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Patterns 102 Knitting is sexy Plant freak K vs B Sex & knitting

I blame Freud. I do. He is responsible for the sexualization of everything. Neither smoking, nor eating, nor admiring a parent is an innocent act untouched by the puerile.

But surely some human activities remain innocent of carnal subtext. I cast about in my mind for something. Ditch digging? Nope. Tree pruning? Ha! Horseback riding? Asking my sweetie for examples only changed the expression on his face from one of polite interest to one of . . . let's just say it took on a decidedly different cast, and I ended up having to postpone thinking about it.

Perhaps --just possibly, knitting? Oh, but once I let this thought enter my mind, in come rushing [unbidden, mind you] bits and pieces of information which lay themselves out thusly:

Consider sex. We in the perimillenium did not invent sex. We did not even invent kinky sex. I would posit, however, that for centuries only the privileged classes had the luxury of languorous explorative lovemaking: those who had not lived so tightly together in so few rooms that, well, a stolen moment must have been a feat in itself.

Consider knitting. We in the perimillenium did not invent knitting. We did not even invent funky knitting. I would posit, however, that for centuries only the privileged classes had the luxury of sumptuous and richly dyed fibers, knitted into ornamental trinkets. Those who had not could afford only course rough stuff knitted into functional, needful garments.

My point is that given a climate of relative economic comfort, there is room to get creative with the basic human needs: food, clothing, shelter and sex. And while economic comfort is shamefully inequitable in its distribution worldwide, more people now than ever in history have the means to get creative with one or more of the above.

As for knitting, why, we who knit love the sensuality --in a non-sexual sense --of what we do. The soft fibers twining through our hands make up fabric that is meant to comfort, to warm, to heal, to clothe. Taken at its surface, its most elemental, no human activity is perhaps less likely to be connected to sex. Quick: think of a knitter. What do you see? A non-knitter will probably answer with a description of what Western society stereotypes as a non-sexual being, an elderly woman. Go ahead and bristle, both at the stereotype of what a knitter is and what an elderly woman should be [I have always believed that the proverbial twinkle in an old lady's eyes didn't get there from a lifetime of baking cookies].

But the times, they change. As knitters and old ladies become more of an economic force, reputations are changing. More knitters of late are men, and though it has been slow going, yarn and pattern companies are responding to that trend. New knitting publications aimed at the hipper-than-thou set are competing for shelf space and knitters' dollars with the frilly, Cute Cat Cozy books. New ads by drug and herb companies offering to cure the female sexual dysfunction that often occurs with and around menopause [and which I suspect is aggravated by spouses and families who won't give you time to knit in peace] arrive on the scene at the same time studies suggest that women's sexual desire and response remain high well into old age.

And while sexual tastes --and certainly comfort levels --vary widely, it is undeniable that, for good or ill, fewer people will frown upon any given predilection now than at any time in recent memory [I think some ancient societies gave us a run for our money in licentiousness]. And while fashion tastes --and again, comfort levels --vary widely, fewer eyebrows will rise if you saunter down the street wearing, say, a sweater with deliberate holes and dangling yarn-ends made of some fiber that makes Nature shudder than at any time in recent memory [given that I think most of us have, or should have, blocked all recollection of the '70s].

I will not go into how the internet has affected the ease of gratification of one sort of pleasure of the flesh. But as our spiritual leaders caution against those excesses, so I caution against the knitting excesses made possible by the unholy trinity of credit card, point and click. Few among us are without the sin of overindulgence in yarn. While a certain, prudent amount of luxury fiber wouldn't hurt anyone, a yarn stash that is too massive, too overflowing, too voluptuous, too unrestrained --well, such a stash might be construed as being suggestive of licentiousness.

Oh, but listen to me. Anyone would think I was equating stash size with the size of its owner's appetite for the carnal. And I wouldn't want to do that. Not me, with my baskets of smooth cotton, shelves of warm wool, spools of soft, fuzzy eyelash yarn, which spill out of their confines and tumble to the floor in flowing, writhing masses, tangling together willy-nilly, coupling, at times, so aggressively that separation involves breakage, all waiting for me and my needles to swoop them up, knitting them faster, yes, knit, purl, yes, knit, yes, knit, purl, faster, yes, faster. . .

Ok, ok, I'm being absurd [and I owe James Joyce an abject apology]. Knitting? Sex? No way, not connected. No how.

Except. . . how many knitters do you know who knit for babies? Innocent, soft little babies? All I'm saying is, let's not forget how they got here.


Kate Boyd loves her yarn, but doesn't LOVE her yarn.