WIP, and a story

I live on an island, which necessitates taking a ferry back and forth to my day job. Generally speaking, for me this means a half hour of uninterrupted knitting time, and on my way home tonight, I was working on this simple blanket:


It's a very easy, two row repeat pattern that allows me to zone out a bit, and as I was doing so, I saw two women looking my way. This isn't unusual; people often ask me about what I'm making (ferry time is also chatting time). This time, however, I overheard one say to the other "Oh, she's knitting". I was taken a bit aback by how scornful she sounded, and it got me thinking. Everyone knits (or doesn't) for different reasons, and I thought I'd share mine.

I learned to knit when I was about 18. I was taking a medication that had to be infused; for those unfamiliar, this is when a medication is slowly dripped via an IV into a vein. It was to treat debilitating Rheumatoid Arthritis (yes, I am young...but that's a whole other post :P), and it took FOREVER. I had to sit all day, hooked up to an IV on one arm and a blood pressure monitor on the other once every two weeks. I checked out a book from the library and bought some cheap yarn out of sheer desperation, and while I sat there, I painstakingly cast on and knit my first blanket. It was too big, the yarn was scratchy, and the bind off was truly terrifying, but I was incredibly proud of it, and it kept me busy. It also entertained the other patients in the infusion center, mostly older ladies receiving treatment for breast cancer. Having to focus on getting your stitches right, I've learned, is a really good way to deal with stress, and I soon started to carry knitting with me wherever I went. I've spent countless hours in doctor's waiting rooms and hospital beds, knitting away while I waited for someone to come give me not-so-good news.

It is also proof that my hands are still capable. They're sometimes slow, and they're not pretty anymore; the knuckles are large and usually red, and they don't move quite so gracefully. But they can hold needles, and guide fabric, and make beautiful things that people love. It is a reason to get out of bed in the morning when the ache seems intolerable - that project always needs to be finished, and the yarn is downstairs, so get your bum up and moving. It's a companion in the middle of the night when medication keeps me awake,  a thing to keep my mind busy when my body can't be, a thing that defines me as something other than a sick person. Knitting is sometimes quite literally the only thing keeping my sanity intact.

I thought all of this on the ferry tonight. And in the end, I didn't say anything. Just a perfect example of how something so vital to me can mean something radically different to someone else. But I do wonder, knitters...why do you knit? And have you ever run into a situation like this before? It was a first for me and I'm curious to know if anyone else has experienced something similar.