Knitting is my way to relax – as long as I keep it simple

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Artwork by Marley Allen-Ash

Like many others, I’ve joined the ranks of artisans for the past two years to help ease the boredom of stay-at-home orders throughout the pandemic. I started knitting. My previous attempts at knitting started as a child in my grandmother’s living room, however, I was far too eager to sit down and work the yarn when there were big adventures to be had outside. . I still don’t know what brought me back to the craft, but it seems pretty fitting. Isn’t that something middle-aged people should be doing?

Middle-aged or not, I started out taking a few classes here and there; some online, some in person, and some via YouTube. I felt pretty self-satisfied starting a new hobby; it made me feel young again. I was mesmerized by this whole new world of colors and textures; it was like opening Pandora’s box, but without all the nasty stuff. Knitting became an opportunity to express myself in a way I hadn’t explored before, to create something tangible out of nothing; those of you who cook can surely appreciate it. Oh the possibilities!

Once I got to grips with knitting and purling (and after everyone had received a handmade scarf for Christmas that year, and not without the obligatory corresponding compliments on my fabulous work, of course) , I thought I might expand my repertoire to include hats for next year. gifts. Or maybe even yearn for the epitome of knitting royalty… the elusive knitted sweater. I was proud that I was good enough to knit while watching Netflix (gasp!), so why not challenge myself more? Also, aren’t middle-aged people supposed to find hobbies at this point in their lives? Something to fill the void left by the children who no longer need constant attention or the spouse whose companionship has settled into the comfortable silence of side-hustle rather than the closure of a new love ? This love madness has long since passed on both sides of our marriage.

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Only, once I started knitting my first beanie, all I encountered was… frustration. What is that? It was as if my fingers were resisting; I no longer felt comfort in the click-click of my needles or the familiar feeling of relaxation that would wash over me as I eagerly resumed the project I was working on. No, it was different… it was… stress? How could that be? Knitting isn’t supposed to be stressful. Is it? I wanted a challenge, but it was a disaster. I had… lost my love for knitting!

After a deep introspection (fuelled by pinot grigio), it dawned on me that it wasn’t the knitting that was causing this strange stress, this lag, it was the pressure to progress. First, the social narratives of the middle-aged woman dictate that in life we ​​have to progress, we have to move on. Being static was simply not acceptable. By occupying ourselves, however, we actually cease to feel, to live. We forget to live in the moment. I realized that was the reason why I loved knitting so much: it was the opportunity to live in this precise moment, to feel the stiffness of the needles in contrast to the softness of the yarn and to create something healthy.

This pinot grigio-induced revelation had me asking, “Why do I have to switch from scarves, to toques, to socks, to mittens, and then, damn it, even to sweaters? Why can’t I just stick to making scarves? »

Scarves provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I start with a ball of yarn, and just…knit. I can make the scarf as wide or as long as I want. If I miss a color, I can easily replace it with another. I can create any pattern I want. When knitting a hat or sweater, you are limited by the size and the pattern dictates the end of the project. but with a scarf, it’s me who decides. It doesn’t have to be perfect either; no one would notice if it wasn’t. Moreover, there is a certain honesty in imperfection. There is freedom in knitting a scarf. To hell with the social narratives of middle-aged people!

I love the simplicity of giving a handmade gift; it’s a way of telling someone that “you matter to me”. There is joy in the process of making the gift and giving it, and I believe that is part of what the holidays should be.

Before Christmas, I tried madly to finish work projects and my knitting. I had chosen colors for each family member and friend, and like it or not, it was scarves for everyone again. (And probably next Christmas too.) As I sat on my sofa in the late afternoon November sun, I found that familiar feeling of peace that washed over me when I picked up my needles. I was so at peace that I tried knitting while watching Netflix – with subtitles. But knitting and my predilection for Scandinavian crime dramas (the essence is simply lost when watching them with an English dub) didn’t mix well. Maybe I’ll call them “Valentine’s Day scarves” instead.

Ashley Holloway lives in Calgary.

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