Sunday, 3 May 2015

How knitting keeps me (sort of) sane

I was unhappy and stressed-out. After a family loss and a big career change I was not at ease. Plus, like many moms, I was finding hard to juggle motherhood, house chores and a full-time job while trying to find time for myself. Knitting gave me the peace I was looking for or at least part of it.

For as long as I can remember, I can picture both my grandmothers knitting. I didn't know my paternal grandma (Tita) much, as she died when I was young. But one of the most vivid memories I have of Tita is her knitting bag: it was gold and teal brocade with delicate light blue yarn inside. For some reason that yarn and that colour remained in my memory, and I associate that particular hue of blue with her. I call that colour "Tita blue".

As for my maternal grandma, she is still in our lives and up until her 90th birthday she knitted every day pretty much everything: from exquisite baby sweaters of fine pastel-coloured yarn, to bathroom mats made of colourful thick wool. She knitted for us, not only sweaters, but socks, blankets, ponchos and very uncomfortable underwear. Looking at her knitting while chatting, watching TV and organizing grandpa's life always seemed utterly peaceful.

I have always associated needlework with peacefulness. Yet, I have never been interested in actually knitting. Mainly for two reasons:

1) I used to wrongfully connect knitting to being old, thinking it’s for grandmas. I can assure you they didn't learn to knit on their 80th birthday, they've probably been knitters for most of their life.
2) I'm not very good at crafts, even when I want to learn every single craft there is from embossing to macramé every time I go to a Michel's store.

But when a group of colleagues (yes, all under 70) created The Knitting Club as a part of a wellbeing program, I decided to give it a try. I was spending most of my lunch hour staring at my iPhone browsing through junk in social media and I thought knitting could be good for a change and a nice way to de-stress.

Before this I had tried a few things to alleviate stress, including meditation, but while I consider it a very respectable discipline it's not my cup of tea. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the very first time I tried meditation it was in my boss' office. Being barefoot and with my eyes closed in front of superiors and colleagues made me feel a bit awkward! As one of my colleagues put it: "It was like having sex with someone for the first time, I kept thinking, am I breathing too loud? Do my feet smell?" There is no way one can learn to relax like that!

So, I went to the first knitting meeting. I have never felt so stupid in my life! It was supposed to be an all-levels group, yet I was the only one who had no idea what they meant by purl or cast-on and some of the participants were actually wearing their creations! They kindly offered to teach me but I was looking at the needles as if they were heavy machinery. After 45 minutes, this is what I was able to accomplish:

It was so stressful that I almost quit, but I didn't. Later on that afternoon, back at home, I looked up knitting tutorials on YouTube and hit replay and pause until I figured it out.

I'm no Martha Stewart, and I doubt I’ll ever be as good as my grandma, but now I'm down to 3 scarves and I have started knitting a blanket. My kids proudly wear their colourful scarves and I think it's good for them seeing me peacefully knitting next to them rather than exhausted looking compulsively at my iPhone.

I still stress over a myriad of things, that is just who I am, but knitting relaxes me and takes me away. I whisper, "one knit, one purl, one knit, one purl" like a mantra and suddenly I'm at ease. I'm sure it did the same for my grandmas, knitting took them thought births and deaths, joy and sorrow, one knit and one purl at a time.

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