Fear of Needles
by Wren Ross- Published in Interweave Knits Notes
Vol.2 Issue 2 Winter 2001
My heart sank as I heard the woman on the phone
say the words I dreaded,” No knitting needles on the plane”.
What to do? I plan for weeks which project will keep me company
on my frequent flights between Albuquerque and Boston. It is not
a short trip- about six hours in the air, plus extra hours of
waiting for connections. For this particular flight I had chosen
a white cotton sweater in stockinette stitch. I felt reassured
by the purity of white, the cleanness of cotton and the mindless
comfort of knit a row, purl a row. I was hoping this would be
a mantra to calm my jangled nerves about flying since September
11. Knitting has always been the meditation that helps me feel
balanced and helps me listen quietly within. It is a comforting
distraction that has the great bonus of being an accomplishment.
Also, I am never afraid of delays or waiting because I have my
knitting with me. While everyone else is fuming and complaining,
I happily have more time to knit. Now I have to fidget like everyone
How can knitting be threatening? Outside of Mme Defarge in Tale
of Two Cities- how many knitter spies do you know? How many murders
use knitting needles? Yet now, my needles are considered a weapon
and potentially dangerous. But here is the really scary part:
It isn’t me that is threatening with these knitting needles
I have been using for twenty years, it is someone else on the
plane. Someone I don’t know who wants to hurt me. Someone
who wants to make us all feel afraid. It is reminiscent of the
bogeyman that lived under the bed and in the closet. He was an
angry, hateful amorphous and unseen force that would punish me
for being alive. I can put the light on and look hard for the
bogeyman, but when I shut the lights, he returns to frighten me.
I knew someone on United flight 175, the second plane that hit
the World Trade Center. I worked with him on a number of TV commercials.
His name was Bill and he had a twinkle in his eye and a ready
laugh. I never became his friend but I always loved working with
him. Now, I cannot stop seeing the image of him, his eyes filled
with fear in that ill-fated airplane cabin. I would hate to think
that my knitting needles would contribute to his or anyone else’s
terror. We live in a different world now. A world where even knitting
needle can be a weapon in the wrong hands. Where trust is fallen
with those two tall buildings.
In the past, I might be lulled by the mindlessness
of knitting, the calming repetition where I could be dreamily
distracted and drift deep inside myself. Now we are called upon
to be mindful and vigilant to be externally aware of what is going
on around us. To watch and listen because our lives depend on
Of course not being able to knit on the plane is
a small sacrifice compared to the huge loss of life and the enormity
of the catastrophe. Not to mention, the incredible sacrifices
of the firefighters and police. All those stories of heroism.
However small, it is my sacrifice and it certainly affects my
little world and I imagine there are many other knitters who feel
the same loss. What I have noticed after this tragedy is that
with all of our
collective losses and sacrifices- small or large- we are beginning
to look in each other’s eyes and talk to each other. And
we are not talking about the weather. We are talking about our
feelings, our fears, grief, hope, needs for support. We are expressing
our appreciation for being alive. We are talking about what we
believe in, what we dream. We are bonding.
There was a wonderful story about an airline pilot,
who, a week after
Sept. 11, told everyone on the plane to meet their neighbors-
find out who they are and where they are going. Make friends with
the person on each side. He said no terrorist could destroy a
united community. He told the passengers that they should all
throw things like pillows, shoes or books at anyone who might
start to act up.
So maybe on my next flight I won’t knit and
I won’t read. Maybe I will take that pilot’s advice
and get to know my neighbors. Really get to know who they are
and what they care about. Maybe we will discover a new kind of
human fiber art- the knitting together of strangers that will
create a community with a strong fabric of love, trust and spirit.
That is indeed a beautiful project to take on the plane.
(Note: TSA regulations allow knitting needles on
airplanes now- This piece represents feelings and thoughts prevalent
immediately after September 11, 2001. )