Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Astrology of Knitting

Is there astrology specific to knitting?

This is "The Return of Ulysses" by Romare Bearden. Bearden instinctively grasped the connection between the fiber arts and occult knowledge. He shows Penelope weaving, but a cat plays with yarn under the loom, and a messenger crow waits outside the window.

As an increasingly avid knitter and an astrologer, I have been wondering about this. There is a signature for talent in the fiber arts, I think. Knitting, crocheting, tatting, and weaving are included in the fiber arts, and the common denominator for them all is the tying of knots.

Astrology-savvy knitters think of Virgo as the sign of the craftsman. This could be any craft, from baking to woodworking, which is done with the hands. It doesn’t have to be knitting. Saturn is the planet associated with time, and knitting is nothing but an endless repetition of loops or knots extending into infinity. Saturn gets closer to the spirit of the fiber arts, in my opinion, while Virgo represents anything done with the hands. That said, the anal, extreme detail-orientation of a hard-core Virgo is the defining characteristic of those who are good enough to join a knitting guild.

In Vedic astrology, the Third House is associated with the urge to create using one’s hands. Having a benefic like Venus or Jupiter in both the rasi and the navamsa often confers a life-long talent in one of the arts or crafts, but once again, this could also be anything from cooking to carpentry. For people who don’t have a career in the arts, the benefic in the navamsa may be more important, because interest in crafting seems to blossom in a subject’s mid-thirties and beyond.

Getting back to western astrology - are Saturn-in-Virgo natives top suspects? Sure, but think more broadly. Think about a ruling Saturn, or a strongly aspected planet in Virgo, or a stellium in either Capricorn or Virgo, or either of these signs on the angles. These natal configurations don’t promise a knitter, but they do tend to show up in the background.


If there is any natal aspect closely associated with knitting, I suspect it has to be the hard aspect (conjunction, square, or opposition) between Moon and Saturn, and occasionally the trine. Moon-Saturn hard aspects love to braid hair, tie knots, or weave rugs. It is as if the Moon needs a beautiful, nurturing way to express the limitations of Saturn, and Saturn is forever tying us in knots or binding us in some way.

Why Moon-Saturn hard aspects? Hard aspects create tension between two planets, and stress in the subject’s life. Knitting is very meditative once the knitter knows what he or she is doing. Saturn requires patience, but it also gives the gift of meditation, and the satisfaction of creation during time that would otherwise go to waste. Moon-Saturn hard aspects are a challenge to manage – they are associated with depression, difficult motherhood, difficulties in becoming a mother, difficulties with one’s own mother, and constant delays and restrictions in one’s life circumstances. Yet, with knitting, Saturn provides an artistic solution for some of the very problems it creates.

How does the Moon show up? The nurturing generosity of knitters can be legendary – they are forever knitting gifts for other people. Even those who only knit for themselves are usually pretty generous when it comes to teaching others how to knit.


When I began researching this article, I was surprised to find no mention of Pluto in connection with the fiber arts. Pluto is a portal to the underworld – it is represented by the occult, and has associations with remaining invisible and also with causing death. Consider some examples from the following myths, songs, and stories.

The myths of the ancient gods sometimes focused on the fiber arts – think of Arachne, the girl who infuriated Athena by weaving a tapestry depicting the transgressions of the gods – she ended up a spider. In fairy tales, spinning yarn or thread was associated with mild trance – magic might take place as a result. Spells were contained in knots – recipients of hand-made clothes were wary of gifts that might interfere with their free will. The folk song, “Are You Going to Scarborough Fair?” recalls this idea with the lyric, “Tell her to make me a cambric shirt, without any seams or needlework.” The singer assures us he will give his love only if it is not coerced by occult means.

Pluto comes to mind when I think of the Moirai – the ancient goddesses of fate and destiny. Chlotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured out the thread and was said to make choices about a person’s destiny after the thread was measured, and the scary Atropos cut the thread. Atropos lives on in the name of the toxic plant Atropa belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade, and also in atropine, an anti-cholinergic drug derived from the plant which ironically keeps a compromised heart beating.

Take knitting away from the knitter, and he or she will seethe or twitch with frustration. Madame Defarge, of Tale of Two Cities fame, is a most Plutonian knitter – she knits the names of those the French Revolution will destroy. A modern knitter is more likely to knit the name of the one who took the knitting away.

There is now a resurgence of popularity in public (visible) knitting, which peaked right around the time Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008, and is still going strong. But I remember my grandmother knitting when I was a little girl – women didn’t knit in public back then. Knitting was something that made her less visible, but I now realize it also allowed her the luxury of observations made in silence (Pluto is invisible).


Rather than focus on the planets or aspects behind knitting, the author of this blog observed knitters on an unspecified forum, possibly, according to their sun signs. Her sharp perceptions about knitters who made revealing self-assessments ended up as an article simply titled, “Knitters”.

