Meditative frustration of learning to knit

I read an article in the New York Times recently about how knitting was a such a great beneficial activity. The article claimed knitting was meditative and could improve your mood. Research was mentioned that indicated knitting has mental health benefits that include managing chronic pain, improving cognitive function and increasing happiness.

This sounds like a must do and how hard can it be I thought.

As an educator I always praise the fact that I am a life long learner. Each year new students would arrive in my classroom with their own strengths and areas of need. My job was to identify them and guide them each to learn the everchanging kindergarten curriculum. After 20 years I was pretty good at this and continued to learn new methods of reaching my students.

Welcome my new life and my well deserved retirement. I am into my second official month and decided it is time to learn something new.

Knitting seems like a great new hobby. Maybe I could knit a scarf or a sweater for my dog. With all those potential benefits from that news article, I was off to a yarn store. For less than $4, I purchased 2 needles and 4 balls of yarn. I decided I would use YouTube videos to learn and all I needed was some dedicated time.

Time during the COVID pandemic and retirement are plentiful so I was excited to get started.

The videos I like best are by Sheep & Stitch: how to cast on and knit for total beginners. Of course the first thing I learned is that I purchased the wrong needles and yarn for someone just learning this skill. I plan to order the following items from Amazon as she recommends using 10mm bamboo or wood needles and bulky yarn.

On my first attempt I made a row of 30 pink stitches and was on a roll. The next video taught me how to knit stitch and I seemed to be getting it. After a few rows I noticed some strands were super tight on the needle and some holes were appearing in my work of art. Ignoring these small imperfections, I kept going convinced that one day I would wear this pink scarf and no one would even notice.

But that is not the point of learning to knit. Sure a finished product will be nice but why would I expect myself to know how to do this yet? Learning is a process and it reminded me of times I had a difficult time learning new things.

Back in high school I earned my Red Cross Lifeguard certification at the Junior High School swimming pool. I passed the test of pulling Mr. Gray from the bottom of the deep end and across the pool so when my cousin suggested a job as a waterfront director at Papoose Pond campground in Norway, Maine I was ready and surely qualified!

Besides teaching daily swim lessons to the children, I was also in charge of leading a canoe trip down the “Crooked River” two times per week. Having never canoed before, you can only imagine how ridiculous I looked as my canoe kept crashing into the bushes as the families followed me down the river.

My other responsibility was to rig the small sailboats and give sailing lessons. I had taken sailing lessons in the Great South Bay so I was sure this would be easy peasy.

When I had taken sailing lessons, the instructors must have had the boat ready and waiting for us. Given a sail, a mast, a boom and some lines (ropes) I wasn’t really sure how to put them on the boat. Back in the 1980s there were no YouTube videos teaching you stuff so sometimes you just had to figure it out on your own.

Knowing which pole is the mast would have been helpful. Somehow I managed to rig a sail using the boom as the mast so the sail was upside down. As I was about to send the camper family out on an adventure, the owner’s son walked by, noticed my error and quickly switched things around. Watching carefully, I learned what I had done wrong and am happy to report I spent the rest of the summer setting the sails correctly.

Recalling this distant memory I gave myself a bit of self compassion. Why should I think I know how to knit. Luckily the lovely voice on the YouTube video confirms that you will make mistakes. Practice in the beginning. Make a little square. Start out small. Enjoy the meditative process. If this becomes pleasurable, then maybe attempt to create something.

So I pulled out all the stitches and started over again. So far this attempt is looking more consistent and I do seem to be getting the hang of the basic knit stitch.

My mom was very creative and dabbled in all sorts of crafts over the years. When my brother was the captain of the high school football team she was so proud. She knit herself a sweater in the school colors with his number on it as well as a few football pictures. I wish I could find a photo for this post. I will keep looking.

My 95 year old Aunt Gert has made Christmas customized stockings for all her children, nieces, nephews, their spouses, children, and grandchildren. These beautiful pieces are hung over fireplaces all over the country at Christmas time and are a sign that we are all connected as an extended family. Thank you Aunt Gert.

Learning to knit in retirement - is it meditative or frustrating.
Aunt Gert stockings in Florida

I hope to give an update with my creation later this year. Learning something new I know is good for the brain and as we age we need to consider new challenges. Have you made any resolutions to learn something new this year?

runawaywidow

View posts by runawaywidow
At the age of 51 I unexpectedly became a widow. For the first 6 months after my husband died, I was in shock and numb. I journaled and with the help of friends, family and therapists was able to get back to living my old life, even if it is now very different. Before I was married, I had spent a semester in England and backpacked around Europe. My husband and I moved from New York to California for 8 years and started a family. Travelling took a back seat to raising a family and going to work everyday. Since the loss of my husband I have visited a lot of places with family and friends and took a solo trip to Thailand. I am enjoying sharing my stories and adventures as well as some of my insights to how I am traveling the path of being a widow. I hope to share my stories and adventures as well as some thoughts on being a middle aged widow. While I have some great experiences traveling to Thailand and cruising to Central America, some of my adventures involve a trip to see a Broadway show in nearby Manhattan and a shopping trip at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I can inspire anyone to go out and continue to live a good life that would be my greatest accomplishment.

9 Comments

  1. My soulmate and partner just passed away in November, so I have given myself permission to hibernate, read books, walk and write on my blog until Spring. When I worked at Sur La Table, one of the ladies there knitted on her lunch hour, I loved the idea of it. She gave knitting classes at her home and I was tempted to go, but never did. I think it’s wonderful that you are learning how to knit.

    1. Thanks for commenting. When I was teaching the school nurse often spent the lunch hour knitting too. She always made impressive baby blankets for the baby showers at work. Hibernating this winter sounds like a great idea! I’m very sorry for your loss.

  2. It’s a skill I never mastered. I can knit but find it difficult to maintain a consistent tension. Still, no one’s good at everything!

  3. When I read your initial purchase – and the cost, I knew you hadn’t understand what you needed. Yes, you will master the process – but the scarf you will probably never wear. Because every time you put it around your neck, you will realise how itchy it is, and it looks like acrylic yarn in your own photo… It will of course wear like a rag, but it will not feel nice.

    After you’ve mastered all your process with the yarn you’ve got you will be ready…then

    Go back to the store, and look for something that “feels gorgeous in your hands” – something that is a yarn but is soft and luscious. And then select a colour – you truly know you would wear. Buy only enough for your scarf, maybe make one that is one you would wear under the collar of your coat.

    Yes, the needles are another issue – I now prefer wooden of whatever variety – I’m making a triangle shaped shawl with a bamboo circular needle…sounds hard to you right now but you can get more stitches on your needle set and you never drop the “other needle”

    Later when you feel more confident, a long scarf that likes to wrap a couple of times around your neck.

    And even more later consider some other garment, until you’ve truly confident with the inc/dec/ and other ideas.

    And there will be times when you wonder “why” did I think I would like this…but if you equate it over to your teaching days, when you were a “newbie teacher” even it was to be your passion; there would’ve been plenty of times when you “wondered why” or like many of us on “why” over cooking, baking, riding a bike, taking on a new job with odd rules … we finally discover “WE CAN do it”

    Free patterns via Ravelry if you want some inspiration.

    (you can see the new piece of knitting on my latest blog post – since the shoot it’s got a bigger – but I’m not sitting there knitting all day long…and it’s a very simple pattern)

    1. Thank you so much for all your advice. Yes I will keep practicing with this but it would be a really itchy scarf. I will check out your blog to see your latest and thanks for the info on Ravelry too. Will look into that as well.

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