Anyone who has seen “Shakespeare in Love” understands that William often conceived his beautiful poetry by observation of the living going on around him. He copied from life. So I imagine:
One day in a fit of writer’s block, he repairs to the town square for inspiration. There he sees a mother, care-worn, poor and tattered. Several urchins tumble in the dust around her skirts. She sits waiting for someone or something to happen by. As she waits, she mends a child’s guernsey. Nor is she darning a hole; with sticks fine as toothpicks, she studiously picks up the fallen stitches of the raveled sleeve. She frowns in concentration until she has them all and then she smiles victoriously. She begins to reknit the little arm warmer, satisfied that she is improving her sorry lot with an industry of nurture and economy.
And William pens, “ . . . knits up the raveled sleave of care,” and puts it in Macbeth.
That’s a pretty story, isn’t it? Of course, it’s thoroughly untrue. In the first place, Shakespeare’s ‘sleave’ was not the sleeve of a sweater. A ‘sleave’ was a silken thread. But whether we think the thread of care or the arm of care, the sense comes through that the raveled part of care can be knitted up.
In our time, Elizabeth Zimmerman, renowned for her knitting acumen, told all to “Knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.” She claimed that “ . . . knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
Knitting is a meditative activity. It provides time to think, and thinking while knitting mends many a raveled concern. For instance, as I knit, I might remember dear departed friends or long distanced relatives. As I knit, I might ponder an idea I heard somewhere, and I might try it on to see how it fits into my pattern of beliefs. I might figure out how to pay the bills or I might plan an outing. Thoughts go better with yarn.
“The Raveled Sleave” is a series of essays reflected on or during knitting. Knitting itself is the silken thread linking all the stories together. I hope it will entertain, inform, inspire, and encourage.
© Karlin Allen, 2012