How wool and metal keeps me centered with the added bonus of a kick ass wardrobe
I started knitting late. I was in my early forties and newly married. My husbands Mum is an excellent knitter. Since she did not have such a stellar relationship with her previous daughter in law I thought this may be a good way to bond with her. In my mind, I thought it would be a great way to give her back some of the fulfilling time she did not experience with “wife one” by teaching “wife two” something she loved . Both my mother and grandmother were also beautiful knitters and crocheters. A few years prior to this my own mother had passed away. For ME, I thought this exercise in learning may help to heal some of the emotional gaps I was experiencing at the time. I also equated it to the long tradition of learning how to cook from your mother or mother in law, passing down the recipes and techniques as was the generational thing. My mother in law is an amazing knitter. Cooking — not so much. Bring on the yarn…
At first, my knitting was cumbersome– messy and irregular as I struggled with simple scarf shapes. Too tight- too loose. Most of my finished pieces wound up balled up in a box never to be seen again until later, to remind me how far I eventually had come.
After taking some lessons and watching some you tube videos I improved. I was knitting sweaters and semi complex stitch patterns. I would get lost in the instruction, counting my stitches over and over as a mantra. I would try my best to follow what was written on a pattern graph if it was called for. Hearing the click click of my needles was soothing and would block out whatever madness of life was going on in the background. It was time that I took to decompress my brain, for it is impossible for the conscious mind to process two thoughts at once. The knitting “thought” took over everything else. I had read someplace that an analysis conducted by Harvard Medical School found that knitting “lowers the heart rate by and average of 11 beats per minute and induces an “enhanced state of calm” There were also known studies showing that knitting reduces harmful levels of cortisol in the brain. Not only were the benefits similar to yoga which I also had practiced for several years, but you also got a new kick ass piece of clothing to wear or gift when you were done that brings you compliments and accolades– and then — here it comes–you get to say you made it! Move over Stella McCartney– ! (Full disclosure–she should not be worried at this time…)
My beautiful friend Dina Mor who owns a knitting shop in my town can tell the story of how knitting helped her mentally recover and go forward after a devastating miscarriage. Her shop is my oasis. I go in and look at all the many colors and textures of the yarns she features– fuzzy yarns, cottony yarns, metallic yarns. There is this “tactile fulfillment” knitters have to feel the yarn as it moves thru your hand and fingers. Its also great fun to choose colors as though you are about to knit with the biggest crayola box you can imagine. “Cast on- itis” is what knitters lovingly call that “state” of being so excited to start a new project with inspiring and beautifully colored yarn, that sometimes it is easy to move from one project to the other without finishing the first. Its a real thing! I used to have a friend that would take a box of Godiva chocolate, sit with a garbage can between her legs and”taste n toss” each piece , move to the next so she could sample it all. Its kinda like that.
Dina’s shop is always busy with many women- and the occasional gent– with their own stories that they share as they click their needles and sit around her big shop table. Chatter abounds of marriage, of loss, the occasional movie review and of course what item to knit for the new grandchild du jour. There is a lot of that. I am not knitting baby blankets as of yet, and although when I join I usually sit and focus on my stitching rather than the dialogue, there is this unspoken bond with “makers”. We have all come to gather for the common good of yarn . I sometimes marvel at the mental agility of the ladies that sit at that table, some of them octogenarians. I am convinced their knitting contributes to that state of being. There is also an entire knitting community spread out on social media– designer, dyers and personalities– something for every knitter to “virtually” churn up their creative juices. It is amazing how a little wool, metal and perseverance can lead to mindfulness, joy and well being. Did I mention the kick ass sweater bonus?