By: Jordan Ferranto, LCPC, ATR
I didn’t begin knitting because I had a well intended grandmother who thought I needed to be doused in domesticity, nor was it a way for my mother and I to bond over shared femininity through a process that is, in its history, inherently female. It most certainly wasn’t a way for me to save a few dollars by making my own clothes or by selling them. I didn’t start knitting to stake a claim in contemporary feminism or to reinforce or defy standard gender binaries. In fact, I started knitting simply because I wanted to expand my technical skills as a fiber artist by way of introducing a new process.
Once I started however, I found that I couldn’t stop. I wanted nothing more than to stay at home in my generously comfortable loveseat and knit with my cat perched next to me, curiously eyeing the working yarn as it wiggled in mid-air–I couldn’t get enough! I worked until my bones ached from improving my skill in tensioning the working yarn. In turn, I’ve begun to knit as a way to relax, unwind, and provide my hands with a repetitive motion that allows my mind to wander while still remaining contained. I knit as a way to connect my hands to my mind; with words in my head and yarn in my hands I don’t simply think about it, I knit about it. I empty my thoughts into the stitches where they find their final resting place in a form that holds their meaning.
Contemporary knitting practice comes with an identity, a community, and a culture. There are knitting groups that meet in public and private areas: some congregate at various yarn shops to enjoy wine and snacks as they knit and socialize, others participate in “knit-ins” where groups of knitters knit in public spaces as a peaceful protest for a good cause. There are online knitting communities such as Ravelry where knitters can connect over a ‘close knit’ social media site where you can share projects and patterns. There are a variety of knitting themed books such as the romantic novel, “How to Knit a Love Song” by Rachael Herron (2010) and the murder mystery “Knit One, Kill Two” by Maggie Sefton (2005). Many knitters in the community love puns, cats, and kitsch.
Knitting culture provides knitters with a sense of community that offers them a role and a purpose: it creates areas of definition and dimension to their self-concept while allowing them to develop a skill that uplifts them. Knitting can provide an outlet for positive production and may allow one to feel that they are making a fulfilling contribution. The sharing aspect of knitting culture (either virtually or personally) aids in the development of relationships through the transmission of knowledge, and the result is a community of individuals who are engaged in taking action–even if the extent of that action is knitting profusely while binge-watching favorite TV shows or movies.
As I became more acquainted with knitting culture, I spoke in passing to other knitters. I noticed that there was often a focus on knitting for others in many of my knitting friends’ practices. I spoke with mothers who knit for children, grandmothers who knit for grandchildren, wives who knit for husbands, knitters who knit for friends, and knitters who knit for social justice. In their telling of these stories, my fellow knitters referenced feelings of usefulness, autonomy, and accomplishment in regards to making knit items. Feelings of gratitude, meaning, value, and worthiness were associated with receiving knit items from other makers.
After hearing other knitters’ stories, I began to wonder about mine. Thus far in my knitting practice, I knit for me, in contrast to those who knit for others, I gift my knit items to myself. I use knitting to construct practical objects to keep me warm and to give me shelter, quiet the ever present thoughts in my mind and to explore my internal conversations.
The process of creating these items remains a way for me to spend time with myself and that gifting the end product to myself is an expression of self-nurturance. Being both the creator and the receiver provides both a sense of accomplishment and worthiness. Knitting helps me feel useful, productive, and generous, while also feeling valued, cared for, special, and loved. I get to experience the sense of autonomy associated with making while also the sense of worth associated with receiving. Ultimately my knitting practice is an exercise in self-love.
Self love is defined as having a strong and stable self-concept and sense of positive regard for oneself, it includes: an ability to be kind to oneself, to have compassion for oneself, maintain an investment in ensuring one’s own well-being, as well as, personal happiness, personal value, worth, self- respect, and self- acceptance. Establishing and maintaining a practice in self-love is important to a person’s development, well-being, happiness, as well as their capacity to engage in healthy relationships and to form meaningful connections – all of which are common goals in therapeutic practice. Enhancing one’s capacity for self-love is central to healing processes and one’s relationship with oneself is the breeding place for relationships with others. When we are feeling useless, worthless, or unlovable, many of us experience the urge to fight about it (whether that’s with ourselves or with others) I suggest we knit about it.