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Stitching my stress away by learning to knit

From breaking bad habits to easing anxiety, my yarn and I are inseparable
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Knitting was an opportunity to channel my feelings into a productive hobby. COURTESY OF EEF INK/CC FLICKR
Knitting was an opportunity to channel my feelings into a productive hobby. COURTESY OF EEF INK/CC FLICKR

For the longest time, I dreaded the question ‘What are your hobbies?’ I never felt like I had a good answer. Usually, I would awkwardly mumble that I liked to read and write, knowing very well that the last time I read for fun was in high school. 

During the first lockdown in March 2020, I set out to change my ways by learning how to knit. The person who first taught me how to knit was my grandmother, whom I call Baba. A Croatian immigrant who came to Canada at the age of 17, she is a master in home economics. She’s a brilliant cook, baker, sewer, and knitter, and almost everyone in my family has some of her creations in their closet. She has created more socks than I can count and has knit me multiple hats and scarves for the long Canadian winters. My first knitting needles are from her.

Knit, purl, repeat

The learning curve with knitting was steep. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to hold the needles correctly. The yarn would slip off and get tangled, my hands would get sweaty, and I found myself getting frustrated as I tried repeatedly. Even with Baba holding my hands and executing the movements for me, I still found myself confused. 

One day, it just clicked. Now slightly more confident in my ability to create stitches, I turned to YouTube to learn more interesting patterns and techniques.

To say that I became a little bit obsessed would be an understatement. After creating my first headband, I immediately went to Walmart to purchase more skeins of yarn, several of which I still have. My yarn and needle stash began to grow, and I started leaving half finished projects all around my house, much to my family’s dismay.

I practiced on Zoom calls, during lectures, while revising notes, and when watching television. My yarn and I were inseparable and unstoppable.

The benefits of a creative outlet

A big part of why I wanted to learn how to knit was to break my habit of biting my nails. I’ve had this habit since I was a small child, and I do it without even realizing. My nail-biting antics get particularly bad when I am anxious, which, during the school year, is quite often. I was tired of walking around with bleeding thumbs and brittle nails.

Knitting gave me something to do with my fingers when I felt the urge to bite my nails. It was an opportunity to channel those feelings of anxiety and worry into something that was rewarding and far more productive.

Knitting is often seen as a domestic activity for elderly women. But as I have done research to figure out new techniques and find new patterns, it has become abundantly clear to me that knitting is for everyone, regardless of age and gender.

For me, knitting is an art form and a type of self-expression. Growing up as someone who constantly felt like they were not artistic, creating clothing items that me and my loved ones could wear and enjoy created a feeling of satisfaction I have never felt before. 

Not only is knitting a way for me to break nail-biting habits, ease anxiety, and express myself, it is also a sustainable way to create clothing. Well made knitted garments that are washed correctly can last for years. I see it as a great way to design fashionable clothing that does not contribute to the fast fashion industry.

The monetization of hobbies

We live in the age of side hustles. All over social media, you can find accounts and posts that encourage you to monetize your hobbies, or to find an activity you can do on the side to earn extra cash.

I have thought about creating a knitting blog and selling my work, or creating and selling patterns. I enjoy posting about my creations on social media, but I do not foresee myself turning knitting into a full-fledged business. I believe that when a hobby becomes your source of income, there is an element of it that starts to feel like a chore and an obligation, rather than something you can do to relax. To anyone who has monetized a hobby or side hustle, more power to you, but I feel the urge to grind and work hard in every aspect of my life already. Knitting is my safe space to relax and let my creative side flow, and I feel like that needs to be protected.

By looking at my past projects, I have learned a lot about the craft and improved my technique. I have even taken apart some of my older projects, and I am working on turning them into something new and improved. I have some goals for myself in 2022, such as learning the continental style of knitting and how to write my own knitting patterns.

To anyone who has a hobby that they have always wanted to try or started years ago and abandoned, I encourage you to give it another go. Be patient with yourself and find fulfillment in the learning process. Who knows, you might just discover your passion along the way.