Thank you for writing about knitting as a tool for hope and resilience in The Light We Carry. Your message of the “power of small” resonates with my core beliefs about knitting as Executive Director of Project Knitwell, a DC based nonprofit organization. We were founded in 2010, just a few months after you made your way to the White House, instilling hope in so many of us. That year, our founder Carol Caparosa began providing knitting instruction to help patients and caregivers feel more hopeful and calm at our first site, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
You clearly understand how knitting can be a tool to help us “stay upright” when facing challenges and change. We all recognize that “power of absorption” when we are in the flow of knitting and our worries melt away. Our community of knitters is so happy that you are sharing your experience with learning to knit as an outlet for dealing with uncertainties. We are certain that more people finding the comfort of knitting will help us build healthier communities.
Our goal is to provide a pillar of support and soothe others during critical times of transition. As you emphasize, taking it one stitch at a time breaks down even the biggest challenge into small parts. Principles of hope are PK’s foundation. We believe incremental progress can feel rewarding when measured by the fabric we create. Each stitch matters to hold together the final product, just as we each matter in our communities.
Project Knitwell provides the comfort of knitting:
For the infusion patient, who needs someone to keep them company during their lonely wait.
For the caregiver, who keeps their hands busy while waiting nervously for their child to come out of heart surgery.
For the student, who faces learning or emotional challenges which make difficult for them to focus or feel productive.
For the refugee, who desperately hopes to connect with their new community and meet others facing the same circumstances.
For the family member of a deployed active-duty service person, who is facing the uncertainty of the next time they will see their partner.
For the recently incarcerated individual, who seeks a creative outlet and opportunity to make gifts for family members.
Among many others…
Finding clarity in a knit stitch’s simple, gentle rhythm can pull you back to center and allow you to focus on steady, small progress. The simple steps you are able to take even when the rest of the world around you seems overwhelming. I wholeheartedly agree that when faced with big challenging moments of transition, we must go small to think big again. Finding a rewarding knitting project can be that one simple and accomplishable task you need to still your swirling mind. It is true that there is a poetic nature of a cast on and a bind off as “bookends of something manageable and finite.” We all need a sense of completion or small victories.
Knitting with someone else or sharing your finished object can help you feel less lonely. Not only are you finding that pocket of contentedness in the rhythm of your hands, but you could also be surrounded by a supportive community of fiber artists. Sharing our work and providing a sense of belonging is a powerful aspect of what the tradition of knitting circles can provide.
Making the habit of rest and repair by integrating knitting into your daily life allows us to lay the small alongside the big. As you describe, “small endeavors help to guard our happiness, to keep us from getting consumed by all that’s big.” We can use knitting as a tool to center and ground us in each simple stitch. In turn, when we tend to our own well being by making knitting part of our feel good routine, we are in a better position to take on bigger issues. We need to “rest our mood,” and the “small rearrangements help us untangle bigger knots.” We can knit while nurturing and nourishing our greatest selves.
Laying down one stitch as a time and feeling like we are able to celebrate each tiny victory, we begin to recognize the “incremental nature of change” you describe. We can learn from knitting to break each part of those “cryptic knitting charts” and patterns into their component parts and take it one step at a time. Also, “only a start can lead to a finish,” and we all need to feel the satisfaction of a finished object. When we plan and finish a new knitting project, we can feel productive and efficacious.
Trying something new and novel like knitting for the first time can be daunting. Embracing the awkward feeling when trying something different can help us feel more comfortable with the unfamiliar. We should all strive for that novelty. It is so easy to find an endless stream of new and varied knitting techniques and stitches.
Finally, our volunteer knitting instructors are truly “helped by helping” as you describe. They are given an opportunity to feel the reward of working with someone when they find that first spark of interest. They can knit with someone who is in transition and help them feel less lonely and afraid. The fundamental nature of working with our hands in a rhythmic way can ignite a sense of calm and resilience.
Thank you for sharing our mission loud and clear with your inspirational words. We would be honored for the opportunity to hear back from you on ways we could partner or work together. I wish I could give you a gift of thanks for highlighting how we can find strength while knitting. Let me know if I can send you a copy of our book, The Comfort of Knitting and our Resource Guide for New Knitters? Would you be interested in joining us on March 18, 2023 at our 2023 Knitathon to inspire more knitters? Would you be willing to contribute to our Bid for Good Auction in October 2023?
Thank you, Michelle, for sharing how knitting is a purposeful and powerful tool for you. You have already inspired so many others to find more wellness, comfort, and community.
Lauren Brennan, Executive Director
Knitting with a Purpose: Wellness, Comfort, Community
Former First Lady Michelle Obama took time out for a chat about her newfound love of knitting with Shayna Rose, an up-and-coming young reporter and yarn lover. The printed version of the interview appears in the Winter 2021/22 issue of Vogue Knitting, and you can watch the video interview online.
Interweave also recently did a feature story on Michelle Obama: “I’m a Part of the Knitting Community”