Photo essay by Tom Eberhardt-Smith, illustrations by Alexis Lanza
It's a hot summer afternoon, and fiber artist Colleen Davis is thinking about her future while knitting. "I've been thinking about moving to the Hudson Valley. I loved California, but I don't think I could live there. I thought about living in Ithaca. I don't know. I'm too indecisive."
"I'm knitting a sweater. I just knit my first sweater this winter," Colleen tells me as she cradles her giant dog, Zeus. "Every stitch I'm making is going to come together to make something that protects me, which I think is an awesome concept."
Colleen tells me that she's taught hundreds of people how to knit by starting a knitting and crocheting club while studying at Hartwick College in Oneonta.
"I usually don't knit a lot in the summer," Colleen explains. "It's difficult to have wool on you when it's 90 degrees out."
A shirt that Colleen embroidered, but isn't finished. Her goal is to embroider the whole shirt. "In the front, I'm going to embroider a bunch of different objects that are important to places I've spent time in."
One of the objects Colleen says she wants to embroider on the shirt are cacti from her trip to California. This is one of the many thoughts that pops into her mind while knitting.
Colleen says that she knits a lot while doing other activities, like chatting with a friend or watching TV. One of her favorite parts of knitting, though, is the anticipation for the finished product that can be so great—it helps overcome the monotony.
"When you're first learning, it does require a lot of concentration... once you've got it down, it's just a repetitive motion and that's when it becomes mindless." The actions are mindless, it's not quite meditation—meditation implies that the mind is completely at ease. Colleen says that knitting helps her not to meditate, but to actually focus on the thoughts she wants to sort out.
Apropos wall decor, since, as Colleen puts it, "bitches do get stitches."
At the end of the day, Colleen will knit herself to sleep. Crossing over, threading under, repeating the process over and over again, she is carried away in thought, until her mind drifts so far from her movements that her hands rest.