Crafting And Calm

Crafting And Calm

I think it was an oversight when, in my posts about the end of 2016 and in exploring my goals for 2017, I neglected to mention that I recently took up knitting. 

Well, resumed it. My grandma wasn’t a big knitter, but she taught me to knit at around the age of nine, a phase that didn’t last long before impatience got in the way and I went back to calligraphy, hama bead patterns, and other speedier crafts. When I was thirteen-ish, I took it up again, but this brief flurry of interest once more fell by the wayside. 

And since then, I haven’t really done any knitting. While on tour with the university ceilidh band in September, knitting was a big thing, and I watched several members of the band pick up the hobby and get really into it, but I wasn’t among them. I could still remember how to knit, but memories of my old impatience made it unappealing. 

It was during a particularly sedentary period of bad pain days in December that I decided I couldn’t spend all my time reading and that I needed to find more activities which could be done with minimal energy, at which point a piece of knitting I began in about 2009 was pressed into service. 

This time, I discovered it’s actually quite fun. 

When I started to run out of wool I began to question my decision.

I used to be really into arts and crafts as a kid, something that transformed and shifted but didn’t fade until I was around sixteen. Even then, it might have survived if I hadn’t screwed up my wrists and robbed myself of the ability to do most of the activities I used to enjoy (anything from card-making to cross stitch to woven friendship bracelets, with a lot of calligraphy in between, the main thing I still can’t do without pain). 

Seriously, the amount of craft stuff that used to fill my cupboards was absurd. Only after GCSE Art totally destroyed my interest in doing anything of the sort ever again did I get rid of any of it, and I can assure you there’s plenty left. That’s a point — GCSE Art definitely didn’t help, and may have been a contributory factor in why I left my artistic tendencies behind me, because before that… well, I was unstoppable.
The summer I was thirteen, I made a pencil case from scratch, embroidering it in my own peculiar style. I used it as my main pencil case for years. It’s still in use now, though it’s kind of grubby after all these years of use. I embroidered my skirts for Irish dancing classes, too, the same year and the one after it, turning too-small black concert skirts into something I could be proud of, with orange and green decoration around the seams. That was a big embroidery year for me, possibly because I had a high level of patience and a lowish level of other commitments, like a social life. 

I remember sewing this while listening to the soundtrack to Lord of the Dance — an extremely vivid memory.

Before that, it was what I called bead patterns. I have half a dozen coasters made of Hama beads lying around my room even now — you know, the beads you put on little boards and then iron and they melt and stick together? I made thousands of those things. Sets of coasters and all sorts. I even had the tiny micro version, which needed tweezers to be put into position unless you had fingernails and a lot of patience. I made little decorations out of them to stick on the Christmas cards that I also made in huge quantities. 
Most of this was still in primary school, though it stuck around through my first few years of secondary school, including a brief and embarrassingly motivated period of making clay dragons. (I had a crush. I thought making someone a dragon and painting it in their favourite colours was a subtle way of expressing this.)

Point is: arts and crafts were probably as much my thing as music or dance or even writing. I did loads of it. Some well, some with enthusiasm, a few things occasionally falling into both categories. And yet adolescence followed by a wrist injury means that over the last three or four years, I’ve left this behind almost completely. 

I didn’t realise I missed it until I took up knitting and remembered how nice it was to create something in such a physical, tangible way. To make something out of basic materials. Just yarn and needles and a few half-remembered lessons meant I could make a scarf. A crappy scarf of dark red yarn, absolutely littered with dropped stitches and messy edges, sure, but a scarf. 

I went to Hobbycraft today (a shop that was once my favourite place ever, but which I haven’t visited since, again, the days of dreaded GCSE Art) to try and buy some more yarn to make the scarf a substantial length, but couldn’t find any that matched — the danger of resuming a project after eight years’ inactivity. So I cast it off as a short scarf instead, and started a new one with a new ball of yarn, this one teal and chunkier. 

My new yarn obscuring my Medieval French coursework (oops)
The thicker yarn and larger needles means after just an evening of work I have something substantial to show for my efforts, and it reminds me again why this is enjoyable. I made that. I had a ball of wool, and now I have the beginning of what could be a very respectable teal scarf, if I can avoid dropping too many stitches this time. It’s also enjoyable because it’s strangely therapeutic, something to occupy my brain and twitchy anxiety hands without making the problem worse. 

Maybe one day I’ll be good enough at this to make things more complex than scarves (hats, perhaps, or fingerless gloves). And maybe I’ll reach the stage where I can make things for other people and feel like they’re good enough to give as gifts, something that might become more useful a skill as my friends and relatives start to reach the age where if they’re going to have kids, they might begin to do so. By that point I might’ve mastered hats at least. Socks I think will take a few more years yet.

Mostly, though, I’m enjoying the sense of calm created by the activity itself and by the knowledge that I’m rediscovering an old love of mine: creating things through craft, something less abstract and complicated than writing, something that can be measured in inches and stitches and finished products. 

Maybe this’ll be the key to being calmer and happier and less frustrated by my poor health this year — learning how to love the hobbies I abandoned without even realising I was doing it. Of course I have to be careful of my wrists and the lack of time I have is still a concern, but… well, if I’m careful, then it’s a start, isn’t it?  

Of a scarf, of a hobby, of a calmer me… hard to know which, or if it’ll manage all three, but I’m up for waiting and seeing.

Knitting while watching QI is responsible for about half of this

3 thoughts on “Crafting And Calm

  1. I think the days we did arts and crafts at camp were sometimes more fun for me than the campers. I got way into making these little string/bead things. I made one for my sister and one for me after I helped about a hundred campers make one. Just google “bead lizard” and you’ll see what I mean.

    1. I know the kind you mean! I used to have a penguin on my keyring; my mum had a lizard for a while. I used to help in the crafts tent at a summer community event near us and we made those several years running.

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