Genie M. Wilde—evidently a subscriber to Our Young Folks—explores the metaphor of knitting as life. For Wilde, yarn and personalities, dropped stitches and morality, needles and discipline, the act of knitting and the formation of character intertwine.
“Knitting-Work,” by Genie M. Wilde (from Our Young Folks, March 1872; pp. 179-180)

[From a section titled “Our Young Contributors”]

Let others daintily tat and embroider, nor deign to look at my poorer knitting-work,—to me it is a source of great comfort, always varying its sympathy to suit the mood in which it may find me.

Sometimes I am glad; my heart throbs high with happiness; in every flower and blade of grass, in every tree that dips its leafy top in the blue of heaven, I see the impress of God’s finger; in every brook and warble of the wild bird’s song I hear the utterance of his voice. Then into the homely stocking I weave bright thoughts of a beautiful world. Nor is my confidence in vain. The wool twines itself lovingly about my fingers, and the needles in their cheerful, constant converse echo the thoughts in my mind.

Again clouds overshadow my life. It seems naught but "a long, a rough, a weary road.” No flowers, no sunshine, no joy. The cold phantom, Memory, keeps grim watch over the graves in my heart. And O the dreary desolateness of heart graves! My unheeded knitting-work looks its silent reproach, as I take it in my hand, and the heated tears fall upon it. The wool grows softer under my saddened touch; the clash and clatter of the needles sink into a gentle whisper in their kindly efforts to console me, and as one by one in quick succession I note the stitches change their places, my brain becomes clearer, and the troubles on my heart seem to have fallen into the work.

Then quaint thoughts come clustering around the glistening needles. I see my work increase by the simple effort I make in placing the wool over the ends and drawing it through the stitches; relax my effort, and the work remains unchanged; continue the motion, but fail to use the wool, and still it is the same. While my hands are thus employed, my mind finds amusement in the semblance between the work and life. I remember that we cannot by our work alone form a truly beautiful character, but must constantly draw material from the Great Source, and then by our own hands it must be wrought into a symmetry and beauty pleasing to the Father.

But see! I have careless dropped a stitch. Half vaguely I watch it, forgetting that to save my work the wandering stitch should be at once reclaimed. At first the injury is very slight,—scarcely to be noticed, in fact; but it creeps stealthily adown, adown the work, until too late I find that my labor is almost lost because of the ugly streak my carelessness has made. I see in this an evil habit, scarcely perceptible at first, but slowly and surely stealing its way long, until a life is irrevocably marred that might otherwise have seemed perfect.

Anon I fall to making comparisons between the work and people I have seen. There are the coarse, unpleasant black or brown stocking people, from whom we instinctively turn aside, as they stalk along through life, savagely pushing everything before them, while they cry out from hearts void of any love save for self, “Life ’s a wofully practical race, and you folks that stop to pluck flowers by the way will find the gate at the other end closed before you!” Then the blue and white yarn, “mixed” I think they call it; does it not carry you into the very midst of jolly, good-natured farm people by whom it is used so much? It does me, until I can almost see the gay family, rejoicing in the full possession of physical and moral health, gathered around the evening table, and with them can almost taste the yellow pumpkin-pies and nicely seasoned ginger-snaps.

The bright, gayly plaided work represents another class of people. These I fancy are mostly young girls. Gay, joyous creatures, who, though now and then surprised

p. 180

into the knowledge that life is not all dreams and fancies, persist in never quarelling with it, but laugh their way long, as merry as a June day. Capricious, dangerous creatures they may be,—and, like a skein of tangled yarn, the more we work at them the worse they may get,—yet withal so full of warmth and sunshine are they, making us so happy by their presence even while they torture us, that we can but love and take them to our hearts, almost wishing that the world were filled with just such beings.

And the pretty white knitting-work,—shawls and other articles of real artistic beauty,—even this passed over common wooden needles, stitch by stitch, and in every one invisible threads of genius and patience are cunningly interwoven. And for the hard, unpliable needles of discipline, could never have been woven into the quiet, loving influence which falls like a dainty drapery about those who come within their charmed circle, winning the love and admiration of all.

Ah, this work of mine has suggested many a kindly thought to me; and while I remember its consolations and cheerful chats, while reverence lives in my heart for the dear old grandmother who first guided my childish hands into its mysteries, never will I forsake my knitting-work.

Dubuque, Iowa.

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