Knitting Indra’s Net

Maybe there is no link between knitting and poetry. My mother knitted all her life, all through my childhood. Socks, jumpers, scarves. As a small child, I had a pair of knitted swimming trunks. Hats, including those I tried to throw away, but were always retrieved.

Maybe I’m simply trying to reconnect with someone, something gone. Call it Proustian, tenuous, even foolish, but I wanted to speak to the women who make up a knitting circle here and try for a connection.

We talked about pattern and words. One woman had a Shetland uncle who also knitted all his life. They told me the stories of Aran jumpers having family patterns, and the same for Shetland families. We talked of samplers; we talked of the need for thrift and the warmth of hand knitted clothes.

Maybe it was that warmth I was after. It certainly came from the women and from their talk. It came closest to poetry with their needles moving. Words, however, knitted into something, were elusive, until our host showed me what her godmother had recently knitted and that she was just now putting a backing on. It was a delicate, white on white knitted near-sampler, with what I guess to be her own and her god-daughter’s initials. For me, a link; and to warmth; a knot in family life. A poem.


Tom Leonard writes eloquently, gracefully and in a moving way:

                   In Hospital

I like seeing nurse frieda knitting

as I like watching my wife knitting

as I liked watching my mother knitting

though she was more of a dabber

(plain and purl, plain and purl)

it’s not

“women being in their place”

or knitting the chains that keep them down


the future, knitting the future

the present peaceful, quiet

as if

the same woman knitting

for a thousand years




And the knit link between Dawyck Botanic Gardens, mothers, wool and poetic form is Morven Gregor’s work after Angus McPhee, knit with long grasses:

3.After Angus McPhee

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