Knitting Is for the Soul
Copyright 2018 by Rachel Stierle
was never a hobby that I thought I would become interested in. But,
after I began to learn, I couldn't put my knitting needles down. I
realized that knitting is relaxing, productive, and fun-- all things
that college student like myself needs to relax after a long day
writing papers, reading academic texts, and taking exams. It got to
the point that I wanted to teach others--including my mother. This
story details both my learning to knit, my efforts to teach my mother
to knit, and the way in which knitting became the best
stress-reliever of my life.
is a relaxing hobby. It’s both productive and rewarding. It
keeps your hands busy while also letting your mind wander. For me, it
is a way of escaping the stressful thoughts of the day, as it allows
me to just take deep breaths, slow myself down, calmly move my hands,
and drift off into daydreams.
anyone who wants to find a new way to blow off steam, to zone out and
forget about the world, knitting is a perfect craft to pick up. Don’t
let the “only grandmas knit” stereotype fool you—there
is a whole world full of knitters of all ages. Just take a look at
YouTube, and you will find countless videos produced by younger
bloggers, eager to share their knowledge with others. It is
especially fun if you aren’t alone—if you have a friend
to knit with, it can be a great place to “spill the truth tea”
(as my friend Haley says), gossip, chat, and enjoy the company of
those close to you.
also a hobby that is quick to pick up, and is one that will never
become a bore; with so many different styles and patterns to choose
from, how could you get bored? There’s always something to
learn, some new pattern to follow, and there are even multiple ways
of producing the exact same stitch. So, while it may look tedious,
tiresome and time-consuming, there is actually a lot of thought and
creativity being put into such a craft. Of these many stitches, the
stitch that I prefer—and the only one that I know how to do—is
known as the “simple stitch.”
learned how to knit the “simple stitch”—the most
basic stitch there is—at the end of December last year. My best
friend Haley had come home from Virginia Commonwealth University and
had recently begun knitting her own creations. Being intrigued by the
possibility of knitting myself a scarf (I am a scarf hoarder) I
decided to ask her to teach me. Although she was worried that I
wouldn’t be able to learn from her due to me being left-handed
and her being right-handed, she agreed. Excited, we went to the local
Jo-Ann’s fabric store and headed immediately to the yarn aisle,
which was secluded in the very back of the store.
me tell you, that yarn aisle looked as if a rainbow blew up on it.
by brand, the aisle was a hodge-podge of colors and patterns. Not
only that, there were fuzzy yarns, soft yarns, thick yarns, thin
yarns, wide yarns, and even the yarn that has the slight curl to it
already, as though someone had unraveled their finished scarf and put
it back in the packaging.
many yarns for me to behold. Too many for me to choose from.
am especially bad at making decisions.
as Haley and I wandered the aisle, I stumbled upon this one
beautiful, mint green colored Pound of Love—a ball of yarn by
the Lion Brand that weighs about a pound (Yes, that’s what it
is actually called). Immediately, I fell in love with the color. As I
picked out my yarn, I spied Haley admiring it from afar, and
eventually enticed her to buy the same thing. For $9.99, I got twice
as much yarn as the leading competitors’ yarns, which were
packaged in small bundles and cost just as much.
the hard decision seemingly out of the way, it was time to go to the
aisle with the craft tools. Over half of the aisle was covered in
knitting needles; crochet hooks, sewing kits, and needles lined the
shelves, displayed by brand, by size, by quality. Once again, I was
overwhelmed by choices, overwhelmed by all the color. If I’m
going to be honest, the aisle looked as though a rainbow had vomited
all over the place; the knitting needles were color-coded, with the
pinks being the smallest size needles. Then came the yellow, green,
blue, and purple needles. The widest, most gigantic and
useless-looking knitting needles I’d never seen came next,
decorated in yet another, darker shade of pink (I swear, they were
comedically big, like if someone had placed clown shoes next to the
ordinary shoes in the store). The rainbow continued on into the
crochet hook section, where the various colors of the rainbow
signified the different sizes of the hooks. However, those were not
of my concern; I had to focus on picking out my first pair of
knitting needles, the ones that would determine the fate of my
project, the width of the pattern, the appearance of my skill and my
hard work. And yet, I remember complaining to Haley that I didn’t
want green knitting needles—I have and always will love
blue—but the blue ones were quite wide, and Haley said that
they might ruin the neatness of the “simple stitch”
pattern. After holding the blue and green needles in my hand,
comparing the sizes for far too long, I reluctantly resigned to
getting the green ones and we headed to check out.
approximately $14 (with tax), I was about to begin a hobby that would
change my life forever.
we returned to her home, we sat on the floor of her living room in
front of the TV and portable heater. We turned on her Xbox to pull up
YouTube on the TV, and then listened to scary stories for hours. It
was the best afternoon I think I had all break, sitting there,
relaxing in the warmth radiating from the tiny heater propped up on a
large, educational book on Great White sharks, chatting with my
friend and learning a new skill.
begin to knit, you first need to “cast on,” or get the
yarn on the needle. To do this, you have to hold one of the knitting
needles in your hand—and this should be your dominant hand.
