I think knitting does my mental health good. It allows me to put the many flickering tabs my brain has open into stasis whilst my hands take over with a restful muscle memory.

Heather’s #MadCovidDiaries 24.01.2020

In, over through and out!

That was my mantra when I had my first psychotic break. My mum placed a pair of knitting needles in my hands and she explained that knitting had been what kept her going through 3 months of pregnancy bedrest. Her mother in law had handed her a pair of knitting needles so my Mum could navigate the frustration of being stuck in bed 24/7 growing me in her womb till I could thrive. Now I was going mad and it was my turn to pick up the needles.

In to the loop, over with the wool, through the loop and out!

I took to knitting. It became a way to measure the length of each day. People said this bipolar thing would get easier. Sure. Whatever. I focused on the rows as they built up into fabric. I knit eyelash yarn, rainbow yarn, chunky blue denim wash and Sirdar yarn became a jumper fit for a gorilla. No matter what, you can always rip knitted fabric back and start over, and I did. You can’t do that with your life after a burning trash fire of a manic episode, but it’s reassuring to know I never had to tough my way through wearing that regrettable jumper. I literally cannot fuck up my knitting for good.

I took to knitting in the age of Stitch and Bitch. Small communities of knitting fanatics began to occupy coffee shops. Retired knitting veterans – always cracking with double pointed needles and 4 ply pastel wool – welcomed the newbies like me. There were always mad people in knitting circles; they were a catch all hobby group for the receptionist who got signed off sick, the long term mentally ill folks I met at the outpatient therapy, the activists knitting profanities into cushion covers. I learned a long tail cast method on from a burlesque circus performer. A stranger on YouTube taught me how to knit lace. Knitting allowed me to socialise with people without ever having to make eye contact.

There were no rules in knitting. You could knit a thong from raspberry laces (tried it, uncomfy and not good for PH balance), or a scarf of link chains to emulate Jacob Marleys ghost (highly recommend). I was in a new world where I could don a 12 foot Tom Baker Dr Who scarf, or a Yoda Balaclava, or a rainbow pride hat with viking horns. Neon green mohawk? No problem. I was too unwell to go to weddings or christening so I sent lace shawls and matinee jackets with frilly cuffs. Whenever someone asked me ‘what do you do’ I could enthuse about my latest knitting project and bamboozle them away from my unemployed status. Knitting is a good prop for dating too. I knit at goth bars and on trains and in restaurants I hated eating alone at. Geek knitting is social catnip for fellow geeks.

I think knitting does my mental health good. It allows me to put the many flickering tabs my brain has open into stasis whilst my hands take over with a restful muscle memory. Some days are so bad that all you can do is knit while you wait for things to change. There are 26 letters in the  English alphabet and just 2 stitches in knitting. In many ways, knitting starts off as creative hobby in easy mode. Then one day you are replicating the intricate cables of a Shetland fisherman’s jumper and all of a sudden people stop to compliment your  clothes and ask ‘did you make that?!’  You never know where you’ll end up: in, over, through, and you’ve created a merry band of knitters and you’re yarnbombing your local park in the middle of the night. You’re a badass with two needles, a wool stash busting out of every cupboard and a reason to live.

That’s why I always have needles if you want to learn!

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