My grandmother, Mema, was from Norway, where cooking and sewing were a way of life in a land that was often isolated due to the interminable long, dark winters. When she came to live with us, she never could understand why I was more interested in reading than baking bread. I would watch her in the kitchen, kneading the bread dough and I’d think, wow – I could never do that. I also remember her watching Lawrence Welk on TV, with her needlework in her lap. Mema was always busy and her handiwork was everywhere. Braided rugs made out of old flannel shirts. Needlepoint on the walls. The smells of homemade cookies during the holidays.
My mother worked full time at a job she loved. But when she retired, she, too, took up sewing and cooking. Quilting was my mom’s passion and she loved making quilts to give as gifts to her family. Every couple of years, she would present me with a new quilt, either a small one for display or a large one for the bed. She made a quilt for my daughter out of her old t-shirts that is still on her bed today.
Now it’s my turn. When I was consumed with career, school, and family, I believed that I never had the time to knit or do any crafting for that matter. Plus, I’ve always been “in my head” and the idea of crafts in any form sounded really boring to me. These days, I’m in a book club and I’d still rather read than do anything with my hands. However, one of the women in my book club, Victoria, is a world class knitter. When I approached her about teaching me how to knit, she immediately agreed. I told her that I am all thumbs and that Jim kids me about not being able to figure out a garden gate latch. Apparently, Victoria is used to klutzes like me because she remains undeterred! So we had our first knitting lesson this week and I’m off and knitting, I think!
Knitting isn’t just popular among retired folks. According to Jane E. Brody’s recent article in the New York Times: “The Craft Yarn Council reports that a third of women ages 25 to 35 now knit or crochet.” I think that’s great news – I remember task-oriented days and evenings, when if I wasn’t doing something on my “to do” list, I was worrying about it. Knitting is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. It not only is a relaxing hobby, it can help you to stay focused and present. Like meditation, the knitter is focused on one thought or action. The repetitive motion of your hands allows you to keep distracting thoughts at bay and minimize anxiety. In Maggie Peikon’s article, Mindful Makers: The Benefits of Knitting, Maggie describes a coworker who knitted outside during her lunch break. The coworker said that she needs to be “in the zone” to knit and turn away all her daily distractions. She went on to liken the focus on knitting to the experience of nursing her son – it is that fulfilling.
Given these benefits of knitting, I’m hoping it will become an integral part of my mindful retirement. In my one knitting lesson so far, I’ve learned how to do one stitch and how to hold the needles and yarn correctly. It’s a long way to the “coastal” themed throw I hope to create, but every moment I sit with my needles is a satisfying and peaceful moment. That’s enough for me. And Mom and Mema are smiling.