Then, you need to find the end of the yarn ball, and drape that end
over your needle, making sure to have at least an arm’s length
of yarn draped over each side of the needle.
that, you grab the yarn with your free hand (so whichever is NOT your
dominant hand holding the needle), making sure to only use your
pinky, ring, and middle fingers to grasp the yarn. With your pointer
finger and thumb, you will spread apart the two pieces of yarn
without pulling it from the needle, making a diamond shape. You will
then rotate your wrist upward, so that you have now made a loop of
yarn around your thumb, and another loop around your pointer finger.
you’ve done that, you use your needle to dip under the
left-most string of the loop on your thumb, and then pull that string
with your needle towards the loop on your pointer finger. It will
make the string into a backwards “L” shape—that’s
how you know you’re doing it right. Then, you will wrap your
needle around the left side of the loop on your pointer finger. You
will then pull the string back towards the loop on your thumb, and
then will dip your needle underneath the left-most part of the loop
on your thumb. Once you have done that, then you are safe to let the
string around your thumb and pointer finger loose. Finally, pull the
end of the yarn ball and the string still attached to the yarn ball
to tighten your knot to the needle. This process will have produced
the first two loops of your project!
now, you have to repeat the steps, starting from holding your string
and making the diamond shape and continuing until you pull the string
tight. Remember, though, that the subsequent times you complete these
steps, it will only produce one loop at a time.
tedious process will be completed once you are satisfied with the
width of your yarn project—most likely a scarf for beginners.
The loops, when stretched apart from one another, represent how wide
your craft will be once you begin knitting, so it is important to
remember how many loops you have done, especially if you are
following a particular guide to making items like hats and sweaters.
completing that first row, you will finally begin the actual process
of knitting! To knit, you will move the needle with the yarn loops on
it into your non-dominant hand, making sure that the knots are facing
your dominant hand. The string that is attached to the yarn ball will
need to be held out of the way, and to do this you will need to hold
the yarn-covered needle with your bottom three fingers, and then use
your pointer finger to hold the string in place.
you will pick up the empty needle in your dominant hand. When you are
ready, you will slide your free needle under the knot of the loop on
your yarn-covered needle, and will pull it slightly towards the
direction of your dominant hand. Then, you will need to wrap the yarn
looped on your pointer finger onto the free needle. To do this, take
your needle and, going under the right side of the loop towards the
left, you will wrap the string that is attached to the ball to your
you will move your needle back under the loop you made from the
knotted string, and pop the top loop off of the yarn-covered needle.
Now, you will have a new loop on the needle in your dominant hand!
Make sure to pull the string tight, so the new loop is secured.
will continue do this over and over until you have run out of loops
on the needle in your non-dominant hand. Once that happens, you will
move the now-filled needle into your non-dominant hand and begin
repetition, this rhythmic process, can be quite useful for those who
are under a great amount of stress. For myself, this process gives me
time to listen to fun videos on YouTube, to de-stress from a
difficult or long school day, and allows me to stay busy,
entertained, and productive even while I am not doing my school work.
around, under. Pull the loop off the needle. Tighten the string.
tend to knit whenever I find the time in the morning between
breakfast and my commute to school, and when I get home from school
and sit down to eat a late lunch. It’s a nice way to relax
myself before entering the stress-pool that is school, and it is
truly a great way to de-stress from school and get back into a more
serene mindset before beginning to work on my homework. If I find the
time in the evenings, I sit on the couch with my family, watch a show
we all enjoy, and knit while I watch. It helps me to reconcile the
time I’ve spent doing something other than homework, and it
helps me feel productive in a new way.
$14, wouldn’t you want to feel this way, too?
this past weekend, I sat down with my mother and taught her to knit.
It was something that I should have done months ago, when she made a
comment that “You’ll have to teach me how to do that
sometime.” I’d ask, but she’d never felt up to
doing it when I was available.
I finally convinced her, jumping at the opportunity to help someone
else de-stress from their daily life. My mother could be considered a
workaholic; I’m lucky to see her still in the house before
7:30am, and I’m lucky to see her home before 7pm in the
evenings. She doesn’t want to work all the time, but her job
has become more demanding and difficult to accomplish in the office
when her co-workers are there. Thus, she works early, works late, and
pushes herself 12 hours a day, five days a week.
was difficult teaching her to knit. My mother is left-handed, but
unlike me she was not able to pick up the right-handed method. We sat
for two hours, mirroring each other, trying to trouble-shoot why
certain things weren’t working for her. After much struggling,
I succeeded in teaching her how to knit.
couldn’t get her to stop, actually.
11:30pm that night, I had just headed up and hollered goodnight when
my mother hollers back, “I think I messed up! Something’s
trudged back downstairs, insisted that the stitch looked fine, kissed
the top of her head goodnight, and headed to bed.
been a few days, and she and I have knitted together every night
since I taught her. I had let her borrow a pair of my purple knitting
needles and let her use a small ball of leftover yarn I had, but I am
now constantly insisting we needed to go to Jo-Ann’s together,
to show her the magical—although overwhelmingly colorful—aisles
I’d once witnessed, to let her pick out her own needles and
yarn and begin her own de-stressing journey.
I can’t currently teach her much else in the way of knitting, I
could at least be her companion, her relief from the daily monotony
of the world and the pressures of society.
a student, I now was the teacher, bringing another stressed-out soul
towards the light.
am a graduating senior at George Mason
University. During this last semester I have been very stressed out,
so knitting has become a common activity of mine to de-stress and
relax before and after school. Since originally writing this story, I
have knitted a total of three scarves using the "simple stitch,"
and I have actually learned another stitch! I'm currently in the
process of teaching that new stitch to my mother, Theresa.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Another story by Rachel
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher