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Knot what you might expect

Image: Alia Manshi

I took up knitting in around April of last year. I was coming up to the end of my gap year and in all honesty, I was depressed. I had recently returned from Spain after working as an Au Pair which was where I made the discovery that working with children is an extremely difficult job. Despite the countless moments of fun and games, my levels of anxiety escalated to a point where I felt like a completely unnatural human-being. The one incident that put the nail in the coffin was when a three-year-old boy, whom I was taking care of, was refusing to be obedient and very nearly was hit by a motorbike.

When I returned to the UK, I felt beat up and tired. I felt guilty and I felt disappointed. This was not the turn I expected my gap year to take. One day, when I was out with my mum, we walked past a church town-hall with clear-glass doors. In the foyer, I saw a group of women knitting. One of the women smiled at me. My mother and I decided to stop and inquire about it. The women I met, greeted me with such warmth and smiles and in those moments, I felt myself begin to heal. We made a note of appearing to the next knitting club and continued to go right up until I left for University.

I met some of my dearest friends at knitting club

I was entirely unaware of the mental health-benefits that knitting offered me: according to Professor Yonas Geda, knitting can help to improve memory, enhance thinking skills and can also work as an anti-depressant. It was also described by Psychologist Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi as an active form of meditation with regards to a ‘flow effect’.

On top of this, I met some of my dearest friends at knitting club. They may have seemed unlikely friendships because they were all intergenerational, but this group of gregarious women have made me laugh just as many times as any of my friends who are of a similar age. Take Lynne for example, despite currently under-going chemotherapy to treat her Hodgkin’s disease attends knitting club regularly. She is by far one of the quickest and talented knitters I have ever seen and has been so kind as to knit me my own hat and scarf to take to Exeter. Then there’s Marion, who has carried out many an autopsy on my humble knitting attempts. She also courageously carried out an operation on one of my deformed scarves, turning it into a much healthier looking snood. Anne and Hetti are such kind and caring women who offered me motherly advice about leaving home to go to University. Audrey, Yolani and Sue have such sweet dispositions. Finally, there’s Barbara who will tell you about all the mischief she got up to when she worked at Harrods. She was bestowed an extraordinary amount of power simply through possessing a clip board.

On joining this knitting club, a few of my friends have come to one off knitting sessions with me and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. My mum’s dearest friend Rosa also attends whom it is always a pleasure and privilege to see. One time, we even had a one-off special knitting club guest whom now at the age of 92, had been knitting ever since she was a child. She was 14 years old when World War II broke out. As a part of the war effort, she was made to take the yarn from old jumpers and knit socks for soldiers.

I care for all these women a tremendous amount and look forward to seeing them on my return to London. While at Exeter however, I have also joined the knitting society. It is much larger than my knitting club at home, but the sincerity and kindness of the people is just as apparent. We have already discussed the creation of “knitted wristbands” for strictly knitters socials and the intention to organise a sushi night using the very fitting apparatus of knitting needles.

I feel that knitting has not only taught me a skill, but it has become an important part of maintaining my own mental well-being. I believe that the people I’ve met have made my life a much happier one and despite the seemingly quirkier, less trendy connotations knitting may or may not have, I have learnt that anyone can knit. I’d even go as far as to say that everyone should knit.

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