The Loops That Bind Us: Crafting and Connecting Through the Crisis, by Deb Witwicki
In early March, although there was concern about the spread of Coronavirus, travel was still open between countries. March 7, my husband Gord and I travelled to Scottsdale, Arizona, to spend Spring Break with his son, Mac, wife Jessie and our grandchildren, Cyd (10) and Ty (7) who live in Anchorage, Alaska.
We had a lovely visit, enjoying the pool, restaurants, sports and recreation facilities — all of which were still open. And, most precious to me, Cyd asked me to teach her how to knit. As with most beginners, it took Cyd some time to find her rhythm but once she did, she pronounced, “I love this.” The loops of her dishcloth started to flow off her needles. I hadn’t realized how eagerly my soul had been waiting to play a part in the generational ritual of passing the needles. Soon Cyd, just like Grandma Deb, was knitting everywhere — at the pool, while waiting for a table at a restaurant and, of course, watching TV. She discovered that knitting draws connection with others as people stopped by to ask what she was doing and look at her work.
One day, we were returning to the parking lot after reserving a family place at Top Golf (which we also took our knitting to although Cyd did swing the club as well). After passing the area of through traffic, Cyd and I soon became immersed in one of our many discussions about the craft. “What is the difference between a purl stitch and a knit stitch, Grandma?” Cyd asked. I whipped off the sweater I had recently knit (I finished attaching the buttons on the plane trip there), and proceeded to show her the difference between the purl bumps on the wrong side and smooth stockinet on the right side. So absorbed were we in the fabric and one another, that we passed right by Gord’s car and wound up at the end of the lot. As a somewhat restless spirit, I often have to school myself to stay in the moment. Not this time. The moment had captured Cyd and I together and all else fell away.
What a difference a week makes. We returned home to our 14-day self isolation, escalating messages on social distancing and mounting closures of schools, businesses, recreation facilities and of course, our own, Fibre Nook. Co-owner Leslie Latta reports that our kind patrons have been very supportive, keeping the business going, and daytime staff employed filling their on-line orders.
I am so glad to be able to savour the experience of teaching Cyd during this time because it allows me to appreciate with a beginner’s mind the many gifts our knitting and crochet offer to us and those around us. Our needles are instruments of connection. While one informal poll during a busy Thursday afternoon around the tables at The Fibre Nook revealed that many of us are introverts and are drawn by the solitary pleasures of our work, there are few amongst us who can resist the opportunity to gather together for inspiration, learning, conversation and engagement in the language of our art. Fibre Nook Learning Opportunities Coordinator Susan Chin and Instructor Sandra Buzza have set up an on-line Knit-Along on Ravelry so that our community can continue to engage and inspire one another during our physical isolation.
Even in our solitary work we operate in an expansive field of connections… to the generations of artisans who have passed the skill on to us since ancient times, to the wool gatherers and dyers who give us such a rich supply of colour and texture, and to the instructors and designers who make our craft a life-long learning experience. Connection notwithstanding, one of the most meaningful gifts that knit and crochet offer during this particular crisis is that we can work on our own. And this work helps keep us engaged and productive during a time when we can’t participate in so many of our usual daily activities.
Generosity seems to flow from our craft as naturally as the stitches, whether it is helping one another with our work or creating gifts for friends, family and charitable causes. When I knit for others I find myself reflecting on the recipient and often focus on knitting love and compassion in my stitches. I like to imagine the person who receives it will be able to feel these in the fabric.
We touch each other through our work. When wildfires raged through Australia last year, knitters, crocheters and sewers from near and far rallied to craft pouches to soothe, warm and quiet rescued wild life. The Conversation (a publication available on-line) reports on this in Crafting in Times of Crisis Helps Critters and Creators. Those who crave fresh, life-giving images, might want to check it out. The brushtail peering out from its little knitted pouch and the orphaned joey ensconced in its sewn pouch brought tears to my eyes.
As exemplified with my experience in the parking lot with Cyd, needlework has the capacity to absorb us in a world of colour, texture, design and creativity. During this pandemic we do need to follow the news and understand the part we play in keeping safe but repetition can soon lead to bombardment and I find quietly knitting offers a meditative and soothing break.
Coronavirus concerns us all. Daily we are reminded of wisdom that many spiritual gurus impart: When we take care of ourselves, we take care of others. Our ability to stay calm, productive and engaged affects not only us but also those around us. Most importantly, knit and crochet impress upon us that amazing creations of grace and beauty can be accomplished one stitch at a time, a lesson in faith and patience that serves well in this troubling time.