You will know, I'm sure, that I have a minor obsession with yarn-based crafts. It started at an early age...
Whilst the other girls were playing with their Barbies and Pretty Ponies (I was always more of a Lego kinda girl), I was making. I was taught to knit by a selection of adults in my life: my granny (who was a self-confessed hater of knitting - too time consuming - and knitted so tightly that the needles squeaked against the yarn); my grandma (who had her own particular style of casting on that I've never seen since); and my mum (who always gave in before the end and passed it onto Grandma to finish). I must have been young because I remember telling a dinner lady in my second year of primary school how I'd started with 12 stitches on the needles and ended with 7...
It wasn't cool to be a knitter. I had a couple of really good friends who are still with me that could see my point and occasionally joined in, but for the most part, it was a source of ridicule. So much so that by my teens, I'd stopped and it wasn't until I had children of my own that I picked up my needles again.
I was out of practice. My tension had gone, I'd forgotten what the abbreviations were, and the items I finished were pretty ropey to be honest. My poor kids had a series of badly finished, mismade and frankly rubbish jumpers, booties and cardigans. But I just couldn't step away.
And so it has always been. There's something about the rhythmic clacking of needles, the smell of sheep in the yarn and the desperate willing of a piece to be finished that I can't abandon. Knitting has been a big part of my life for many years now. It gives me time to contemplate, to imagine and for my mind to wander. It's one of the most therapeutic solutions to the busyness and stress of daily life that I know.
I embarked on a new project last year. I decided I would like a camping jumper, something super warm and thick that would shield me from cold nights outdoors. I found a pattern, 'Simple Fair Isle' in a cheap knitting book that fit - the wrong type of yarn, but I thought if I could knit it in the smallest size, it might compensate for the extra thickness. I had some beautiful 100% Icelandic wool that wasn't worth a risk, so I bought some much cheaper to see if it worked.
At this point, I was fired with enthusiasm and had totally misjudged how much time and energy my trial run would take. This is all part of knitting's charm - to coerce you into forgetting the months of frustration that lie ahead by dazzling you with bright colours and promises...
It has taken me a year. In fact over a year! And every bit of perseverance and spare energy I can muster. I have hated this jumper - hated the numerous balls of wool rolling all over the floor, the needles that keep disappearing and the ends, oh my! the ends! Literally thousands of ends to sew in individually. But it's done. As I say to people who comment, this jumper is never coming off my back. I will live in it; I will be buried in it.
So why on earth do I a. want to do this again and b. think this is so important? Well...
This is something I've made myself. It's my skill and my knowledge that have done this, no-one else, and this is what true self-reliance is all about. And why is self-reliance so important? Because it gives us power. If we can do these things ourselves, we are not at the mercy of anyone else. And in changing and challenging times, that's pretty important.
Every stitch of this jumper has me invested in it. House fire? This is the one I'd save. Home late from work and soaking wet (a frequent occurrence)? This is the one I'd pull from the drawer. Holidays? This is the one that'll be packed. Because it's not just another Primarni special, this genuinely has love in it. Love, memories, happy times. And that's pretty comforting.
And if it falls apart, as it almost inevitably will, I can repair it. If I want longer sleeves, I can add to it. If it wears thin, I can repair it easily. It ain't going nowhere.
These feelings, of pride, of strength, of happiness, are too good not to share. Everyone deserves this feeling, and if I can pass it on to one more person to experience, then that'll do me just fine. Maybe, just maybe, this is what was going on in the heads of my granny, grandma and mum.
Knitting? There's more to it than meets the eye eh?!
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.