What do I mean writing about the psychology of knitting? Knitting is a hobby. How can there be any psychology about making things out of yarn? What the heck is this psychology thing about? I’ve been toying with writing this post for a while. You see, I am a knitter. I am one of those people who rarely sits quietly and gets completely absorbed in a TV program or movie in my own home. I often have a knitting project in my hands while I’m ‘watching TV or relaxing at home.
So, why do I knit? People cheerfully point out to me that it isn’t cost-effective. Why buy yarn (not a cheap investment) then spend weeks or months on a project, when I could go to any department store and purchase something that has been mass-produced for a fraction of the cost, and zero time investment? If I just wanted a sweater, or a blanket, or any old hat, I could do that. I could go to a department store and purchase an adequately produced product for not much money and very little time investment. Knitting is not about saving money, or being efficient with your time. If it were, people would have given up knitting decades (maybe even a century or more) ago.
When I was a child, my Mother never sat down without having something in her hands to work on. She was always knitting or crocheting something for someone. She rarely made anything for herself. I still have the afghan she made for me when I was 19 and newly living independently. When I’m feeling sick, it is often the only blanket that will comfort me. It is a way for me to be connected, once again, to my Mother’s hands. It is a way for me to feel her love again, even though she has been dead for over a decade now. My niece still has the baby blanket that my Mom made for her, and it is one of her most treasured possessions. I own a beautiful green cardigan that my Mother-In-Law knitted for me before she had ever met me. It connects me to her in much the same way that the afghan my Mother knitted connects me to her. My Mother-In-Law passed away this July. I haven’t been able to wear my beautiful green cardigan since she died, because it has been too warm. But I took it out of the closet yesterday, and held it in my hands. I felt her spirit with me while my sweater was in my hands.
I find it much easier to complete knitting projects that are intended for someone else than the ones intended for me. I guess that’s partly accounted for by the reality that I know what it feels like to be given something hand-made. I know what I feel like when someone has lovingly crafted something specifically for me. I want to share that feeling more than I want to give something to myself.
I was knitting in a doctor’s waiting room one day, while waiting my turn. A young girl, about 12 years old asked me about what I was doing. I explained to her that I was knitting. I showed her the ball of yarn, and the stitches on the needles, and explained that eventually what I was working on would become a sweater. She looked at me in amazement. She said, “You mean you will carefully make each stitch and count each section out until you have made a sweater??? I don’t think I could ever have that much patience!” I talked to her about the reality that knitting helps me to feel present in the moment. I don’t bother about the finished project while I’m busy working on it. I get lost in the stitches right in front of me. Each stitch, each row, each section becoming its own goal. It may be similar to the way athletes only focus on the goal immediately in front of them (like improving their time, or winning THIS game, or making it up the next section of the mountain). It is a type of patience which has served me well during my life.
I learned to knit as a child. When I was in high school, I was completing complex sweater patterns. I think the patience and practical coping skills I learned from being a knitter helped me to cope when I was putting myself through college and working and parenting children all at the same time. Just like staying focused on the row in front of me, as a student, I stayed focused on the specific homework assignment, or paper, or test I needed to prepare for. I stayed present. I dealt with each day and let the following days guide me.
I had forgotten about knitting until the past few years. I was busy raising children and focusing on my career. When my Mother-In-Law knitted that beautiful green cardigan for me, she reignited my passion. It was a gift that she may not have known the value of. I love my cardigan. I love that wearing it opened up the part of me that loves to knit. I am not a knitting expert. I’m just a woman who understands that being patient, taking on a challenge, and investing time in creating something pays off, in ways that can’t be compared to a cheap garment purchased from a department store.