by Mark Brummitt, Phd
“Rich wounds yet visible above in beauty glorified” (Bridges and Thring).
I can be ruthless. “Don’t knit if you don’t like ripping out,” I’ve been known to tell people—typically other knitters who watch in horror as I rip out a whole sleeve. “Ripping is knitting,” I say.
Ruthless. I’ll rip right away—before I’ve had time to consider whether some fault or other really notices.
And if I’ve only spotted my mistake after sewing up a sweater, say, I’ll hide the whole damn project away and pretend it never happened. Glitch gone. Shame tucked away.
Ruthless indeed. To the point of pathology. Not, perhaps, to the point of turning my house into a cardigan’s graveyard. I don’t have reject knitwear buried at the back of every closet or anything. No. Nothing so murder-y. Just a sweater here a sock there. Parcels of occasional regret.
Of course, the glitch may be gone but then so is all the good stuff. And given that every item is 99.9% okay (that’s a ballpark figure; I am not nearly so picky when it comes to math), that’s extraordinarily wasteful, let alone….
Well, I’ll let you add your own adjectives there.
It is not as if I approach life in general this way. It is not, for example, how I approach other people—at least, I hope it is not. I mean, I hope I don’t dismiss someone summarily on the basis of a single misstep (or misstitch, say). Anyway, knitting aside, it is not how I approach myself, even. While I’m often keenly aware of my many mistaken and dropped stitches—sins of commission and omission, to use the more traditional terms—I am nevertheless brazen enough to face the world (rather than stuff myself in a cupboard).
More than that. If there’s any center to my “spirituality”—for want of a better word—it is a sense that salvation/sanctification/healing/maturity (take your pick) comes by-means-of mistakes not in-spite-of them. I don’t offer this as license to sin boldly (you can do that on your own dime). Rather, I say this to affirm the possibility of grace—that not only might our own sins become sites of transformation, but that those wounds caused by the sins of others can become sites of transformation too.
Perhaps the Japanese art of kintsugi—”golden joinery”—offers a better analogy for this than knitting. After all, knitting can always be ripped out and redone (even after being finished—if you can stomach it). Not so with ceramics. After clay is finished (fired) a crack is here to stay. In kintsugi, as much a philosophy as an art, a broken item need not be discarded; its cracks, now part of its story, can be filled with golden lacquer and so add to its beauty instead.
Maybe I should start training myself to think that way about knitting. Maybe I should start brazenly fixing mistakes with a contrast color. And unless they threaten to unravel the knitted fabric, maybe I should simply leave them well alone.
Hmm. But if I wanted bloody holes in my work, I’d learn to crochet.
Mark Brummitt is the Associate Professor of Old Testament Interpretation. He gained a BA in Theology (First Class Honors) at King’s College London, received the English Fellowship to complete the Master of Sacred Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York, studied theater and performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts/King’s College London, and completed a PhD in Biblical Studies with Yvonne Sherwood at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Dr Brummitt writes regularly for the Expository Times and the Encyclopedia of Biblical Reception; he is publishing Jeremiah: Reconstructing the Prophet (2013) with Oxford University Press and a commentary on Jeremiah for the Fortress Commentary of the Old Testament (2014). Other areas of interest include Bible and culture; reading theory (structuralism; poststructuralism; gender theory; critical theory); and the literary reception of the Bible.
Rows 27-28 and 1-6 of Pattern #26 of the Japanese Stitch Bible