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Sarah Ruth Bates

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

These days, I’m knitting. Like, a lot. Like, maybe too much. I’ve made three-almost-four sweaters, and four tanks (I know they sound like they must be frumpy, but they’re not, except for the one for my mom, because she is a lady). It’s 80 degrees in the house today, which is to say, it’s 80 degrees today, because there’s nowhere else to be. I’m supposed to be in Arizona, for grad school, where it’s always hotter. I’m going back there. I don’t need more sweaters. I just ordered more yarn.

It’s not a new hobby—I used to knit as a tween (cringy word, but it fits—I had, ugh, a knitting blog). I haven’t knitted much in the past ten or so years, but now I’m back in my childhood bedroom, with the ugly clay pots I made and the dried flowers I don’t remember drying, and the yarn. I’d tried back then to make a sweater, but it came out too big and misshapen. I kept expecting what I was making to become the picture on the pattern. It didn’t. I couldn’t understand why. I’ve always found security in following rules. The tricky part comes when the rules take you someplace unexpected. Then you feel the burden you deferred while doing what you were told.

I don’t use patterns anymore. I visualize what I want to make: a sweater with armholes like this one, loose like that one, length so the hem skims the waist of these jeans, draped like one a friend used to wear. I use calculator-aided math, which I fuck up pretty frequently, and a lot of time repeating the same small simple motions, to make that object. If I don’t like what I get, I unravel, adjust, try again.

The president of the university where I study and teach wrote in a mass email: “I am pleased to publicly announce today our intention to return to in-person classes at the University of Arizona for the fall semester…Of course, there are many factors that remain beyond our control. However, we are tackling what is within our control.” In New England, we wear wool sweaters in fall. I knit cotton, for the desert, for when I move back. I picture teaching in the sweater, or pulling it out of my backpack if I’m at a café and clouds blot the sun. What will I want to wear, in that future? I make part of that picture, and hope the parts I can’t make will come. We are tackling what is within our control.

I do not need more knitted clothes. I need to make objects and finish them. I need the holding and enacting of a concept, a vision—a possible future, and the placation that I’m moving closer to it.

I knit the most at night. I am knitting when I learn that only half my expected cohort will join the program next year. I am knitting when my boss tells us we won’t be evaluated on our teaching this semester. I am knitting when I watch Donald Trump tell people to inject cleaning products. I am knitting when the house is dark at eleven then midnight then one a.m.. I know I should sleep. I think, one more row, last one, one more. I watch the fabric grow in my hands, slowly enough to see change happening, quickly enough to sate my need to control the becoming of even one scrap of future. I am making the shape I hold in my mind.

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