Knitting Up a Storm: How This Dying Art Completes My Life

Hand-knitting is a complete activity — it is craft, creativity, productivity and meditation all rolled into one.

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My Report
3 min read
Happy knitting! 
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Knitting Up a Storm: How This Dying Art Completes My Life

In the winter of 1971, when the Indian army was going to war, the cantonments were full of women knitting woollens for the soldiers. As the daughter of an army officer, it was natural for me to pick up the needles and contribute. The fact that I was only 11 and did not know how to knit seemed immaterial. Thus began a love affair with knitting that has stayed with me to this day. My wool and needles have been my joy and strength through teenage, college, working life, marriage and children.

Even in the hills, where it used to be popular, knitting has become a rarity.
Even in the hills, where it used to be popular, knitting has become a rarity.
(Photo Courtesy: Urvashi Aggarwal)

Hand-knitting is a complete activity – it is craft, creativity, productivity and meditation all rolled into one. It thus saddens me deeply to see how fast it is fading away in India due to the easy availability of machine knit items. Its seen as being old fashioned and is no longer being taught in schools. Even in the hills, where it used to be popular, knitting has become a rarity.

In the last decade there has been a sharp decline in the number of wool shops and the availability of patterns in and around Delhi. Each year I have to travel a little further to find a year round wool shop and the last source of cheap patterns – the Sunday Book Bazaar at Daryaganj – has also dried up.

People stop and stare when they see me knitting,  be in a car,  theatre, or at the airport.
People stop and stare when they see me knitting, be in a car, theatre, or at the airport.
(Photo Courtesy: Urvashi Aggarwal)

These days my needles and I have become something of an oddity. People stop and stare when they see me knitting, be in a car, theatre, or at the airport. The oft repeated sentence is, “As a child, I saw my grandmother knitting and haven’t seen it again until today.” For the very young, it is an alien activity. Last month, a CISF lady officer at the Delhi airport wanted to confiscate my needles because they looked like sharp weapons to her!

However, I am filled with hope due to the resurgence of hand-knitting in the west. With the growth of the internet, yarns and patterns are freely available. Celebrities like Julia Roberts, Russell Crowe, Dakota Fanning and Ryan Gosling (who said men can’t knit!) are helping popularise this activity. The old stereotype of the grandmother clicking her needles in a rocking chair is no longer valid; it is fast becoming something cool kids do.

Knitting Up a Storm: How This Dying Art Completes My Life
(Photo Courtesy: Urvashi Aggarwal)

Make the first move and many of you will be bewitched by the calm satisfaction this elegant art can give you. It is a great medium for youngsters looking to express their creativity and de-stress in a way that doesn’t depend on technology. It’s easy to learn, easier to practice, and can earn you a few bucks too.

Ultimately, the magic of knitting for me is not determined by what I knit, who it’s for, or whether I receive money for it. The magic is that I’ve developed a skill which is easy to practice and makes me a better and happier person.

(Urvashi Aggarwal is a homemaker and social volunteer with a passion for knitting. She can be contacted at cheerfulhandknits@gmail.com)

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