Frayed Threads and Saliva: On Knitting and Life Changes

I’ve often said knitting is the most theological of the fiber arts. (Knitting shows up as a metaphor in both the Psalms and in Paul’s letters!) 

Case in point:

I’ve been going through some stuff lately. Someday I’ll write about it, but not now. I’m trusting it’s all in the service of good and positive transformation, though that trust is easier said than done.

In the meantime, for the past year I’ve been making a temperature blanket. It’s a large project, but really easy:

  • One row for each day of the year (so the blanket will be 365 rows when I’m done).

  • Color of the row is determined by the temperature that day. For my blanket, 91-100 degrees is red, 81-90 is pink, 71-80 is purple, etc.

And since I’m running All Of The Miles this year in anticipation of my 50 miler, I’m also adding one simple lace stitch for each mile I run:

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The only tricky part is changing colors, sometimes on every row. There are a variety of techniques I looked at, but many of them involved more sleight of hand than I could manage. (There’s a reason my bio calls me a “haphazard” knitter.) The easiest method is to cut the previous yarn and tie it to the new color, but then you have a weird bump in your project and loose ends to weave in.

My mother the master knitter recommended something called spit splicing. I love this technique, not only for the ease and fun of it, but because it feels exactly like my life right now.

With spit splicing, you basically cut both the old and new pieces of yarn and fray the ends like this pink piece:

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Then you put the two frayed ends in your mouth and get them nice and slick, then twist them together so they’re wrapped around one another:

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Finally, you rub the twisted piece vigorously for a good 20 seconds up against something a little coarse. Denim is great for this, and since I wear jeans most of the time, I can spit splice anywhere. The result is a new single strand of yarn that consists of the two colors tangled together: 

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Every time I knit a new row, I think about my life and the transformation that's happening. I think I’m leveling up, spiritually speaking. It’s also possible this is a lateral move. Not all change is change for the better. Sometimes it’s just… different. Sometimes it’s worse, to be perfectly frank.

Jury’s out on all that. For now, I see a lot of spit splicing going on, both in my life and in the lives of people around me: loved ones, friends, and people I coach. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

Change isn’t “clean.” According to the YouTube video I consulted, saliva works better than tap water. I haven’t tried anything but spit, and why would I? I’ve knitted this blanket on planes and trains, while watching movies with family, and on a camping trip. Water isn’t always available. But also, there’s a stickiness to saliva, so I believe the YouTube is right. 

Change ain’t pretty, friends. It’s made of sloppy stuff.

Change isn’t comfortable. When I first started spit splicing, I was way too ginger about it, and when I would gently tug on the new strand to make sure it was properly spliced, it would often come apart. Friction is a part of the process. Lots of it, sometimes. It’s amazing how strong the resulting piece can be… but you really have to do the work.

The raw materials matter. My mother gave me the yarn to make this blanket, and it’s a nice-quality wool. Good thing, as it turns out: synthetic fibers cannot be spit spliced; only the natural stuff will do. Similarly, I’m realizing that for me to weather this change well, I have to lean into my authentic self. That means feeling what I feel and embracing the messiness. Being as real as I can. (I hate this a lot of the time, to be honest.) 

Change is incremental. In seminary we learn the phrase “liminal space,” then overuse it within an inch of its life, then make fun of ourselves for using it. Maybe I’m coming back around to the term though. Liminal space is that in-between time when the old and the new mingle together: 

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I like that the beginnings of rows show a bit of both colors. That’s where I am right now—the new color is emerging, but little tufts of the old ways are still poking out quite a bit. That feels true to me, and I think that’s OK. As a mentor used to say when asked how she was doing, “I’m in the process of becoming wonderful.” 

Where do you see change in your life? How is it emerging?

Onward,
MaryAnn

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P.S. Bonus link! I wrote recently about new ways to think about goal setting for the International Coach Federation blog.