Monday, 12 August 2019

Why everyone (in academia) should pick up knitting

Marianne in our Edinburgh shop

I have spent my summer mainly doing two things: writing my Masters dissertation; and working at a knitting supply shop - no need to guess which activity I enjoyed more! Knitting has been my way of dealing with the stress of being in postgraduate studies -my friends call me “Mariyarn”, and I have been known to whip out a knitting project at 1am at the university library, when a research project really wasn’t going well.

Interestingly enough, I find that research and knitting fit together quite well. I can knit something mindlessly while reading a couple of articles, and there is a meditative aspect in the repetitiveness of “k1, p1” or “k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo” that helps get the creative juices going.

Working here has been such a privilege, as the knitters and crocheters that come into the shop always seem to be the nicest people. I have been able to have lovely chats with people from literally every continent! There’s also always something going on in the shop -orders, stocking shelves, helping someone buy a gift of yarn for a loved one; or choosing a pattern for a jumper for a long-awaited baby. As it turns out, knitting is a particularly versatile craft. While working here, I discovered the existence of the World Heavy Metal Knitting championship, and subsequently decided that knitting really is the best hobby.

Wild Wool - made from nettles
Photo credit: Erika Knight

Far more experienced coworkers than me have been able to talk me through various patterns, techniques and stitches. It is so satisfying to see a piece of clothing come together out of nothingness! It’s also been lovely to get the technical knowledge to go with my hobby - I'm now quite adept at yarn weights, gauge conversions, and the difference between Worsted Aran and Felted Tweed. Although working here is a constant temptation, and I suspect that a good part of my wages is going to go towards excessive purchases of Wild Wool (it has nettles in it!) and Hayfield Spirit  (it looks like a sunset!).

Hayfield Spirit DK

So - to all the undergrads stressed out by exams; to the postgrads worrying about experiments and analyses not turning out right; to the postdocs wading through grant applications: never fear! Take up knitting, and you’ll find that your blood pressure goes right down again. And you’ll be able to show off your new hand-made cardigans and Shetland wool hats when the winter comes around again!

Post by Marianne Lezeau