort and warmth, stitch by stitch, for the approaching winters. Knitting has always been associated with peace, healing and pleasant childhood memories. Hand knitting is a beautiful expression of love involving the use of two or more needles to loop yarn into a series of interconnected loops in order to create a finished garment. It is a craft that has given comfort to many a generation across the globe since ages.

A brief history

Most histories of knitting place its origin somewhere in the Middle East, and from there it spread to Europe by Mediterranean trade routes, and later to the Americas with European colonization. The oldest knitted artifacts are socks from Egypt, dating from 11th century C.E. While in Europe the earliest known knitted items can be traced to the Spanish Christian Royal families who employed Muslim knitters. Several paintings from Europe portray the Virgin Mary knitting including ‘Our Lady Knitting’ by Tommaso da Modenna. There is also mention of knitting in the plays by Shakespeare that were written between 1590 and 1610. In 17th and 18th century hand knitting became an important occupation in Scottish Isles. By mid 19th century hand knitting declined due to the increasing use of mechanical knitting machines. In India, scholars do not have a fixed time period assigned to the introduction of knitting. There is no ancient word in Sanskrit for knitting. Even in Hindi language, the term for knitting is bunaai which means weaving. Textile expert Toolika Gupta is of the opinion that when knitting was introduced in India, it was instantly called bunaai for lack of better word.  Therefore, the word ‘weaving’ or bunaai has been synonymous with knitting in this country.

Present scenario

The popularity of any craft has always swayed along the ongoing fashions of the eras and the changing values of the society. The 1920s saw a rise in demand for sweaters and pull-overs with statement styles being set by the likes of Prince Wales (future Edward VIII) wearing Fair Isle sweater to play golf and Coco Chanel incorporating knitwear in high fashion. It was a much sort after craft during the war years too. Again in 1950s and 1960s knitting gained huge popularity with introduction of more bright colours and styles of yarn. But the point to be noted here is that knitting as a hand craft had already lost its charm by this time. It was in mid 19th century itself that hand knitting was taken over by knitting industry and survived only as hobby. By late 20th century it further saw a decline and was rarely taught as a craft in school. With many knitting groups emerging, 21st century indeed saw a resurgence of this craft amongst Millennials but still fails to pass on the skills of this craft to Gen Z who is more occupied with virtual world errands than the real world charm.

Great gift of knitting

Hand knitting is not merely a creative leisure activity. With increasing number of mental health issues, sense of lack, broken families – knitting is a craft that can provide immense therapeutic results. The truth is that the romance of hand knitting is vanishing when it is needed the most. Hand knitting relaxes the mind, soothing its electric sparks by focusing the thoughts in the moment. It makes you still, helps gather yourself and centers your being. More so, it disciplines the faculties of mind and body, thereby increasing patience and concentration. Pain specialists have found that hand knitting changes brain chemistry, resulting in an increase in ‘feel good’ hormones (i.e. serotonin and dopamine). Interestingly, the craft of hand knitting being a binary wrapping code of knit and purl stitches, serves as one of the best brain exercises to increase I.Q. as well. Studies have also shown that knitting has helped reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The gift of hand knitting certainly lies in its healing nature. It is a craft in which sweetness is infused and calm induced. As is said –

“Sweet contents knit in my soul, in a million happy stitches”

  So just do it!

Tools & Material: Knitting needles, yarns, row counter, stitch holder
 
Basics: Learn how to cast on the needle, i.e. put the yarn on the needle              Learn to do a knit stitch and purl stitch               Learn to cast off the live stitches              And you’re ready to make that scarf for this Christmas!

  Advanced stitches: Cable stitch, Plaited stitch, Dip stitch
 
Stitch patterns: Garter stitch, Basket stitch, Herrington stitch, Fishermen Rib stitch

Published in The Post India on 14.10.2020

SUNDAY FEATURE: Go Creative, Go Green

It is time to step up into a conscious living but with a twist of creativity.

