Sunday, 10 January 2016
A Yarn About Healing
Last year I had the opportunity to spend some quality time on the sofa recovering from major surgery. I say “opportunity”, because having the surgery was a good thing and resulted in a much healthier me. The first week or two were really all about the basics – resting, taking medication, going for very slow walks, and learning how to laugh or cough without using any muscles so my stitches would stay intact. My adoring (and adorable) husband took excellent care of me during my recuperation and kept me fed, watered, and comfortable. It didn’t take very long before I was feeling better and I started to get antsy. I needed something I could do with my hands while sitting on the couch.
Now, I am renowned for my lack of ability with a needle and thread. In particular, I have never been able to crochet, knit, or sew things well. My Mom is a whiz at all needlework and quilting – and has won awards for some of her beautiful pieces. Try as Mom might to teach me how to knit and crochet, it never took. I never got the hang of it – my tension was uneven, I dropped stitches, I just didn’t have the manual dexterity for it. And sewing…let’s just say it’s better for everyone involved if I pay someone else to take that on.
So here I was, staring down several more weeks of enforced relaxation and in dire need of something to keep my hands and mind occupied. For some reason, I decided to give needlework another try. After some research and a few phone calls I picked up a needlepoint kit – think paint-by-number with big chunky yarn – from a local stitchers' shop. I eagerly opened the packages, sorted the brightly coloured strands of yarn, read the instructions (about 100 times), and started making my project. After several stops and starts, I completed the first kit and it looked quite good. So I did another, and another – each one turning out a little nicer than the last. Before long, I had done all the needlework kits available in town, but I still had time I needed to fill.
By now several weeks had passed and I was quite mobile and much stronger, so I went to a local craft shop to find some other yarn crafts to do. I remember as a child taking an empty wooden spool and tapping a few finishing nails into it along one end. We would tie some yarn around it and using another nail would wind it round and round until a long knitted tail would grow out of the other end. These long tails could then be wound into a large circle and sewn together to create an area rug. In the craft shop I noticed something very similar, but on a much larger scale called a circular loom. Thinking back to how much fun I had as a child playing with the little homemade wooden spool, I didn’t hesitate to pick up a set of these plastic circular looms, some yarn and a few small instructional books. In a very short period of time and with a few online videos to guide me, I was making a wide variety of toques, mittens, slippers, blankets, scarves, purses, and myriad other projects.
I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed making these items. Of course, once I started I couldn’t stop – everyone got several loom knitted items for Christmas that year. I even made and donated about 50 toques to the local men’s shelter in town. A few months ago I attended severalstitchers’ meetings (I was looking for a group of other individuals as crazy for loom knitting as I am). I sat with the other ladies in the group, working on our projects and chatting comfortably. Time and again someone in the group would tell the story of how she came to learn and love doing the very craft she was enjoying at that moment. And more often than not, the story began with “I was at home recovering from surgery…”
Going through a major medical issue really brought home my most basic needs and instincts – at the beginning of my recovery I was weak and helpless as an infant. So maybe it makes sense that in that time of healing when I was growing stronger and healthier and back to myself, I embraced something that harkened back to a more basic time, something as simple as knitting a pair of slippers, or some cute little hats like in the photo. As my health improved, so did my ability with the loom and yarn. I traded one kind of stitch for another – both of which helped me to mend and be healthy.