I learned to knit when I was eight. It was summer, school was out. For entertainment I explored a rarely opened closet. There was a shopping bag stuffed with maroon yarn, and a cylindrical leatherette case which, unzipped, revealed a jumble of colored metal knitting needles. I dragged everything into the light.
“What is this?” I asked my mother.
“Oh,” she said. “It’s my knitting. A sweater….I think.”
How amazing. I’d never seen her knit—did she knit while I slept?—and, naively, couldn’t imagine why she’d abandon the project. It seemed sad that the yarn had languished in obscurity.
“Why don’t you finish it?”
I’ve forgotten her answer. Probably her “I’m too busy” mantra, accompanied by a giant exhale of cigarette smoke. I do remember thinking this yarn deserved a kinder fate.
“Will you teach me to knit?” I asked.
So it began. I knitted blankets for my dolls, then scarves. Later, I learned to read patterns, saved babysitting money for yarn, knitted hats and sweaters. As a teenager, I commuted between school and home on the New York subway, carrying textbooks and knitting. Knitting gave me something to do in transit, and as I walked through dicey neighborhoods between the subway station and our apartment, the needles, tucked under my arm and pointing forward, protected me from aspiring muggers.
This column by Michelle Edwards, author of A Knitter’s Home Companion, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter. To sign up for the Weekly Stitch and get columns like this, free patterns, how-to videos and more, click here.
My mother, Lillian Edwards, was a life-long knitter. She was an attractive, well-dressed woman: tall and thin with dark black hair and almond-shaped brown eyes that almost looked Asian. She called them “laughing eyes,” and that is how I like to remember them.
I’m told that as a young woman my mother knit socks, argyle ones. It was in the days before I was born, perhaps before she was married … maybe even as a young, single, working woman, living in Manhattan with her parents in a tiny apartment on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island.
My mother grew up poor. Her parents were both Russian immigrants. My grandma Yetta, with a handkerchief soaked in vinegar, wrapped around her head, rested a lot. She suffered from migraines and was always carrying a large purse with her — as if she was waiting to be uprooted again. This time she would be prepared. I would often seen her stuffing sugar packets in her purse when we were at HoJo’s.
My grandfather, Samuel, was as a quiet man. Hard to reconcile my gentle grandpa with the gangster he used to be. My grandfather and his brothers were the strongmen for a liquor smuggling ring during prohibition. When they double crossed the boss, two of my uncles were murdered in broad daylight at a Philadelphia street corner. My grandparents, my mother, and my uncle fled Philadelphia in a hurry and slipped into Coney Island where they could meld and blend into the mass of Russian Jews like themselves.
I don’t know who taught my mother to knit. Maybe my grandmother did, when she was not resting. It wasn’t a question I ever thought to ask my mother when she was alive. I know that she taught me how to knit and that she knit like a Russian Jew, with her yarn in left hand, wrapped around second finger, picking open the stitch and pulling the yarn through with her right hand needle. It is a very fast and efficient way to knit and I am often asked by knitters out here in the Midwest to teach them “my way” of knitting.
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Here is the latest installment of Lola, from its creator Todd Clark.
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Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. This is part 4 in her 6-part series for us on the topic of yarncraft health. Read her previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.
Many knitters and crocheters craft every single day. It’s part of a good total wellness plan for a lot of us. But what happens if you have to take a crafting hiatus? An injury, crafting burnout (similar to writers’ block) and health issues can force an unwanted break from knitting and crochet. Here are ten ideas for staying inspired in the event that this occurs to you.
This can be a great way to celebrate the work that you’ve already done. It will remind you of all of the inspiration you’ve had in the past and get you re-excited for the time that you can pick up hooks and needles again. A big photo album works as does a blog or Facebook albums.
The research is in and there’s no denying it: people who knit and crochet have a much better chance at staying healthy, being happy and getting organized.
In the past few years, reports from authoritative sources such as CNN, the Huffington Post and Oxford University, cite evidence to support the fact that knitting and crochet can change your life in many ways … and for the better.
Health is a serious matter for all of us, so we took some time to compile our favorite writings on the matter; articles from Lion Brand bloggers such as Kathryn Vercillo and investigative reports from mainstream media outlets such as the Washington Post.
