My knitting history
The Christmas I turned 6 my Mom surprised me with a wardrobe of impossibly tiny and ever so fashionably knitted clothes. They were made for my family of Barbie dolls. There were even a couple sweaters and a fedora for Ken! I haven’t saved much from my childhood. It was, ahem, a looong time ago! But I still have some of my Barbies, including those evening gowns and sweaters that must have been knitted on size 0 needles.
My mother was one of the most talented and endlessly curious women I’ve ever known and without a doubt my own love of creating with textiles and fibers can be traced back to her. Our house was constantly full of sewing, knitting, needlework and crochet supplies.
Knitting as a form of meditation was not a concept mom or anyone else was talking about when I learned to knit. A child of the Great Depression, mom learned to knit and sew to clothe herself and fulfill her longing for beautiful things that a poor family could not afford.
Inexpensive clothing is ubiquitous today and knitting socks and sweaters is not something most of us have to do to stay warm. So why do we knit? Why is there a Facebook group of 10,000+ people devoted entirely to knitting “Strictly Socks”? Go ahead – check it out, it’s a thing!
Why I knit
One reason is that I just love how it feels in my hands. Knitting is a highly tactile experience. Is the yarn lofty and soft, or a natural slightly scratchy alpaca wool that will make a sweater to be worn over a turtleneck? What do I feel when I transfer the stitch markers each round? How does the yarn slide on my needles and how is the cake wound? Each of these elements come together in the creation of something unique, beautiful and useful. For me, there’s nothing else like it.
Over the years I've noticed that the repetitive motion of knitting puts me in a kind of trance as my mind gently wanders. If the stitch is simple I can reflect on whatever is going on in my life. Answers to questions and challenges come to me effortlessly as I fall into a rhythm.
If it’s a difficult project, I find relief as I concentrate on nothing but the pattern repeat. This breaks the cycle of endlessly ruminating on what’s not working in life and coaxes me to find better feeling thoughts.
Is Knitting the new yoga?
Many seasoned knitters will say that knitting is the most relaxing time of their day. And it's true that the repetitive motion or difficult stitch repeat that requires complete concentration can bring the same benefits that a mindfulness or meditation practice brings.
I have a regular meditation practice and though knitting doesn’t take it's place, it definitely is a form of meditation for me. A 5 or 10 minute knitting break from work centers me and I go back to whatever I was doing in a calmer, more productive frame of mind.
Knitting probably won’t replace yoga. Goodness knows that 6 hours solid of Netflix and Knit on the couch has never done anything good for my backside! (C’mon, no judging! You’ve been there.) But I do believe that whatever is happening in our lives, knitting with a mindful intent can calm us and help quiet our monkey minds. I know it does for me.