If Sisyphus had been a knitter…

By all accounts Sisyphus was a pretty crafty guy and not in a nice way: He plotted to kill his brother, seduced his niece and then twice managed to scheme his way out of dying and exiting through the underworld as he was supposed to. Not surprisingly this didn’t go down well with the gods which is how he got condemned to spending every day for eternity, pushing his mythical rock up a hill, only to have it roll back to the bottom again each time he’d nearly reached the top.

Unlike Sisyphus, knitters tend to be crafty in a good way, but as Vi reminded me when she swung by the shop yesterday, there is an eternal struggle that knitters face, which can have a bit of a Sisiphean tinge to it.

Vi was out shopping for more yarn. It was a familiar story: She’s been making a beanie out of left-overs from previous projects, but then ran out of said left overs before the end of the hat, so needs more yarn, but the new yarn exceeds her current needs, so the left-overs story continues. In her persuit of finally using up her stash, the knitting never actually ends. The projects must go on and on..

I’ve long since regarded the knitter’s eternal ball of left-overs as more of a yoghurt-making metaphor than a Sisiphean one. For baffled yoghurt-making novices, the way we make yoghurt is to save a spoonful of the old yoghurt and mix it with milk, then let the yoghurt culture grow and turn the mixed-in milk into new yoghurt. It is literally like a magic yoghurt pot as your yoghurt goes on forever, with each new batch growing out of a bit of the old one. Brewers, bakers, potato growers and anyone else versed in cultivating new from old, will have plenty more to say on this analogy.

The basic difference between the Sisiphusean and Yoghurt knitter, is about your outlook and whether the inevitably in-vain pursuit of using up all your stash feels futile or productive. For what it’s worth I’m sticking with my Yoghurty perspective. But now that I’ve gently pulled on the Greek Gods thread there’s a glint in Brontë’s eye that promises lots more where this one came from – I see stories of Herculean sweater projects, the unattainable promise of Tantalean patterns, and the Odyssey of knitting a Gansey complete with Sirens along the way. I bet those Greek gods were into knitting – not sure why no one has ever mentioned that before?

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