Wednesday 26 June 2013

Knitting is the Answer

Cousin P sent me a text a little while back.
"I'm really, really, really, really bored... Any ideas?"

I must admit I was perplexed. I couldn't recall the last time I had suffered with boredom. I could remember the feeling well, the heavy, fed up weight in your stomach as time stretches out, empty and dull and seemingly endless without the slightest glimmer of interest or excitement, but it was not an emotion that had darkened my mindset for quite some time.

Always striving to be a good and dutiful Big Cousin I set to and compiled a list of things to do to evade boredom. I was really quite pleased with the end result, it included social suggestions, family time, productive household tasks, creative activities such as card making, organisational jobs (although I do realise not everybody loves filing quite as much as I do), something exercise related and, it goes without saying, knitting.

That was when I realised why I am not a victim of tedium, why I am immune from this dreaded state. I am no mere mortal, I am a Knitter. The Beast of Bore simply cannot touch this.

The concept of boredom played on my mind a little after this Cousin P's message. What is this odd feeling our species is subjected to from time to time? I had a little look into the causes and the Internet came back, as ever, with many, many responses.

C.D Fisher defines boredom as 'an affective state in which an individual feels a pervasive lack of interest in an activity' (according to Wikipedia). It says boredom is a condition characterised by the perception of one's environment as dull, tedious, lacking in stimulation. 

Dr John Eastwood says boredom has been associated with depression and anxiety, according to The Guardian in their article 'Is Boredom Bad For Your Health?' 

Art Markman, in his article 'what is Boredom?', points out that boredom often occurs when you have little control over your environment, when waiting for a delayed flight or in a lecture, for example.

Do you want to know what I say? Knitting is the answer. 

And some articles seem to agree with me. WikiHow's 'How to Avoid Boredom' guide puts forward several suggestions: try something new - easy! I've never knitted a pair of socks, I'm yet to take a pair of scissors to my hand knitted jumper and cut a steek, my next set of gloves will be my first, I've never knitted a throw, a hot water bottle cover, a balaclava! I haven't dabbled in gorilla knitting (yet), I could go on because (and please do excuse the over used phrase but I feel it is absolutely appropriate here) the possibilities are endless. 

WikiHow advises that to avoid boredom one should be 'active with an interesting group of people.' Knitting groups ahoy, ey?! The guide orders one to fire up ones imagination, well if a scoot around Ravelry doesn't do just that you are lost to us all. I have limited my Ravelry usage as I will have a breakdown if my queue gets any longer!

In fact WikiHow actually states knitting as a suggested hobby.

Knitting answers the lack of control issues raised by Art Markman because you are at the head of the table when it comes to your knitting. I am not saying that a knitter never grows tired of a particular project  but when this happens there are countless others cooing at you from the background, impatiently waiting for your trained eye to fall upon them, watch them dance and twirl for you and allow them to entice you in with their scrumptious textures and exquisite stitch patterns. You are hooked and you are far from bored.

Now this doesn't give you the power to make every flight land on time, every lecture grab your full attention, but it does mean that there is a project for every occasion. A delayed flight is  not an inconvenience, it is an opportunity to knit a few more rows and watch your sock, jumper, hat, cowl, baby blanket come that little bit closer to completion. And what a wonderful feeling that is.

I felt a little tedium begin to  trickle through my veins the other evening as I began yet another tea towel and this happened:

I designed my first jumper! I worked out the gauge, measured up, wrote up a very rough pattern and fearlessly cast on. There will be a thousand mistakes but who cares?! I certainly wasn't bored anymore! 

Art Markman, among others, advises meditation to help one relax and 'relieve arousal'. Well, why meditate when you can knit? Far more productive in my view. 

As Sarah E White says in her article 'Knitting for Stress Relief' activities like knitting and crochet can cause a relaxation response similar to meditation that can be quite calming (until you have to frog inches of knitting for a silly mistake anyway!).

Sarah is right, knitting, at times, such as the third count up of your 294 stitch cast on resulting in a different number counted FOR THE THIRD TIME, or as she says, the ripping back of your precious work, can be ever so frustrating, but most of the time it creates such a calming feeling.

I have been known to describe it as therapeutic, hypnotic even. I will always remember one morning during my university days some friends and I were lounging in my flat in a hungover haze, suffering terribly. I, of course, was knitting through it and I vividly recall glancing up to find each and every one of my friends staring gormlessly, dry mouths hanging slightly open, chins barely lifted form their chests, at my knitting needles as they clacked together quietly, slowly and steadily, knot after knot, creating a, i'll be honest, pretty holey fabric. 

They were transfixed. Perhaps it was witnessing that tiny act of productivity whilst in such a broken state. Perhaps they were simply bored.

You will be relieved to hear that I spared Cousin P from this lecture on receiving her cry for help, however I enjoyed constructing her list of things to do so much that by the time I sent it to her she had gone to have her tea and no longer needed it. 


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