“Stitch by stitch, moment by moment, we are knitting a fabric of
present moment awareness.” — Becky Stewart, KnitOm
I follow Becky Stewart of Knit Om, a private knitters’ group on Facebook. She is a constant inspiration, helping my bring awareness to my knitting. She’s leading a 30-day knitting challenge, each day challenging us to think in new ways about our knitting, and to knit mindfully, meditatively. She recently asked us what our “why” was for knitting (a question I would also ask of any of the creative endeavors I take on, but for this post, I will confine myself to knitting).
Man, there are so many reasons: to ground myself in the here and now instead of freaking out over what 45 is doing to a country I love; to help me cope with grief; to take advantage of time spent in attention and peace as the flow of yarn to needles goes on, washing over me.
But most of all, and if I had to choose just one “WHY,” it would be that knitting is a way for me to make things for other people and, in that way, to be contributing to making the world a bit better for (some) people…
But that sounds so puny.
Let me add some other “whys” from reputable sources. A literature review and survey by the U.K. group, Knit for Peace, lists the many evidence based research studies which show that knitting “has positive health benefits, physical and mental [particularly with an aged population]. [Knitting:]
• Lowers blood pressure
• Reduces depression and anxiety
• Slows the onset of dementia
• Is as relaxing as yoga
• Distracts from chronic pain
• Provides an opportunity for creativity (at a time of reducing capacity)
• Increases sense of wellbeing
• Reduces loneliness and isolation
• Increases sense of usefulness and inclusion in society”
All of which I knew, having learned most of this during my research for “The Comfort of Knitting,” a book co-published by Lion Brand Yarns, and the organization I volunteer with, Project Knitwell.
What I didn’t know until I read the Knit for Peace literature review was how much knitting for charity–my primary occupation while knitting–helps people establish a sense of purpose and community. “[Knitting for charity] provides an activity that gives a sense of purpose. Knitting for charity makes people feel more useful and worthwhile. Self-worth is important post retirement, especially with physical decline,” writes Knit for Peace in their review.
I’ve knit for charity ever since I was able to knit things that were not hideous or ill-fitting. Being able to make something with my own two hands that can make even a tiny bit of difference in another person’s struggles gives me a great deal of satisfaction. I started with preemie hats and booties, and went on from there to chemo hats as more people I knew and loved were being diagnosed with cancer.
And then, as I described in an earlier post, I discovered Knitted Knockers, breast prosthetics for mastectomy patients. I’ve now knit close to 100 of them, have memorized the pattern, and turn to knitting them when I’m between knitting for immigrants, and knitting Christmas presents. I donate them all to the hospital where I volunteer and teach knitting in Oncology. And as I make each one, I am weaving into each stitch my love and fervent wishes for recovery and good health.
Recently, I started working on toys, blankets and washcloths (to wrap around soap) for immigrant families who are being broken up, incarcerated and traumatized by the current occupant of the White House. Without knitting, I would have had no productive way to respond to the onslaught of human rights attacks perpetrated by the government. I cannot just idly watch what’s happening. My hands get to work, and the roiling, acidic taste in my mouth and heart calms. I think of the people who will get these small items, and hope that they can feel the love that is in each stitch.
“Put your hands to work and give your hearts to God.”
— Mother Ann Lee, Shaker founder
“ I like the fact that I, as one person, can do something for one other person
and then another and the another. It condenses the world’s problems to a scale
that I can relate to and helps make everything feel a little less out of control…”
–Betsy Greer, Knitting for Good!