What can knitting teach you about caregiving?
One of my favorite lessons is all about individuality and working outside the box.
Thinking outside the box can be applied to…
- Caregiving and…
When I was learning to knit socks, I first had to learn to knit in the round. Normally, this isn’t an issue. It just takes some dexterity to knit in the round.
While my mother showed me how to knit as a child, I developed use my own method. It’s basically a variation of what’s called the Continental or German method of knitting. My version, however, meant that when knitting in the round the stitches were twisted and thus would not stretch. So a sock stayed the say diameter at rest and when trying to put it on.
And that doesn’t work very well when knitting socks that need to stretch…
So I had to teach myself all over again how to knit. I finally figured it out, and have knit many pairs of socks since, including Christmas stockings.
I still feel most comfortable knitting the way I devised myself. I now know why accomplished knitters have looked at my knitting and been amazed. They knit the way they were taught.
I even saw a teacher on television once imperiously proclaim that the way she taught knitting was the only way to knit. It was a bittersweet moment. Not only because there’s more than one way to knit and I was tempted to laugh, but because I saw how her students were struggling to knit with her method. It maybe the way she learned, but it was obviously unnatural for her students.
And I felt sad for them. If it were me, I would probably have given up on knitting and not continued. Thankfully, my teacher (my mother) was willing to let me knit my own way. Especially when she saw how even my stitches were and how fast I could knit.
When she became ill with heart disease after my father passed, she was older than recommended to receive streptokinase, the “clot buster” that saved her life. If not for her family doctor and cardiologist who were willing to “think outside the box” because she looked and acted much younger than her chronological age, she would have been an invalid or not survived. And being an invalid would have destroyed her spirit.
Those knitting lessons stuck with me when I cared for an autistic dog, and when my mother needed a primary caregiver. Thinking outside the box, and being willing to accept new ways of doing things even if they weren’t what the “experts” suggested still yielded amazing results.
The expert said Emma could never be part of more than one dog in the home.
After some gentle training, she bonded with another rescued dog. I have the pictures of them napping together to prove it.
And my mother Clara also did very well. The expert at the regional medical center said she’d never go home again. She’d need a rehab hospital and then a nursing home. Since she never heard him say that, instead she lived happily with me for over a decade. My caregiving was often “outside the box.” It worked for her. The heart attack was real and thanks to the doctors, the medical teams and many prayers—not in that order—her heart study several months later showed no scar on her heart.
Caregiving is all about doing the best you can for those you care about, and sometimes that involves doing things “your way” or “your care partner’s way”.
Knitting isn’t the only activity that can help you in caregiving. Knitting can be done with your care partner. It may mean having her watch you knit or help pick out patterns and yarn if she doesn’t knit or can no longer do so. If she’s a knitter, she may be able to still do some simple patterns or to give you advice. Or maybe share stories about knitting or other activities?
Do you need some additional support or ideas with giving or receiving care?
The best explanation I’ve seen for knitting your own way, and why it works is the book Knitting for Anarchists: The What, Why and How of Knitting by Anna Zilboorg.