How Knitting Gets Me Through Tough Times

by Ailsa Bristow

Despite what our social media feeds may show, life just sometimes isn’t that fun, y’know? For whatever reason, you find yourself in the doldrums, and everything seems like a beige-y shade of meh rather than a bright-yellow-and-azure fantastic!

In my experience, these periods are somewhat inevitable: they will vary in their intensity and their particular flavour, but somewhere along the way most of us will experience them. What’s important then, is not advice on how to avoid these periods in our life, but how to get through them.

The answer, for me, has often been knitting.

I know. Knitting. The word conjures up one of two images: either of an old lady smelling way too strongly of cat, or alternatively, of an aggressively cool hipster who makes those needles look like weapons.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

I learned to knit as a child (from my grandmother and mother, both of whom are super cool) but it wasn’t until the last three or so years that I began to really get into it. This coincided with a period of uncertainty and change in my life (also known as: being in my mid-twenties).

What I love about knitting is it gives me a creative outlet, even when my brain is too exhausted to tackle other creative projects. Unless you’re really advanced, you’re usually following a pattern when knitting so there’s a significant safety net, but you also get to express your creativity through your choice of yarn, colour etc. In this way it’s kind of like a fibre-arts equivalent of adult colouring books. (But also way more awesome than a colouring book because you end up with a super cute knit item!)

Knitting creates a feeling of productivity, even if all I’m up to on a given day is binging The Vampire Diaries on Netflix. If you’re going through a down period, accomplishing small goals can be vital to your self worth: there’s an undeniable sense of achievement to finishing something that can be worn or gifted immediately. It’s hard to feel like a complete failure at everything if you have visible and tangible proof of something you made (a hat! a scarf! a blanket!) Another great thing about knitting is you are unlikely to ever run out of projects or new techniques you want to try.

Even just the act of knitting itself—once you become competent it’s almost meditative. There’s something about the steady rhythm of needles clicking that can send you into a trance-like state. It’s hard to be anxious or upset when knitting; it requires enough concentration to keep your mind occupied, but is also rote enough to allow relaxed contemplation.

Have I convinced you? If the answer is yes, here are some tips to get you started:

1: Take a class

The options are pretty broad here. I’m personally a fan of the in-person class – check out your local yarn stores or even bigger box crafting stores who are pretty likely to run regular classes. You can also explore online classes: Craftsy offers a whole host of online classes, many aimed at beginners. Or, if you’re looking for something a little more free, there are hundreds of YouTube videos and websites that offer advice on starting out. One of my favourite resources for beginner knitters is “The Simple Collection” from Tin Can Knits. This collection introduces you to a tonne of beginner patterns and includes written and video tutorials for basic techniques.

2: Pick your pattern

I cannot emphasize this enough: Ravelry is your friend. Ravelry revolutionized my knitting life. Suddenly thousands of knitting patterns, many of them free, were at my fingertips. It is a gold mine of knitting inspiration.

It’s also a social platform for knitters (because contrary to popular stereotype, knitters are pretty cool people and totally capable of making friends). If you’re interested, you can find me @ailsaclare.

3: Get social (or not)

This is a tough one for me, because one of the things I love most about knitting is the sense of happy, quiet alone time it gives me. But hey, I’m an introvert, so I’m all about quality me time. If you’re more of a social butterfly, there are lots of stitch and bitch groups, knitting circles or knit nights out there. And even my introverted often-anxious self has enjoyed these kind of nights from time to time. There’s a built in common interest and conversation topic, which makes it easy for even a shy person to break into the conversation. Sometimes connecting with other people who share something in common with you is a great antidote to the blues.

So, if for whatever reason you find yourself a little glum right now? Knitting – it might be worth a try.


About Ailsa

ailsa-bristowAilsa Bristow is a British writer currently living in Canada. After getting both her Bachelors and Masters, Ailsa has spent most of the rest of her twenties trying to figure out what to do with her life. This is a work in progress. Major interests include books, gin, feminism and crafting. Ailsa blogs about her writing life and creative process at ailsabristow.com.

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