I have a Capricorn stellium, and this blogger nailed Capricorn. She notes that Capricorn knitters have a knack for color or spatial dynamics, adds that they knit because they hate to waste time, and sniffs out their dislike of wasteful stashes. I had already written “My First Socks”, where I mentioned that color is my talent, and “My Knitting Philosophy”, with its remarks about show-off stashes and class warfare, before I discovered her article, and I had to laugh. There is no denying I’m a Capricorn knitter. Her article is worth checking out.


If there is one famous knitter who taps the hidden power of the ancient gods, it has to be Barbara Walker. Before beginning research on this article, I knew her only as the author of “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”, which won Book of the Year from the Times (London) in 1986.
It turns out this book was a mere sideline for her – she had already made her reputation as the Julia Child of knitting with the publication of “Mosaic Knitting” in 1976, and followed it up with an even greater achievement, the four-part series, “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns”.

Like Julia Child, Walker rigorously tested all of her patterns, because she understood that knitting success can hinge on a single incorrect purl stitch in the wrong place. She was a perfectionist and an extremely thorough collector who ended up preserving much of what is known of the entire art of knitting – almost all contemporary knitting designers refer to her work. No matter what Fair Isle motif or lace pattern a knitter selects today, chances are good that Walker carefully recorded it years ago.

Naturally, I was curious about her natal horoscope. She was born July 2, 1930. I don’t have a birth time. Yet, even without a birth time, some things jump out of this horoscope immediately. Ruling Saturn in Capricorn is opposite Pluto in Cancer, creating an energy axis between the two planets I associate most closely with the fiber arts. There is a decent likelihood of Moon square Saturn. And Neptune (creativity) is partile conjunct Vesta (one’s life purpose, what one invests in most heavily) in the 1st degree of Virgo! (Vesta is not shown in the chart below.) Without a doubt, this woman had a knitter’s signature.


Steege, Gwen. The Knitter’s Life List, Storey Publishing, 2011.

I found Romare Bearden’s “The Return of Ulysses” in this book, as well as biographical information on Barbara Walker.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Knitting Philosophy

THOUGHTS ON SOCKS (My Knitting Philosophy)

Trying on a sock just after turning the heel.


•There is nothing wrong with mindless knitting (and indeed, a good deal to be said for it – many women knit precisely because knitting becomes “mindless” and therefore meditative, once you know what you are doing). Simple ribbed socks, or plain-Jane, stocking-net-stitch socks that show off a fancy, self-striping yarn, are the easiest knitting out there. Totally mindless. Call it “stupid knitting” – once you know what you are doing.
•I love “stupid knitting”. I’ve got the rest of my life to prove my competence in other areas – knitting is one thing that doesn’t have to go on my resume.
•There are two kinds of sock heels in this world – the kind that have a heel, heel flap, and gussets (round heels, square heels, band heels), and the kind that don’t (short rows and afterthought heels). Maybe it’s the Capricorn in me, but I prefer structure. Socks with a traditional heel, heel flap, and gussets have the best fit, and fit is everything when it comes to socks.
•Socks can easily knit from stashed yarn, and a knitter can shape their stash around socks, because they are easy to knit from a single skein. That said, I’m not a big fan of big-stash ladies.
•Having a large stash is wasteful – a lot of it never gets used, and is simply given away, or it gets thrown out. Rachel Herron, author of “A Life in Stitches” and owner of, points out that our grandmothers who knit never had large stashes. They knit carefully according to the project – and budgeted enough extra for mending only. Herron’s grandparents were sheep farmers in New Zealand – yarn was made to sell, not to show off in a stash to demonstrate one’s discretionary income or careless spending habits.
•But there is one thing that can be said for having a small stash. In terms of emotional well-being, four or five versatile skeins in a stash will get you through an extended period of no money far better than money will get you through a time of no knitting.
•Socks are quick and easy gifts. For those who aren’t married, the gift of socks is a lifesaving alternative to knitting a sweater before one has a ring, or is safely hitched – this is known as the “Sweater Curse”. The “Sweater Curse” is a myth, but most knitters know better than to fuck with it.
•Socks are portable. They can sit in the trunk of your car for years until you finally get around to them. I should know.
•Hand-knit socks and sweaters should look hand-knit – there should be some small design element (lace, picot border, a few Fair Isle motifs) or creative use of color that lets the viewer know that this is a hand-knit item. Otherwise, what’s the point?


