GRAPHIC DESIGN Audrey Chen
Everyone warned me. They told me university was ‘tough’ – so different from high school. I told people I liked a challenge (and usually, I do!) However, the challenge of living 113 kilometres from my twin sister, moving from a sleepy town in the country to the chaos of downtown Toronto, and trying to balance an incredibly stacked workload proved to be a bit more difficult than the trials of my high school years. Anxiety took up continuous residence in the pit of my stomach and on the palms of my hands, while fatigue followed me like unrelenting karma. As someone who had rarely dealt with stress in the past, I was overwhelmed. Wading through the excess of self-care advice on the internet proved a stressful task in and of itself. Mindfulness, reading, meditation, bubble baths, exercise – I carried these remedies for stress around my waist like a tool belt, being viable options for others I’m sure, but none of them really worked for me.
I had just struggled my way through the midterm season when my mom made a suggestion – finger knitting. Throughout my elementary school experience, we were taught handwork; from kindergarten to grade eight, we knit, we sewed, we crocheted, but the very first thing we learned how to do was to finger knit. Finger knitted chains and bracelets eventually turned to crocheted socks to developing patterns for sewing pants and knitting sweaters using wooden knitting needles that we also happened to make ourselves. The creation of textiles was integral to my learning back then, and it became integral once again.
The familiar feeling of the yarn slipping on and off my fingers, the repetition of one simple movement, lulled me into a state of calm I had not felt for weeks.
Of course, I was skeptical. I felt a bit ridiculous, pulling out the jumble of yarn I kept hidden in the drawer under my bed. However, the allure of something that could quiet my brain, which clanged like a porch loaded with one too many wind chimes on a stormy August afternoon, eventually convinced me to bypass my skepticism. One evening before going to bed, or more accurately going to lie in bed to worry without sleeping for hours, I sat down with a bundle of string and very low expectations. The familiar feeling of the yarn slipping on and off my fingers, the repetition of one simple movement, lulled me into a state of calm I had not felt for weeks; all I was focused on was the creation of the textile occurring in my very hands. I was so surprised by this sense of calm that I stayed awake for hours finger knitting until the chain was spilling out of my lap and across the floor. I went to sleep that night without any thoughts of deadlines, exams, or assignments. I had yarn with me for the rest of the term and would keep my hands busy and my mind quiet and focused as I studied and worked through assignments and exams. Embroidery floss, yarn, ribbon – for me, even these simple textiles had power beyond what I first thought. My childish bag of yarn helped me knit myself back together during those moments when I felt like I was rattling apart.
My childish bag of yarn helped me knit myself back together during those moments when I felt like I was rattling apart.
So why am I telling you this? Am I trying to convince you that finger knitting is the only way to reduce your stress levels? No. Am I trying to encourage you to look beyond the widely suggested and ‘conventional’ stress relief methods? Yes. Creating textiles using my hands, the concrete feeling of making something, calmed me more than any breathing exercises, cups of tea, or mindful eating practices. But for anyone looking to try this, I encourage you to finger knit your worries away.