There comes a time in life when the most unexpected activities can help calm the chaotic vibrations of the mind, deal with uncertainty, and calm the rhythm of our heartbeats. Here I am, in the middle of a knitting club; the air rings with laughter and joy.
Knitting needles move in synchronized patterns, colorful balls of yarn immediately brighten up the environment, and the mood is dynamic – laced with creative exuberance. It’s wonderful to see a diverse group of knitters – seniors, millennials, men and women; all engrossed in meaningful activity that helps unravel the complex mental knots caused by uncertainty, loss and stress.
Well, I’ve never knitted before. Memories of my mother and aunts creating sweaters, scarves, mittens flash before me as I see my mother-in-law knitting beautiful sweaters for the grandchildren and her sisters. It helped her cope with the loss of my stepfather and even before that it helped distract her from daytime anxiety and grief, when he was diagnosed with cancer.
When you weave something for someone you love, with every stitch you create a bond of affection and somehow you feel less alone, even if you are knitting it alone.
Gather a community
Today, knitting has gathered a community of people around it, who discuss yarns, designs, patterns and needles. I was just introduced to the group and started my foray with a basic scarf. I immerse myself in the rows of stitches and purl stitches, the scarf lengthens, and I do my best not to drop any stitches under the tutelage of my mother-in-law who watches patiently.
When I’m not writing, reading, or doing household chores and need to detach my mind from anything worth wiggling; I find my cozy corner with a cup of tea and my needles and thread to keep me company. I handle each stitch as delicately as a jewel, passing them to the other needle.
It’s almost like meditation. One of the studies conducted by the Mind and Body Institute at Harvard Medical School in 2007 found that knitting can actually lower our heart rate by an average of 11 beats per minute and creates an “increased sense of calm” that mimics the feelings induced by yoga. .
An elderly lady who is an avid knitter, lightly jokes: “Knitting is much better than fussing, it smooths out my knitted eyebrows and I hope my wrinkles will appear at delayed intervals.” It’s also a therapeutic activity that helped a friend of mine quit smoking.
When she felt like a smoke, she reached out for her needles, starting with a huge, intricately patterned sweater. As she knitted a few rows, the urge to reach out for a smoke faded.
A common passion
Knitting is not only the comfort of the elderly but also of the youngest. A few months ago, I saw an Instagram post from British Olympic diver, Tom Daley, who shared that knitting and crocheting had helped calm his nerves ahead of the Olympics. To commemorate his gold medal, he even knitted a Union Jack patterned case to store his Olympic gold medal and I thought it was absolutely delightful!
I read somewhere that the rhythmic movement of knitting also induces the release of serotonin, the hormone that stabilizes our moods, feelings of well-being and happiness. So enamored with this craft that I even found books that belong to the “knitting genre” that I didn’t even know about and now I’ve started reading “The Shop on Blossom Street” by Debbie Macomber.
Well, there are two types of knitters. Those who focus on the end product: a beanie for a friend or a headband to sell at an exorbitant price. I belong to the second batch, the “process knitters” – for me, knitting is a metaphor for life.
The soothing repetitive motions and the feel of thread passing through the fingers, the colors, the act of creation is all that matters. After all, happiness isn’t a destination, it’s the journey that counts.
Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Gurgaon, India. Twitter: @VpNavanita