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May 10, 2010

I rediscovered knitting after a run of particularly horrible life events which left me very depressed. Having had a 15 year break, I was stunned to see the range of yarns and patterns that had become available in the meantime. Somehow I ended up with a couple of skeins of Noro Silk Garden and began to knit a scarf. I’d forgotten the joy of making something, in particular of knitting something: feeling the texture of the yarn through my fingers, getting into a rhythm with the stitches, and watching the colours appear while the fabric grew steadily and reliably at a time when nothing else seemed steady or reliable at all.

Well, those difficult days have gone now, but knitting has remained and it is what I turn to whenever the stress levels start to rise. It rarely fails me. When I am feeling miserable or grumpy or panicky, out come the needles and I settle down to my own individual therapy session – and you can buy a LOT of yarn for the price of a few therapy sessions.

Right now, though, knitting has taken on a different character as I have a daughter leaving for New Zealand in less than two weeks and a Central Park Hoodie that is, perhaps, two-thirds done. Here’s part of a sleeve:

Now, I can handle this. It is going to be fun trying to meet the challenge of getting the hoodie completed in time for her trip. I shall get the family to cheer me on and probably use it as (another) excuse not to do very much housework.  But it’s not why I knit. I’ll do it this once and then I’ll be casting on something soothing to help me get over it.  I rather fancy some colourwork, or something tiny and beautiful for a baby as yet unborn.

Which is why I have a dilemma. Someone I love very much has asked me to knit her a cardigan for her birthday and I have gone and said yes. And everything in me is rebelling against it. I will worry that it might not fit her. I will feel obliged to knit it quickly. I will doubtless get stressed about both those factors and probably several others too. And then what can I do? I can’t turn to knitting to calm me down because knitting will be the problem.

At first sight, this seems like rather a silly thing to be worried about. I feel I should just ‘bite the bullet’ and get on with it. But actually I have learned very much the hard way that if you are prone to depression you need to heed the warning signs quite early on and do something about them. And here I have a whole host of flashing red lights in my head telling me that this is not going to do me any good at all.

So now I don’t know what to do. Shall I go ahead with the project anyway and risk becoming weepy and grumpy and a horrible person to be around? Or shall I tell the person I love that I can’t knit her a cardigan because it is liable to throw me into a depression? Which not only sounds pathetic but will also make her feel guilty for asking me in the first place.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Valerie permalink
    May 10, 2010 1:23 pm

    Your friend wouldn’t have asked you if she didn’t think you could do it or if she thought you’d be anxious so either you tell her how you feel or you’ll just have to go and dig in your garden to de-stress:)

  2. May 10, 2010 4:48 pm

    I sympathise deeply with this dilemma!

    After taking on one commission which made me feel extremely 1. underpaid and 2. resentful, I also discovered that 3. there is no pleasure for me in knitting something that isn’t 100% my choice of ‘the next project’ for my knitting! In my own life, I have put up very strong boundaries around knitting, telling everyone I know that I don’t really do commissions or knits-on-request. I also made a chart to help me explain to would-be-customers why I won’t knit garments on demand:

    I do temper this hard-ass approach with the explanation that I will teach anyone who wants to knit how to do it for free, and then I generally invite them to one of the knitting nights I go to. And when I choose to knit something for someone I love – like your gorgeous hoodie for your daughter – well that’s a whole other thing. Gifts I want to knit are like things I want to knit for myself… but the unsolicited commissions are difficult! Most people have absolutely no idea how much work goes into knitted clothes, because they buy them from Primark for £2, and because they only see your new knitted things, and not the hours that are spent making them.

    Re: your friend, in my experience it serves no-one to prostrate yourself and your own health for the sake of others and however guilty/disappointed she may be about you NOT doing the cardigan, it will be less difficult than dealing with the frustration and resentment that may come between you when your me-time therapy gets taken over with obligation knitting!

    Perhaps the thing to do is to organise a time to talk, buy some yarn and needles and flowers, and make a visit to explain that you actually don’t want to knit the cardigan… that you thought it would be OK but now you’ve taken it on you realise it isn’t quite the right thing. It might be a little bit awkward but if you are really great friends, you will get through that and you might gain a knitting buddy from it. I think there needs to be space for conversations like that in friendships and it sounds like your knitting time is precious enough to warrant that bit of care-taking. Otherwise, I’d buy some 9mm needles and the biggest wool you can and simplest cardigan pattern, crank the cardigan out as quickly as you can and then work out a way of avoiding any further obligation knitting in your future! Finally… and sorry for leaving such a massive essay but I really wanted to reply properly to your post… the Yarn Harlot wrote one of the loveliest posts ever about having a teenage daughter go travelling far away and I thought you might enjoy/relate to it:


  3. May 11, 2010 10:00 pm

    I really feel for you. At the risk of sounding a complete Oliver Burkeman self-help nerd, I have been thinking over something I read this weekend about askers and guessers. Briefly, askers make requests realising that the response may be no. Guessers on the other hand “resent the agony in saying no.” The article concludes that if you say no, nothing will happen. I’ve been doing some of that myself lately having been resentful about doing things I really did not want to do. It’s very liberating and I would recommend it.

    Full article: .

    Good luck!

    • JoannaD permalink
      May 13, 2010 12:42 pm

      Many, many thanks to you all for your helpful suggestions. I thoroughly recommend Felix’s chart for any knitters in a similar situation to mine, and Colleen’s Burkeman link for some fascinating insights into why some of us find it so hard to say no. I feel quite emboldened and confident that there is a creative way out of this. Thank you again!

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