When going through time of stress and difficulty, the temptation is often to scale back crafting to something simple, something that does not require any thought or brain power to complete; a stocking stitch sock or crochet granny squares for instance. It allows the crafter to worry about other things whilst still occupying their hands and to keep on crafting.
The last three months for me have been very difficult with lots of stresses coming from all different directions, but the main two have been dealing with a company who messed me around and my dad being very ill.
Throughout this time I have been knitting a complex lace project and instead of finding it an added stress, I think it has helped. The pattern is Fenay by my good friend Ann Kingstone, a lace bolero with Ziggurat shoulders and seamless set-in sleeves, all worked in the lace pattern.
Back in early September, before all the stresses got going, I started to knit myself the bolero, but to make it more(!) complicated than the original pattern, I was going to lengthen the bolero so that it would reach my hips, as I want to make it more of a cardigan, and also add some waist shaping which would involve writing my own charts to keep the lace patterning going throughout.
So how has this helped with stress? Surely making things more complicated would add to the stress rather than help. Except it didn't. I found that when I am knitting my Fenay I cannot think of anything else. I have to be in the right frame of mind to pick it up and make some progress, but I have found that this is the same whether I am working on this project or any other more simple one.
The lace pattern and shaping is such that it completely distracts me. My overactive brain has to settle down and just count stitches... k2, yo, k3, skp, k2tog, k3, yo, k3.... it cannot multitask and think of anything else whilst doing this. After a few minutes I am calmer, less stressed, almost meditative. It does not get rid of the situations that are causing the stress, but I believe it is helping me manage and cope with the worries and the uncertainties.
There is now a lot of research about the therapeutic benefits of knitting for many health problems, including depression, anxiety and pain. Stitchlinks is a great website that collates all the research and has tips on how to knit for health. I would certainly recommend it, and I often do to my patients.
So back to my Fenay; I am now working on the waist shaping and making steady progress. The yarn is Isager alpaca 1, a laceweight 100% alpaca yarn that will make this cardigan very light but warm. I was hoping to have it finished by the end of the month but I have a fair bit to go yet. Knitting also teaches patience!
Next up will be a crochet blanket. I purchased the yarn a couple of days ago from Woolyknits, 8 shades of their blue faced Leicester DK. It was an impulse buy and a bit of much needed retail therapy!