Of Hats and Handwork


“What are you making?”

I am sitting in a chair, just behind a long table.  On it are a multitude of baked goods.  A bevy of fifth graders clamor behind it.  There is a modicum of commerce and a plethora of chaos going on back there.  I have retreated a few feet away.  Close enough to step in if needed.  Distant enough to grant them authority over their project.

“A hat.”

It feels curt and truncated so I add, “We seem to go through them as though they’re disposable at this time of year.  Every time I open the drawer to get one out, they’re all gone.”

The other mother looks down at my work.  My hands slowly loop yarn over the tip of a needle.  I bury it in itself and the tip resurfaces.  It is, I admit, not a particularly captivating spectator sport.

“You must have a lot of patience,” she says.

“Oh.  I don’t know about that.  I think maybe this teaches me patience.”

Grey wool knitted hat

I am embarrassed by the attention.  I want to disappear back into the anonymity of my making.  But, also, I am feeling keenly the insufficiency of my answer.  I have just met this woman and hardly feel that I can tell her all the truths behind why I wrap yarn around pointy sticks repeatedly. Even in the solitude of my own my mind I don’t know if I can articulate it.

It is both mammoth and it is minute.  I know only this—that I need to make things with my hands.  I find a quiet in it. The soft click of the needles.  Not the incessancy of Dickens’s knitter.  A gentle tapping.  More porch swing swaying in the breeze than tree branch in a gail.  With each stitch, I feel the rustling inside me settle.  The striving, fearful pieces of me hunger a little less ardently.  The drive for productivity slows to a human pace.  Today, at this moment, it is knitting.  It could be putting stitches into a quilt or mending a torn shirt.  The medium is not nearly as important as the act of making with my hands.

So, today, I knit.  The children sell their baked goods.  The fundraiser is a roaring success.  They’ve amassed the money they had hoped.  They will have a generous budget when they go shopping for the family they are helping.  They are happy.  I am happy watching them.  I put a few more rows on my work.  It will be a fast project, I can tell, even in these first moments.  It will be finished, then put in the drawer with the other hats.  I hope it won’t go missing after a week, but it may.  I hope it won’t get tossed mindlessly in the dryer, but it might.  For this one moment, that is all inconsequential.  This moment is simply about the making.

Grey wool knitted hat



This was an “around town” project.  It never left the city limits of Warsaw.  I cast on during a phone call with a friend and got a good start on the ribbing during my son’s class fundraiser.  The rest was knit in the pews while waiting for church to begin. 


A friend gave me a few tiny balls of yarn she’d picked up when she lived in Japan.  She’d intended them for wool dryer balls but they never made it that far.  Two of them became this hat instead.


Yarn: Free

Pattern: Free (I’ve managed already to lose which pattern it was, though I know it was one I’d found free online)

Total Cost: $0