I’m not the greatest knitter. I can knit a basic scarf. But I can knit socks – it involves double needles, slip slip knitting, turning the heel and tricks that will navigate you way to a small woollen item…
But I’ve never knitted a jumper. But knitting skills and lack of aside, let’s be honest, is pretty boring, I first really knitted during one of my first London jobs. Everyday at lunchbreak, a little bored and also lovelorn – I was 25, go figure – I would eat lunch at my desk and then nip down to the pub below to buy a cup of peppermint tea and speed through the next 40 minutes knitting socks for family Christmas presents.
I’d taken a sock knitting class local to where I lived in the time in Islington. Three incredibly worthwhile hours. Which is why I know how to knit socks and nothing else.
Knitting through those lunchbreaks listening to my favourite bubble gum pop at the time (remember Annie’s Chewing Gum) soothing a tender heart and pivoted a job I was unsure about from morning tasks into the afternoon. I remember taking lunch as late as I could to shorten the afternoon! What, just me?
It was a wonderful tool to help navigate my emotions, and my hands actively engaged in repetitive motion – I only really like knitting when I know what I’m doing – it allows for a rhythmic almost hypnotic state, where your mind is free to puzzle over things in a meditate-like state. A slowed down freeflow, where often I would find a way more easily to unexpected conclusions and emotional resolutions.
As life went on and I left my office job, I missed my lunchtime knitting and tried to keep it up within a different working life structure. But it eventually fell by the wayside. For years. Every now and then my Mum was ask me what I was doing creatively with my hands, and I would come up with a blank, arguing back that I was being creative enough with my photography work. That’s not the same, she would say.
And so it takes the unprecedented state of a country on lockdown due to a global pandemic to bring me back to where I had got to with knitting. Along with baby steps at sourdough, I completed the cliche with ordering new wool and gleefully digging out my old sock pattern (thanks Mum for keeping it safe in digital form!) and setting to.
And not in a small way. The excitement of creating a small woolly garment from just a set of stitches is particularly fulfilling. And you can knit while watching the news, or listening to the radio or when a small person has got into the swing of homeschooling for a moment. Or last thing at night, cosy in bed catching up on a podcast.
If of interest, I’m buying Paintbox sock wool from Love Crafts and I’ll be popping up my sock instructions on the blog soon – in the meantime you’ll find how I do it on my Instagram Highlights (@stylonylon) under ‘Socks’.
And how it soothes the brain. Like yoga for the mind. It roots me. Allows me to ground myself better. Of course there are frustrating moments of dropping stitches (mini crochet hook is the answer here) or forgetting where you are, but well outweighed by the evolving smooth run of row after row, like the tide, rolling in and then out. Carrying an anxious, worn out mind up atop, bestowing calm and a new layer of strength to keep on going.
In terms of creativity, there is a also a connection. I find it easier to make something more successful, more like I wanted it when I’ve been knitting. And it allows me to conjure up thoughts and ideas I wouldn’t necessarily have had, had I not been in that more relaxed, meditative state. So while it’s calming me through an uncertain, strange time, I also feel like it is perhaps, as my Mum suggested, a missing part of the puzzle. To add it in to eating and sleeping well, exercising, and trying to meditate (I really am not great at typical meditation although I am committed to the principle) really makes sense to me. To do something methodical with your hands. What do you think?