Robert Watches Elizabeth Knitting

Picture 575 Knitting is a bore but Elizabeth nods and smiles and clicks to herself, as if it were more than just useful.

She goes happily about the task, moving in and out of it without haste, perfecting tension, cabling, ribs.

She looks forward to the sewing up, but not too much, knowing how to mesh the pleasure of the final thing,

All sensuality and wholeness, with the independent life of every stitch.

Where does it come from, this compulsion to call her a whole list of things, other than what she is?

The string winder, the long fingered, the sitting clock, the fur maker and on and on and on.

From shanks by sharp shears, to Shape Shoulders, she is what she is, my shank shifter, the one who weaves and stitches up wool.

The needles click in a rhythm I can't get at: part and whole, part and whole:

Two heartbeats, a breath, two heartbeats.

Her lips silently move to mark the four or five last stitches in the line.

Elizabeth's pattern is cut small and pasted in her diary: a book of days, a book of stitches; lunch dates and meetings, Right Border and Neckband, Left Front.

There is no picture, only the long strings of phonemes - purls and plains made unpronounceable by the feminine science of the knitting pattern.

She bows her head to translate the printed page

Into this odd manipulation of sticks and string.

I can't get my mind around knitting.

It starts to have everything when you come down to it- rhythm, colour and slow but perceptible change.

The meaning is all in the gaps: a pattern of holes marked out by wooly colour, a jumper made of space, division and relations.

Strange to see these youngish hands with no puffiness and no obvious veins

repeat the banal and tiny motions, over days, over weeks, over months.

I ask too much and am too hasty;

This knitting is an exercise in trust.

By Jo Shapcott