© Copyright 2021 Ada Huggard-Noel, Ryerson University
We do not normally see our clothes in macro. Normally we see a knit garment as a whole, better yet, modelled on a body. When I look at a knitted top, I start with the stitches.You can tell a lot about knitting from the stitches – tension is an important factor. The aim is to maintain consistent tension. This is why you do not let others knit your work, most likely if I knit half of your project there would be a line of demarcation between our stitches as we naturally hold different tensions. In this way I love that tension is neither right nor wrong, rather it is individual, the perfect tension in a sense, is your own.
This summer (summer 2020) I knit a tank top for my friend Eva’s birthday; we have been friends for 23 years. The top was a gift to both of us really, it gave me something for my fingers to fiddle with. The meditative sound of needles clicking calms me during periods of stress such as a global pandemic or even just a porch cocktail with a friend (a very 2020 date). The beauty of knitting never ceases to entrance me, I become hypnotized by the dance of the threads as they weave in and out of each other – a simple movement creates an incredibly complex network of fabric. I taught Eva how to knit this summer. I had not thought about breaking down stitches and explaining them for a long time. While I do not often think about how to knit , I do often spend time marvelling over how, through the basic movement of my fingers and thread, materializes something real, something you can squish, something soft, something itchy .
This top was knit holding two threads together; the main colour is an American-made basic cotton. The thinner thread is an Italian linen and it has an almost metallic quality – a sheen. Because the linen is a finer gauge than the cotton it moves as your knit therefore creating a fabric that is not uniform in colour or texture. You will see certain patches shimmer more than others as they catch the sun. It feels like the fabric is alive in a sense. I did not control how much shimmer appeared, it is part of the magical process.
This top was knit “in the round” which means that there are no seams. The entire top is one long spiral of thread interlocking upon the next. You could unravel this top by pulling a single thread. It is so simple, yet truly complex. Only two stitches–knit and purl–make up the entirety of the garment. Arranged in different orders you shape the garment: ribbing, decreases, i-cords, all consist of these two basic stitches.
We don’t usually look at our clothes and see thousands of stitches, much less thousands of stitches done with our hands. Knitting is taking raw materials and creating shape, texture and body where there was none. Sometimes non-knitters watch in dismay as I rip out 10 hours of work due to an error in sizing or a wonky stitch. If they do not see the value in each tiny stitch, people question how spending 20 hours knitting a pair of socks could be “worth it” i. The process is often half the reward. Redoing work is not always a bother – one can always leave mistakes in a work; I often do. You can usually spot a mistake in someone’s knitting — it means you will never see two handknit items that are the same. Knitting isn’t a commodity, it isn’t “worth it”. Rather, if you look at how something comes to be, and revel in the process – you can see its worth. I reserve finished items for loved ones, like Eva. Knitting is the quintessential slow fashion: unlike products of fast fashion, the items I make will not lose their gleam and find their end of life in a landfill. When I see this top I see each stitch. I see the Italian linen dance and shimmer t. I see Eva, a dancer, twirl, jump, sweat. I see, hear, smell, summer 2020. It will always be embedded in the porous fibres of this top.
Elkins, James. How to Use Your Eyes. New York: Routledge, 2000.
Huggard-Noel, Ada. Untitled photograph. 24 Aug, 2020. Private collection.
Myers, Eva. Untitled Photograph 1. 6 Feb, 2021. Private collection
Myers, Eva. Untitled Photograph 2. 6 Feb, 2021. Private collection
Myers, Eva. Untitled Photograph 3. 6 Feb, 2021. Private collection
Myers, Eva. Untitled Photograph 4. 6 Feb, 2021. Private collection
Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.