We hope that you find this round-up useful and that you’ll include knitting and crochet as part of your personal health and wellness plan. It works!
:: Treat yourself! Here’s a pattern for our Aromatherapy Eye Pillows (pattern available in knit and crochet) ::
Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. This is part 3 in her 6-part series for us on the topic of yarncraft health. Read her previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.
We recently explored the top ten health benefits of yarncrafting. Many of you chimed in and it was amazing to see how many different ways we can be helped and healed by knitting and crochet. Here we have five different women with five different stories illustrating how much crafting can help us. I already knew Tamara of Moogly blog because we support each other’s crochet blogs online. The other four women responded to my ongoing request to hear from anyone who wants to share their stories about how crochet helps them.
Diane Stavros is a Massachusetts-based crafter and mother of three. She discovered how helpful crochet and knitting could be for her during a really difficult divorce. She reduced her anxiety, centered herself and found peace by sitting down and losing herself in craft projects. However, the craft really came to save her life after she experienced a traumatic brain injury in 1997.
She shares: “There’s a long list of all the ways in which the mental and physical actions of crocheting assist with recovering from that. Very briefly, it helps with focus, sequential thinking, planning, seeing patterns, restoring faith in one’s self, and hand-eye coordination.
Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. This is part 2 in her 6-part series for us on the topic of yarncraft health. Read her previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.
Last month we explored the top ten health benefits of yarncrafting. Many of you chimed in with great comments about how crochet and knitting have helped you to heal from a variety of different ailments. Want to get more intentional about that? This five-step guide will help you create your own yarncrafting wellness plan.
Knitting and crochet can help with each of these things. For example, it can be a distraction that reduces physical pain and helps control diet cravings and it can provide relaxation to reduce stress-related headaches and irritability. However, not every symptom will apply to you so think about what you really want to solve. It’s a lot easier to get healthy when you know what specific ailments you’re trying to reduce.
Blogger and author Kathryn Vercillo is an expert in the area of using crafting to heal, having researched the topic extensively for her book Crochet Saved My Life. This is part one in her 6-part series for us on the topic of yarncraft health. Read her previous blog posts on the Lion Brand Notebook here.
Yarn heals. Whether you prefer needles or hooks or a combination of both, crafting can soothe your body and mend your mind. Anecdotal evidence has shown this for decades and new research confirms it with science. The benefits people report are seemingly endless. Here are the top 10 yarncrafting health benefits.
1. Knitting and Crochet Relieve Depression
Depression relief is by far the most reported and studied benefit of crochet and knitting. The repetition of the crafts has been shown to release serotonin, a natural anti-depressant. CNN recently reported that “in one study of more than 3,500 knitters, published in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting. More than half reported feeling “very happy.”
|Knit & Crochet Aromatherapy Eye Pillow|
Yarncrafts helps with various forms of anxiety. It keeps your hands busy and mind focused so that you can attend classes or events even when you have social anxiety. It brings the internal mind to a calmer space for when you’re coping with the anxiety of repetitious thoughts. The counting has even been shown to serve as a productive outlet for people with anxiety associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as well as eating disorders. The Craft Yarn Council reports on one study that showed nearly ¾ of women with anorexia found knitting to be calming and anxiety-reducing.
We’ve survived the Polar Vortex but winter is really just beginning. There are a lot of days ahead when we might be stuck in the house because of the weather. You might get gripped by cabin fever; that restless, anxious, irritable feeling that we all sometimes get when we’re stuck inside for too long. Crocheting or knitting can be the best way to alleviate that feeling.
The first thing to do is recognize that you have cabin fever! Cabin fever, which typically happens when you’re inside for an extended period of time, often due to extreme outdoor weather conditions, is characterized by:
It helps to be aware that these feelings might be caused by cabin fever because then you can recognize what it is and do something about it!
I believe strongly in the power of crochet to improve quality of life whether you’re suffering from a serious condition like depression or just seeking to experience more inspiration in your everyday life. One of the key ways that I believe crochet can help is through embracing each stage of the project including the process of visualizing, working on, and finally completing the work.
Many people underestimate the value of this first step of a crochet project but it can be immensely beneficial to focus on it. Truly embrace the process of thinking about what you want to make, how you want to make it, who it will be for, and which yarn you will want to use.