If you know me, you know I’m always either knitting or thinking about knitting. I love to knit, for a variety of reasons — it’s fun, it’s productive, it keeps me focused in situations where I’d otherwise get bored or sidetracked (looking at you, evening lectures), and it’s soothing enough to effectively act as therapy for me. All these reasons to love knitting were only amplified by the pandemic restrictions, both external and self-imposed, of the last 16 months.
But vaxxed girl summer is here, y’all! Despite the specter of variant strains, it looks like covid is currently in retreat, so I thought I’d take a look back at the humble hobby that got me through more than a year of lockdown with my sanity somewhat intact. After all, the world is still on fire, and crafting helps.
During the first two or three weeks of lockdown back in March 2020, my needles were flying! I was super productive because at that point we still thought it would all be over in a month, so I was trying to take advantage of the extended spring break we were all on. I progressed on a colorblock sweater, completed my first test knit of a baby shawl, finished three pairs of socks, knit a bralette for my sister in 3 days…I was on a roll!
Spring in Iowa is pretty chilly and often snowy, so the wild knitting progress continued into April, even as my motivation in every other area of life waned. I finished my sweater and made a cute chunky hat. And then progress on everything — dissertation, work, knits — came to a screeching halt.
Around May 2020, the languishing began. My hands and forearms began to suffer under the strain of extra time spent on laptop keyboards at home, as well as all the extra knitting I’d been doing. I couldn’t knit for two weeks, and when I did get back into it I was very slow. At the same time, as I realized that we were in this covid thing for the long haul, we had to prepare to move across the country over the summer. Conserving packing space meant that I couldn’t buy new yarn, even though the things I was motivated to make couldn’t be made with the yarn I owned. So I tried to get myself motivated to stash-bust. I stitched a little here and there on a baby blanket; I took my time with a pair of socks; I joined a Toni-Morrison-themed KAL (knit-a-long) in which I finished the book in 4 days but the shawl waaaaay after the deadline. I watched a lot of Star Trek as I slowly stopped doing any more than the bare minimum amount of work required of me. It was a rough summer.
Fall brought my knitting mojo back, if not my dissertation mojo. There’s something about the crispness in the air, the early darkness, and the promise of colder weather to come that makes me want to cover myself and my whole house in yarn. Fall was good for me: I made knit pumpkins, a skeleton head, a Halloween sweater, and socks for my husband’s birthday. I even learned a new heel technique for the socks. But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows: I started a lace yoke sweater in bright yellow yarn that I totally adored, and I was so excited until I got about a third of the way through the lace pattern. It wasn’t difficult or complicated, but I still didn’t quite have the brain power to focus on it properly, and soon it got shoved to the bottom of the project pile and forgotten about.
If you are a crafter or if you love a crafter, then you know that holidays and birthdays are a fraught, stressful, busy time. There’s always pressure, internal if not external, to make gifts for loved ones rather than buy them. But there are only so many hours in a day, and too much gift-crafting leads to resentment. With that in mind, I tried to both start early and scale back on my Christmas crafting this year. I…sort of succeeded. I started my mother-in-law’s Christmas present, a knit pillow cover with snowmen, back in April; when my tendonitis flared up I set it aside and didn’t pick it up again until October. My only other major Christmas crafts were socks for my dad (a relatively quick project), a Christmas sweater for my husband, and stockings for our family of three. I’d been wanting to knit stockings for ages but had always chickened out, but Christmas 2020 was our first Christmas on our own and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to add to our decor. And it turns out stockings are super easy, fast, and fun! Merry Christmas to us!!
Ah, those post-Christmas pre-New-Year hazy lazy days. When you can’t remember what day it is and you don’t care. When you’re constantly full yet constantly eating—and, if you’re at our house, constantly drinking festive cocktails and flavored coffee. The Christmas glow was exactly the mood boost I needed to pick that bright yellow lace sweater back up and finally finish it. I modified the collar a bit and made it short sleeved instead of three-quarter length like the pattern called for—I could tell you it was to make the sweater more versatile for Southern weather, but really it’s because this gorgeous yarn I love is expensive, so I only bought two skeins instead of the three I’d have needed to make long sleeves. Oh well. This was my last make of 2020 and I was pretty pleased with it!
Throughout Fall 2020 and the first few months of 2021, I also periodically found myself frantically crocheting lovey toys for friends and family members who
I’d totally forgotten were having babies. Some of these are too cute not to share:
New Years are for new skills, right? In the midst of belatedly making my own Christmas sweater, I mastered a couple of basic Tunisian crochet stitches in this gorgeous lightweight shawl. I’d wanted to learn Tunisian crochet for ages and it was so much fun using the hook set I got for Christmas. I learned duplicate stitch in order to make Morgan’s Christmas sweater above, but honed the skill in adding block Us to these University of Utah socks for my mom. I also learned a version of honeycomb stitch for this gorgeous sock pattern that was, at last, the most worthy pattern for this gorgeous golden yarn I’d been hoarding:
In all my covid knits included: 8 pairs of socks, 6 loveys, 5 sweaters, 3 Christmas stockings, 2 hats, 2 shawls, 2 bralettes, 1 baby blanket, 1 pillow cover, and several little bits and bobbles not pictured here (including pumpkins, little stuffed hearts, the beginnings of a scrappy shawl). Each project, even the frustrating ones, helped me hold onto my sanity and gave me a sense of productivity while my academic work and sense of purpose were floundering. Handmade items hold memories—each time I look at or wear these items I remember where I was and what was going on when I made them. The memories these covid knits carry may not be happy per se, but they are memories of my own resilience, and I’m happy to be reminded of that.