I’m a knitter. I have a dedicated area in my living room with a yarn ball winder and swift. They’re permanently sit up on top of a set of cubbies that holds most of my yarn stash in baskets, interspersed with pattern books. There’s always a project on my couch and I take my latest creation with me everywhere I go. I’ve been known to knit while watching my son at the park or at the bus stop. It’s a part of my life that I don’t expect to ever give up, but it’s far more than a hobby to me.
My knitting began in my late twenties. I’d seen friends doing it at various gatherings but it had always intimidated me. But reading on the bus into work was making me nauseous. And it was boring sitting for an hour staring out the window. I decided to try knitting. I bought a beginner’s kit and knit my first garter stitch scarf. And it all grew from there.
When I found out I was pregnant, I knit baby bunting, blankets, and booties for my son. At first in yellow, before I knew his gender, but then in blues and purples. I knit for my spouse and friends, with varying degrees of success.
Shortly after I filed for divorce, I became obsessive about my knitting. Sweater after sweater came off my needles, never to be blocked or assembled. I hunted for yarn sales and built my stash, subscribed to knitting magazines and bought books.
On my ‘off’ weekends, I’d binge watch my favorite series on Netflix and knit. I couldn’t even tell you how many projects I completed because I didn’t keep track. Having something on my needles became a compulsion of sorts. If I wasn’t knitting, I was planning my next project.
And I was healing. Research has shown that knitting can help with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Some researchers think that the repetitive motions are a form of meditation. In the midst of starting up a yoga and meditation practice and seeing an actual therapist, knitting became an unrecognized companion to my recovery process.
There is something truly magical about taking raw materials and turning them into a wearable object. It’s deeply satisfying to finish a winter hat for my son and watch him grab it off my lap, shove it on his head and run outside to play. Anytime I receive a compliment on a handknit, I glow with pride.
I was proving to myself that I could make something of beauty out of what looked like nothing.
Coming out of my marriage, I didn’t feel like I had much to be proud about. It wasn’t just the shame or sense of failure that society can put on divorced women. I’d been told I was unlovable, worthless, that my writing was crap and my writing career dead. I had my son but not much else that mattered to me. My self-esteem was in shambles.
I was doing more than recovering from abuse and gathering strength while spending hours on the couch knitting. I was taking knots and carefully untangling them after the cat played with my yarn. Making mistakes and learning how to rip out and fix them. Learning which mistakes I could live with – particularly if it was on a seam and no one would see it. I was proving to myself that I could make something of beauty out of what looked like nothing.
Joining a knitting group at work also helped me make new friends post-divorce – friends who never knew me when I was married. Our weekly Stitch ’n Bitch sessions got me through some tough weeks, and they cheered for me when my divorce was finalized after a year and nine months of arguing. The social benefits of knitting, or crafting in general, are considered to be one of the reasons it’s so good for mental health. If you’re struggling to make friends in your post-divorce life, I’d recommend enrolling in a class at a local yarn store.
My compulsion to knit is less strong now that I’m several years away from my divorce but, if I’m particularly stressed or unhappy, I make a point to pick up my latest project. Even five minutes a day helps me manage my stress.
Self-care and mental health care is often depicted as a bubble bath, sheet mask, or therapist’s couch. But there is no one size fits all to taking care of yourself. Knitting has grown to be part of my self-care. Out of the tangled mess of my life, I’ve learned to create beauty.
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