Christmas is once again upon us but we are all getting a sense of deja vu. When we finally thought that we could put 2020 and 2021 behind us, we ended up with curse rather than a gift for Christmas. Most people seemed to have predicted it but for a sizeable group of people, the thought of lockdown and social isolation started poisoning our mind and causing a mental health crisis. I fall into that group. After a horrible 2020 with my mom’s illness, my trip back home to see her in 2021 was disrupted again and again due to travel restrictions. My air ticket is now in limbo while I decide when the best time is to travel back home to see my her and my family. With lockdown after lockdown, health concerns mounted and eventually I even caught the dreaded virus (although I was asymptomatic). Social isolation was horrible and I was always worried if I had infected anyone. My mental health took a turn for the worse and I was anxious in everything that I did.
With Christmas looming, my anxiety started to peak as I was worried about mom but also because it is 8 years since dad passed away. December, which used to be a wonderful time for me became associated with worry and sadness.
However, this year I decided to disassociate the negative feelings with calm and mindfulness. I read that knitting is a great way to do this and since it had been a while since I last knitted, I challenged myself to knit a jumper for the winter months ahead. My previous knitted projects tend to be small items such as snoods and mittens but I have never attempted a jumper before. I had once tried to crochet a jumper but soon gave up. The enthusiasm I had was nothing compared to when I was 12 and crochet a table cloth as part of a school project. I enjoyed it so much that when I finished the piece, I volunteered to crochet for my friend because he hated the task and I didn’t want it to end.
This time round I set myself an easy project by buying the thickest yarn and biggest knitting needle. I bought a knitting kit from Wool and the gang and chose a jumper with bell sleeve which they named the ‘Sometimes sweater’. The kit finally came and I told myself that this project is going to be something I am going to savour and enjoy.
After opening the bag, I read through the instruction but a moment of hesitation made me veer away from the bell sleeve. I saw a cardigan with a bubble stitch sleeve and fell in love with it instead so proceeded to bodge together a knitting pattern for a jumper with a bubble knit sleeve. I made something that was easy into an intermediate project instead. The story of my life; I always pick the most difficult route and strangely enough, it seems to reflect on my mental health as well.
Knitting the jumper was a bit of calm and a lot of contemplation. It taught me to appreciate the present and not to worry about the future. Knit is meditation and the setting I was in was so beautiful. After such a long time, I began to slowly listen to Christmas music again. It felt that I was inviting the younger me back into my life. He was a happy person with a permanent smile on his face. In fact, the exact words of my 1996 year book mentioned that I was respected for my simplicity in my outlook on life. I would like that person back in my life again.
This project helped me face a few mental issues I was battling and with each knit and purl, I felt that I was offloading all my anxieties about things that were out of my control. I felt at peace with myself and like this knitting project, I took it one step at a time, one day at a time. I spoke to a few friends about it and they said it was the same for them. Knitting is therapeutic and a great tool to help with the healing of the mind and soul.
A week later, the jumper is nearly finished. The bodged pattern for the sleeve worked really well and to be honest with you, I surprised myself. For something that I never attempted for the fear of failure, I was glad that I undertook this project. I did have to take bits apart and start all over again but that’s all part of the process. I learnt to let it go and make the best out of the current situation.
The final hurdle was deciding if I wanted to put in a gusset under the arm. I felt that the sleeve looked a bit too tight around the underarm so decided to make a gusset. The first gusset was too big and created unnecessary space so I knitted a smaller gusset but at the end, I realised that I didn’t need it. I tried to make it better but it was already great as it is. Another lesson in accepting things for what they are and not what you assume it should be.
When the jumper was finally pieced together with the loose ends all woven in, I wore it and it gave me such warmth akin to someone giving me a hug to say ‘Hey, it’s ok!’.
So with Christmas a few days away, I am mentally in a better frame of mind. Not only did I ended up with this amazing sweater, I stopped being so hard on myself and started on a journey of recovery. So my advice to everyone is to be kind to yourself and everyone around you. We don’t know what everyone is going through.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year.