•Cost is the elephant in the room. I’m serious. A fancy skein of hand-dyed yarn costs $28.00 these days. $28 for socks! Are you kidding? Socks cost $2 at WalMart. The most expensive, manufactured pair of socks I own – the Smartwool socks that I hike in, and could not live without – cost me $18. So, I’m spending $23 to $28 for fancy, hand-dyed yarn to knit socks that I must hand wash. I’m spending more for socks that don’t have the knitting technology found in a pair of Smartwool socks. Where class warfare exists in knitting, socks are at the center of the war.
•In terms of cost, socks are the poorest value out there. For a knitter, the item with the highest “added value” is probably a shawl - it takes only two skeins of yarn to knit a large, heirloom piece that can be handed down to one’s children. Try doing that with socks.
•Socks wear out, and get lost. But they’re not as bad as fingerless mitts. Nothing gets lost more easily than a fingerless mitt. No sooner do they come off the needle than one of them goes missing. You might as well just knit a matching set of three, and pray...

NEXT UP: The Astrology of Knitting

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My First Socks

Just sitting around on my day off, contemplating the need for hand-made socks.

I put off knitting my first socks for the longest time – I’m four years into knitting, and this is my first pair. I’ve knit a beautiful full-length lace shawl, and figured out fitted sweaters with set-in sleeves, and I haven’t had the nerve to take on socks.

All the different parts of the sock – cuff, leg, heel, heel flap, gusset, instep, sole, and toe – scared me to death. How was I going to figure out how to knit all of that, and pull off a Kitchener stitch to sew the darn thing up, too? It made me think of my long-ago French boyfriend who insisted that I memorize all the different parts of the cow because he said Americans didn’t know shit about butchering meat. I thought socks would become the French butchery of knitting, and I tucked my tail beneath my legs, let out a MOOOOOOOO, and ran.

Two years ago, I knitted two pairs of cuffs with a gorgeous, midnight-navy Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga yarn called “Sooty Dancer” that cost me an arm and a leg. (Sadly, this gorgeous color is discontinued, and Sanguine Gryphon has split up, although still operational. It’s other half is now called Cephalopod Yarns, and I do recommend them, despite the fact that I swear their yarn requires a designated credit card.) I named them “Junk-in-the-Trunk” socks, stowed them in the trunk of my trusty wheels, and they stayed there for two whole years (you don’t want to know what else is in that trunk, so don’t ask).

Then I finally found a teacher I could afford – Mary, the owner of Two Rivers Yarns in Brunswick, MD, is offering private half hour classes for $15.00 a half hour – you won’t find a better price anywhere in the DC metropolitan area. In fact, I’m willing to bet she is one of the most affordable knitting teachers in the entire country. Now, I would have someone to help me when I got stuck. For the first time, I began to feel the necessary confidence to tackle socks.

So, the first thing I did was fish the rainbow-colored, total 1970’s Shalimar finger-weight out of stash and knit a second pair – notice that I knit top-down to the part where I turned the heel, and then I stopped. (Gemini, the sign of the twins, is on my natal MidHeaven, and it isn’t there for nothing, ladies.) Now, I would have two pairs to learn the round heel and the Kitchener stitch on (more fun and misery for all concerned, right?)

Two pairs of socks at once is the only way to go with a Gemini Midheaven...

The book I used is “Sock Knitting Master Class” by Ann Budd. It has a CD, and knitters these days swear by CD’s in the back of a knitting book. I wouldn’t know, because the CD player in my 10 year old, museum piece laptop is broken. When I upgrade to the modern world, I’ll let you know, dear readers.
The lace pattern I used is “Rose Ribs” (p. 81). It’s probably a great pattern. I don’t know how to knit it (never mind the gorgeous lace shawl I did figure out). I’ve done nothing but botch the lace, so to save face, I’ve started alternating the lace with sections of stocking-net.
My mostly orange "rainbow" sock on top of the "Rose Ribs" pattern. When finished, these socks may not be much good for anything other than wearing around Halloween. Knitting cheaply out of the stash has a way of leading to laughter AT you in the end. Or these could turn out really just don't know until your project is close to done.

Small sections of lace allow some air in. Random yarn-overs speak to my laziness – only an anal knitter would chart their first sock, and I’m a don’t-worry, be-happy knitter. When I was a total knitting beginner, I didn’t even know how to cover my screw-ups. Four years in, I’m still a sloppy knitter (I’ll never make the knitting guild), but now I know how to hide things. Mwahahahahahaha!

When someone asks me what my talent in knitting is, I always answer, “Color”. By that, I don’t mean knitting color blocks, or intarsia. I mean putting colors together. I don’t sit there with a color wheel, but I’ve always had an eye for color (you want colors for a Fair Isle fingerless mitt – try three pairs of your favorite skinny yarn in these colors – burgundy and lime green, teal and lavender, navy and off-white – you’ll see how pretty this combination is). Although I am the first one to admit that knitting technique matters, and anal knitters make the most beautiful items, I am better at blogging and color. Everybody’s got a talent!

NEXT UP: My Knitting Philosophy