I showed up to Cuba Mall on Saturday. It was packed with people, but I found a small oasis of calm in the form of the Outdoor Knit area. It was manned by Knitsch and stiX who were hard at work knitting.
Outdoor Knit is the local variant of that international scene (also known as guerrilla knitting) where, well, people knit things and sew them around urban objects such as lampposts, park bench slats, rails and trees.
The little grove of trees outside the Bristol was getting well covered with colourful bits of knitting. One of the knitters asked me if I wanted to join in. “Oh, I can’t knit,” I said. I’d sort of learned back in the mid ’90s, but hadn’t touched a pair of needles for almost 15 years.
But the knitter wouldn’t accept that as an answer, cast on for me, reminded me of the basic stitch and – must to my surprise – I started knitting. I did a few rows before wandering off to explore the rest of the carnival.
Later in the noon I returned and thought it would be a really good idea to do some knitting. I was given a piece that someone else had started – a long skinny grey bit, about 10 stitches wide. I sat down and merrily started knitting.
It’s rather satisfying to do. It’s one of those activities where you can just let your mind wander and start making up raps about public transport while you work.
As I was sitting there, lots of carnivalgoers passed by, including those who saw the knitting and wanted to join in. Quite a few older ladies were lured by the needles and quickly started firing off complicated patterns. One girl even started plotting out letters in her knitting, which seems to me like a very advanced move. And lots of people just wandered over and thought it would be fun to have a go, including a lovely young man who’d never knitted before, but soon he was churning out an orange strip, courtesy of some expert tuition from the crew.
Quite a few people stopped to take photos of the knitters and knitting. Seriously, everyone has a DLSR camera these days and everyone feels like they’re taking serious documentary photos that will capture a certain moment in the history of the early 20st century or something. But isn’t it a bit more fun to be most than a passive observer? Isn’t it just a bit more fun for your experience to be something you did, rather than just a photo of something someone else did?
Other people did stop to ask what was going on. I’d tell them it was knitted graffiti, which some people had trouble understanding. A lot of people thought it was some sort of organised knitting group and didn’t seem to realise that most of us had literally just walked in off the street. And the idea of knitting something that had no practical use also seemed to perplex people.
As I continued knitting my piece, it seemed to be getting wider. My 10-stitch-wide knitting had somehow become 30 stitches wide. Say what? Turns out I was stabbing my needle through the loosely twisted wool. But I as quite happy to have made a triangle. Soon enough I had finished off the small ball and sewed it around a tree.
I eyed my wonky grey triangle with a certain sense of satisfaction. It feels good to create something, and thanks to Knitsch and stiX, I did! Now all I need to do is learn to cast on and off, then if civilisation crumbles, I’ll at least be able to knit wonky grey trousers for trees.