Music and Knitting

A long while ago, Katie asked me to write about knitting and playing the piano. They seem like odd things to compare, no? But I spend a good deal of my time doing both of those things, so I'm finally getting around to the topic.

Knitting and Music aren't a whole lot alike at first glance. Knitting is a relatively quiet activity (yes, I know there are stich'n bitch groups that can get pretty raucous, but it's the people that make so much noise, not the yarn, what?), where as music is by its very definition, sound. If you make a mistake in your knitting, you can simply undo it and try again. Or, if you rather, toss the project aside in disgust and start a new one. If you make a mistake in the act of performing music, you can't take it back. You have to know how to deal with it and move on in that instant. A knitted object is permanent. Music is fleeting because you can't physically hold onto a moment in time.

When I was thinking about this post, though, it occurred to me that knitting and music have a lot more in common for me than I would have expected. Both require patience. It takes many hours of practicing to prepare a recital program for successful performance, just as it takes many hours of making loops with sticks and string to produce a finished knitted garment. In fact, Stuart has commented about both these activities - practicing and knitting - "I don't know how you enjoy that; it seems so tedious!" (He's never said that in a way that puts me down, understand. He just doesn't get it and freely admits that. I could very easily say the same thing to him about learning to program in C++, which is how he spends his free time.)

There's no question that music is such an important part of my life. Duh, I'm getting a doctorate in Collaborative Piano Performance, and I want to make it my career in some way or another. The better I get, the more I enjoy it, too. In yesterday's recital, for example, I nailed every single blooming difficult passage in the Moscheles (and missed a few of the easier ones, alas!) because I knew I could, and didn't question myself, and it was fun.

That knitting is such a big deal to me might come as more of a surprise, though. I've known how to knit since my mom taught me at the tender age of 8 or 9, and I've really gotten into it since I started grad school [a few unnamed number of] years ago. As with piano, I've gotten better at it, and more confident. I made my parents' Christmas presents this year, and from what I understand, they were used well and often this winter. (Note to muggles (non-knitters): this is how it should be. Should someone give you a hand-knitted gift that you treasure, the best compliment you can pay that person is to use the heck out of it, wear it out, and then hint that you'd like another.) So knitting, like music, is something that has been with me since my childhood, and I can't really imagine my life without either one of those things.

Since Daniel was born a little over a year ago, my priorities have shifted, and my time is divvied up in ways it never was before. Of course my family is more important to me than anything else, but staying at home pretty much full-time also means that the opportunities I have that make me more than a housewife are also more valuable to me than ever. I sincerely believe that Art in its various forms (music, painting, knitting, dance, writing, all of it) brings meaning to life as we know it. Art is how we make sense (or nonsense, depending on the artist) of the world. Whenever I am knitting, whenever I am practicing, I am Creating. Not every minute spent doing these things is equal, to be sure. But that's why I knit and why I play.

It might also explain why our house isn't cleaner. (Sigh).


katie said…
Thanks for posting my request. I find it interesting personally how music and knitting both appeal to me in similar ways. For me, those are the artistic expression, and the patterned nature of them. I find it very satisfying when something I'm working on fits neatly into a pattern, and knitting and music both do that for me (well, when I'm not being lazy). I also love algebra, for the same reason!

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