Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

Another Poem about Knitting September 8, 2009

Filed under: Knitting,Poetry,Scotland — Janet @ 9:14 pm

I am enjoying finding knitting-related poems.  Here is another one by Jackie Kay, a Scottish poet, born in Edinburgh in 1961 to a white mother and a Nigerian father.  She was adopted by a white couple and brought up in Glasgow.   She is an MBE and she teaches creative writing at Newcastle University. 

Jackie Kay
The Knitter

I knit to keep death away

For hame will dae me.

On a day like this the fine mist

Is a dropped stitch across the sky.


I knit to hold a good yarn

For stories bide with me

On a night like this, by the peat fire;

I like a story with a herringbone twist.


But a yarn aye slips through your fingers.

And my small heart has shrunk with years.

I couldn’t measure the gravits, the gloves, the mittens,

The jerseys, the cuffs, the hose, the caps,


The cowls, the cravats, the cardigans,

The hems and facings over the years.

Beyond the sea wall, the waves unfurl.

I knitted through the wee stitched hours.


I knitted till my eyes filled with tears,

Till the dark sky filled with colour.

Every spare moment. Time was a ball of wool.

I knitted to keep my croft; knitted to save my life.


When my man was out at sea; I knitted the fishbone.

Three to the door, three to the fire.

The more I could knit; the more we could eat.

I knitted to mend my broken heart


When the sea took my man away, and by day

I knitted to keep the memories at bay.

I knitted my borders by the light of the fire

When the full moon in the sky was a fresh ball of yarn.


I knitted to begin again: Lay on, sweerie geng.

Takkin my makkin everywhere I gang.

Een and een. Twin pins. My good head.

A whole life of casting on, casting off


Like the North sea. I watch wave after wave,

plain and purl, casting on, casting off.

I watch the ferries coming back, going away.

Time is a loop stitch. I knit to keep death away.

Jackie writes about the inspiration behind ‘The Knitter’ in a blog she did for the Poetry Society as part of their National Poetry Day celebrations in 2006: http://more.poetrysociety.org.uk/blogs/jkblog.php

The Knitter was one of the Poetry Society’s current series of Poems of the Week.


5 Responses to “Another Poem about Knitting”

  1. mlegan Says:

    These are great fun. did you find the Seamus Heaney one? I googled around a bit, but didn’t find anything.

  2. Janet Says:

    I’m working on trying to find it. I think it’s titled A Hank of Wool but I’m not quite sure.

  3. […] Filed under: Knitting, Poetry — Janet @ 8:53 pm After a comment by Yarnerinas on one of my previous blogs, I have been searching and searching for a particular poem by Seamus Heaney.  The title I had to […]

  4. Elaine Reed Says:

    I wonder if someone knows a very old poem about knitting a stocking where the knitter drops a stitch, and alas a hole appears only later. Recited by my
    Aunt as a child in church in the late 1800’s. It would mean so much if I could locate it. Many thanks.

  5. Renae Says:

    About 30+ years ago I read a poem about a lady listing all the things her friend could do but at the very end she said “but she didn’t know how to knit”. I have repeated that phrase so many times since then when I felt inadequate. It raised my spirits and reminded me that no one is perfect and we all have special attributes. Does anyone know the name of the poem or who wrote it? It sure inspired my life.

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