When I was 28 years old, I was at a painting workshop in Taos, New Mexico. One of the workshop attendees was from Switzerland and, while she was listening with all of us to our teacher speak about creativity principles, she knitted.
Not growing up in a very crafty home, I had never seen anyone knit before. Never in my wildest dreams would I think it would interest me. I wasn’t crafty, either.
How is she doing that? I kept thinking, watching her wrap wool quickly around her index finger and move her wrists without looking at the needles.
After the class, I went up to her and, without knowing her very well, I asked, “Can you teach me?”
She kindly spent an hour showing me how to cast the yarn onto the needle and make my first knit. The following night, she taught me how to make a pearl. I never forgot the fascination she inspired. We became friends.
Three years later on a lazy Sunday, I was driving down Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, California, and saw a knitting store. Inside, there were shelves and shelves of beautiful wool and cotton balls in a sea of colors. A friendly lady named Paula approached me.
“I want to make something,” I told her.
Paula took my hand, took two large circular needles and a ball of thick wool off the counter and sat down with me at a large rectangular table where a group of women in their 60s and 70s gossiped about their husbands and the latest shows on TV and worked on their projects.
Paula suggested I start with a funky scarf. She got my style immediately. She showed me how to begin and then I rushed home to finish the scarf within the week, and then returning to the store the following Sunday.
She suggested my next knitting project be a sweater. I loved long sweater coats and pointed to a pattern I knew I would love to wear. I hardly believed I could create a sweater coat after only knitting one scarf, but Paula said she believed in me.
It felt like a huge stretch, in fact—an impossibility—and that really turned me on. I can do that?
Why not see? Creativity asked me.
When I finished the sweater coat 3 months later, I felt so high, so elated. I couldn’t believe I did it. And I strutted that sweater coat everywhere I could, telling everyone I met that I’d knitted it.
Knitting didn’t make me famous. No one cared that I knitted. I never received validation for it. No one loved me more because I made a sweater coat. And if I’m honest, those closest to me didn’t get it. I did it for me—and for me only—because I received pleasure from it.
Knitting was also a great teacher. I went to the store many days a week for Paula’s help. Every time I got stuck, I’d find myself back in the car headed to Montana Ave.
With every mistake, even when I had to pull out and back out many, many rows and start over again, I kept going. Each knit, each purl, built greater self-esteem because it asked me to go deeper into myself.
One day I cried because it was so hard. On some days, my shoulders hurt from the tension of holding the needles. Other days, I was proud because I’d moved to the next step in the pattern on my own without Paula.
Knitting also calmed me. It made me feel less guilty about watching TV or movies at night, while doing something productive. It was an active meditation. It kept my mind focused. It grounded me.
As I met each obstacle, it felt like if I could meet the challenge in any learning curve and overcome any problem as they arose in my life.
I was forced to ask for help from Paula because I didn’t always know what to do, and I had to accept that help and support without judgment. It taught me that I could do anything if I was open to receiving help and support from others.
Whenever we learn something new, it pushes up places that mirror our lives.
As we conquer resistances, we feel more confident in our ability to take on bigger and scarier challenges..
So today, how might you stretch yourself to meet an obstacle which might just move you closer to yourself?
Wishing you the rewards of intrigue and continuing!