Two Women and Their Needles

Needles…needles…needles…I have been thinking about needles and how they save my life.

First, it was knitting needles…my mother was an amazing knitter. When I was growing up, I’d always see her making sweaters. She made them for everyone in her family…each of her children, there were four of us who were recipients of her sweaters,..and then there were the grandchildren. She always knit.

I was amazed as I watched her when I was young. I wanted to do that…I wanted to take needles and some yarn and create something…something I could use. So, at the age of 12, she began to teach me.

I still remember one night as she was leaving to go out with my dad, I was pestering her about why I had holes in what I was making. It took me a while to get the hang of the difference between the knit (front) and purl (back) stitches. I often ended up with holes because I wasn’t attentive to where the strand of yarn was…whether or not, at the beginning of the stitch, it was in front or in back of the needles. It took into my later years to get the hang of it.

Because of the “holes” I suppose…because they left my knitting imperfect…well at least in my eyes, I left these needles…for a while.

I picked them up again in college…prompted by two things: I wanted to knit a sweater for my boyfriend, as many of my girlfriends were doing. I also hated having to sit and listen to a professor’s lecture without having something to do. I’ve never been good at just sitting and not doing…something. So I joined my girlfriends at the back of the lecture hall where we knit, only being noticed when one of our straight aluminum needles (think aluminum stick…I’m certain the first knitting needles actually were sticks) would clang as it fell to the floor, much to the professor’s disgust.

I can look back now and observe my “obsession.” Yes, obsession with knitting…or was it needles…

I reached a place where I seemingly wasn’t able to walk into a yarn store…like the old Sheep’s Clothing in Valparaiso…without buying some yarn. I always could “see” in my mind’s eye, what a wonderful thing I could create.

It’s still difficult today…kind of like a kid in a candy shop. There’s something amazingly therapeutic, calming without therapy :), that takes over…evens me out…brings me to a peaceful place…helps me when I have to do things I’d rather not do…or even if I do want to do them, when I run into a snag or sticky situations and need some down time for reflection. It’s as if I always want to be “on the go” or accomplishing tasks. Knitting makes me feel like I’m accomplishing while having fun…while my mind works on solutions to challenges or new ideas. Knitting calms me…rests me…helps me sit down, relax…when my body wants to keep doing. In some ways I think that when my hands keep going…they are doing with my left brain while my right brain can spin off, dream and imagine.

I’m not a news junkie like my husband is in the evenings. So I knit when I’m watching TV with him. My mother used to knit while she read a book, watched TV, smoked a cigarette, and attended to her children.

I know, you’re thinking “How could she do that? Wouldn’t she have to look at what she was doing?” No…not really. Both of us got to the place where we could knit in the dark…think movie theater…moving our hands while still enjoying the film. Did we make mistakes? Of course we did. The key was the more we did, the less mistakes we made…besides, we knew how to fix them…after the fact…without tearing everything out…no worries.

There were other needles for both of us as well. We stitched crewel and embroidery…making images…pillows…”paintings” with yarn. Of course, we then had to always look at what we were doing. The same is true for quilting…even for long-arm quilters like Bisa Butler and Jamie Wallen…always attentive to the needle!

Recently, I’m doing my best to learn about another needle. One that makes it possible to create with fiber without having to thread a needle…and it’s amazing how much when we keep our hands busy our creative minds can roam.

So find something that occupies your left brain, and let your imagination run wild! Who knows what you’ll create…