Knitting teaches me to try, try again.

So often in life, we try something, fail and feel like, well, failures. I, growing up, tried a number of things and gave up when it just didn’t work. Or I may not given up, but I’d feel miserable or lose confidence in myself.

Strangely, with knitting, I don’t get this feeling. To be fair, I haven’t tried anything extravagant yet. I’m sure I’d be quite upset if I made a mistake at the end of a cardigan or something, but I’ve been doing lots of small squares and mini projects (such as my cat ears for Halloween) to learn different techniques. If I forget to switch from purl to garter stitch, I figure out how to go backwards. If I realise two lines later that I accidentally dropped a stitch, I unravel everything and actually think to myself that it’s a chance to practice my casting on.

Let me repeat that with a little more emphasis in the right places.

When I make a mistake, in a way I’m happy, as it means a chance to learn and practice.

Looking back, I honestly believe that this is slowly wiggling its way into other areas of my life since I started knitting. I’m a little less hard on myself when something does go wrong. I tell myself it’s a learning opportunity, and I actually believe myself now. Of course, I still tend to feel disappointed, but I’m definitely starting to set more realistic expectations for myself, and I’m learning to not give up if I can’t get something straight away. And I’m betting that this has actually led to me learning things faster!

I’m curious to know if other knitters have experienced this. Or, alternatively, I’d like to see if knitting could help those who have a tendency to be hard on themselves learn to fix a situation or simply restart it. It could be that knitting is the ‘it’s ok to mess up’ activity for me, and that everyone has their own individual activity that they should discover, or knitting could really have some magical property to it that allows people to relax and laugh when they realise they’ve had a bit of a hiccup.

Potential mini OT research project, anyone?

The knitting workshop at Restore, and a spontaneous reflection on groups.

As you may have heard, I spent the afternoon knitting in Restore, the charity organisation supporting people with mental health issues. It was a lot of fun, though it didn’t exactly go as planned. The three of us who agreed to run the workshop were expecting to actually teach people how to knit. I took along some of my first pieces to show new knitters that mistakes were inevitable, but that with a little practice, you could knit some lovely pieces (as demonstrated by James’ collection of scarves, gloves and other woolly wonders). I also took along the book I used to learn to knit, Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel, just in case people preferred learning from through words and photos. Yet, lo and behold, I ended up being the worst knitter there. Or should I say, more favourably, the least experienced. It became more of a social knitting group than a workshop, which was actually fine for us. In fact, I learned a little myself, including a much faster and prettier way of casting on using just one needle.

What was a bit sad, though, was that only three people showed up, and only two did any knitting. I suppose Restore was running a whole week of workshops, with sessions in the morning and afternoon, and people could choose between three in each time slot. We were competing with ‘Fun Drama’, which seemed to attract a lot of interest. I wonder if this is because it wasn’t clear that the knitting workshop was for beginners, or if there’s still stigma surrounding knitting. (Just like there’s stigma surrounding mental health issues!)

Afterwards, my co-facilitators and I went to have a light snack and chat, which ended up being refreshingly honest. We talked about our own experiences with mental health issues, and how there’s a distinct difference between feeling ‘sad’ and feeling ‘depressed’. I do feel I connected a lot more in our intimate meetup today than I have with anyone at an actual knitting meetup on Wednesday nights, when there are just so many people, and they’ve all already formed their subgroups.

I wonder how the people who came to the group felt. I wonder if maybe having three facilitators and three attendees was the right mix, particularly as my fellow facilitators weren’t aware that they conversed mainly with each other. I’m not saying that they were at fault, as I’m sure they didn’t realise that they were potentially isolating at least one of the attendees, a young woman who appeared very low in mood and was very withdrawn, sitting a few seats away from the rest of us. (She was an amazing knitter though, starting and finishing a hat before the session was finished.) While I tried to engage her in the conversation, it was quite difficult with everyone else continuing to have their own discussion.

If we were to run this workshop again, would it be worth it to subtly explain to my co-facilitators the effect of their ‘inner group’ chatting? It is something to consider; however, I don’t want to come across as patronising. It would be one thing if they were fellow healthcare workers or students, but they didn’t sign up to professionally run groups and haven’t had an education in the area. However, surely it would benefit them and others if I do kindly say a thing or two before running a group again, as then they would be more aware of how their actions could isolate new people joining the meetup group or other people with mental health issues they encounter in their day-to-day life.

 

Wow, I didn’t intend for this post to go into such a reflection, not drawing the connecting between my own experience in the knitting meetups and today’s workshop until I got to the paragraph! That was quite handy…

Knitting for Mental Health.

I am participating in DateKnit, a knit-a-thon on World Mental Health Day – October 10th. Along with at least twenty other people, I will be raising money for RESTORE, and Oxfordshire charity that supports people with mental health issues to succeed in life. Dressed up in cocktail attire and hopefully dragging the Flan along, I’ll knit for at least three hours (depending on what time I get off work). It is because of this that I decided to reveal my name, all so that you can, if you so choose, support the charity.

You can find my JustGiving page here:

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Alternatively, if you’re in the UK, you can text ‘KNIT57‘ and the amount you want to donate (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.

The money will go directly to Restore. The hope is that they will have enough to buy knitting supplies for a workshop week next month that I plan to volunteer at. When my knitting group’s founder suggested the charity, I thought it was perfect, as isn’t helping people achieve what they want to in life the purpose of an occupational therapist?

Anyway, I’m not exactly a brilliant knitter. I can do the basic knit stitch, and that’s about it so far. I’ve completed two projects this week (and crossed another item off my bucket list), a scarf for Flan and an iPad sleeve. I finally finished these two items thanks to the knitting group I found and attend for the first time on Wednesday. I’ll talk more about them later because there’s a whole other point I want to make with that experience!