Knitting Is for the Soul

Rachel Stierle

© Copyright 2018 by Rachel Stierle


Photo of a knitting project.

Knitting 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. 

Knitting 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.

For 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.

It’s 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.”

I 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.

Let me tell you, that yarn aisle looked as if a rainbow blew up on it.

Sorted 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.

Too many yarns for me to behold. Too many for me to choose from.

I am especially bad at making decisions.

However, 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.

With 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.

For approximately $14 (with tax), I was about to begin a hobby that would change my life forever.

When 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.


To 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.

After 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.

Once 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!

But 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.

This 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.
After 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.

Then, 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 needle.

Finally, 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.

You 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 again.

This 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.

Under, around, under. Pull the loop off the needle. Tighten the string. Repeat.

I 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.

For $14, wouldn’t you want to feel this way, too?

Just 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.

But, 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.

It 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.

I couldn’t get her to stop, actually.

At 11:30pm that night, I had just headed up and hollered goodnight when my mother hollers back, “I think I messed up! Something’s not right!”

I trudged back downstairs, insisted that the stitch looked fine, kissed the top of her head goodnight, and headed to bed.

It’s 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.

Though 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.

Once a student, I now was the teacher, bringing another stressed-out soul towards the light.

I 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. 

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