Are you looking for a fun, creative way to keep your fingers busy without the addition of either nicotine or pesky, unwanted calories? Try knitting.

Yes, my friends, knitting is now undergoing a renaissance, giving the results as much panache as any high-end items from a Christian Dior or Yves Saint Laurent collection.

This ancient craft goes back nearly a thousand years. Artifacts in museums such as a perfectly preserved pair of stockings belonging to Queen Elizabeth I or a fisherman’s sweater from the l7th Century reveal knitting for what it was: a necessity to clothe the naked and also deal with the pragmatics of everyday life.

Moving along to the time before radio and television, knitting was a way for ma and pa to spend time together in the parlor, talking over the day’s events and making use of every scrap of yarn that could be found, to keep the youngins and also themselves warm over the winter.

Fast forward to my own youth, approximately age l4, when I began to take an interest in knitting.  I had zero talent in any of the fine arts, such as drawing, painting or sculpture.  Knitting was a way I could escape the frustration of being a young woman who loved color and design, and was trapped inside a totally non-artistic body. The most exciting fiber going at that time was plain, old knitting worsted “in a variety of colors,” as the ads perkily announced. I actually did wear the royal blue and shocking pink pullover and also the cardigan created in blocks of yellow and green. Even tried my hand at mittens and utilitarian earmuff / head gear combos for those cold winter nights in St. Louis. After all, I had made these things, and darn that yarn, I was going to wear them!

Today, however, a whole new world has emerged that takes knitting from the parlor to pizzazz! On a recent trip to a new boutique, Tucson Yarn Company, 6336 N. Oracle Rd., #C (corner of Oracle and Orange Grove), I felt like a kid in knitter’s candyland. A dazzling array of textures and colors gave me the knitter’s natural high. As I gently fingered mixed fibers that took my imagination soaring to new heights and pictured myself in a rainbow of colors all combined into one glorious skein, I thought again that knitting is no more the stuff of grannies in rocking chairs. Indeed, in recent years, it has really come into its own. Women and even a few men of all ages are creating original pieces (great felted bags, delicate sweaters bordered with knitted ribbon, multicolored socks so cute they’re guaranteed to knock the socks you’re presently wearing right off your feet and everything in-between.) Ooh la la! How does one make a choice?

The decision was finally made: a shawl composed of many different fibers I had been admiring on the model for some time. A good chunk from my cache of mad money was exchanged for one splendiferous skein: a combination of textures in turquoise blues and greens with a touch of golden thread. Buying a few smaller skeins in complementary colors and adding one or two remnants from my own yarn bag completed the list of materials needed for the shawl. The pattern has the happy name of Dancing Crayons. To paraphrase a well-known inspirational song, when I have the choice to sit it out or dance, especially when I’m wearing my new Dancing Crayons shawl, I hope I’ll dance.

Off I go now to do a few rows on the shawl before starting my day. While getting out all my knitting paraphernalia, I think of an older woman I met a week or so ago at the Tucson Yarn Company. She reminded me of tough times during the Depression when every bit of yarn was used up so folks could keep warm and save a few pennies at the same time. “Today,” she added, “the colors and textures come together to produce wearable art.”

I think Monet would agree.

Barbara Russek is a French teacher and freelance writer.


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