Nature is an oasis of tranquility, beauty and rejuvenation. It has given us uncountable gifts from its healing power to everyday goods that make our life comfortable. But what have humans done in return? Humans have looted the very life source and plundered the dexterous working mechanism of our Mother Earth.

 It is certainly the time to get into action for bringing a change. There are many remedial measures being suggested but until and unless we accept these from within us, they would hardly serve as a solution to the countless environmental catastrophes! The time for discussions is over. It is time to step up into a conscious living but with a twist of creativity.

We generally underestimate the power of creativity that can make something out of nothing. Creativity can turn a simple idea into a great novelty and a dull school routine into the best thing an educationist ever did!

It is creativity that subtly forces out of the box thinking (and to be scientifically precise it is the right side of our brain responsible for this magical skill!), thereby directing our mind into unexplored positivity and possibility. We need it in our daily attitudes, approaches, theories, campaigns and initiatives of saving environment. John Cleese, the famous English actor and comedian, had once rightly remarked that creativity is not a talent but the way of operating.

 So here are some creative, fascinating, quirky and imaginative ‘trash to treasure’ converting formulas that each and every one of us should adopt – each day every day!

  • THEME IT ECO STYLE!

When it comes to styling your rooms and lounges, the primary concern is to create an aura that is de-stressing and comforting. One thing is for sure – nothing can calm down the nerve better than the relaxing vibe of a natural theme. And what’s better about it is that you can go the DIY way, making it easy on the pocket as well as the environment. There are a plethora of things you can do with almost any disposed off material. The empty jam jars can be used for decorating your outdoors with scented candles. You can also plant some flowers in a group of bulbs and hang them on a tree in your garden or in your balcony. You can also make miniatures, photo frames and showpieces from old newspapers and cardboard for your childs room. From crockery and bathroom fittings, wooden boxes, wine bottles, tins, old magazines to the embroidery on your suits and sarees – everything can be used to do up your place in the most economical and eco friendly way.

  • THE PLASTIC MANIA

The plastic bags and products are the worst enemies of nature all across the globe! So learn to unleash your vibrant and creative mind to make use of plastic products that would otherwise only add to the garbage heaps. The noted designer Clement had introduced stylish tote bags, made by weaving several plastic bags together, in the fashion industry long time back. Well, why can’t we make DIY products from plastic bags then? We can certainly make beautiful baskets, door mats and attractive African styled ‘Inkuku’ chairs by weaving plastic bags in a basic framework – just needs a little patience!

  • THE ECO-FASHION

With increasing awareness regarding environment degradation due to unchecked human activity, the world of fashion has apparently changed its gear for the better. From international designers like Stella McCartney, Mark Liu to Desi designers and fashionistas like Sonam kapoor and Dia Mirza, all have been zealously promoting eco-friendly collections. So the next time you buy a fabric – say no to synthetics and polyester and give a thumbs up to pure fabrics like organic silk and khadi. Ask your local boutiques to use and promote organic dyes instead of chemical dyes and bleaches. Try to mix and match things. You can make a really cool outfit from your old military or floral bedsheets! It not only encourages the creativity in you but also helps in keeping the environment greener.

  • THE MYSTICAL SOUP!

Before allowing good food to spoil, allow your belly to enjoy it. As they say, wasting food is like saving every dime to have a ride of hell. So even if you have leftovers and vegetables in your refrigerator, who are getting tired and old but haven’t yet given up – cook them into a delicious soup right away! You can use leftovers like herbs, pieces of meat, bits of bread, pieces of cheese and lots more. Use your magical mind to explore various recipes of soups from different leftovers or waste ingredients that have been still stocked up in your cooling box since the last weekend! It would be quite an experience.

It is time to do our bit, at individual and collective level. The GO-CREATIVE, GO-GREEN approach does not tax your resources in any way, rather encourages the creativity in you. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Almost always the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.” Only this time the minority should turn into the world majority.

Published in The Post India (thepostindia.co.in) on 1/8/2020