A few years ago I was in a car accident and dislocated my hip. The injury meant I wasn’t able to walk, or work, for over a month. I watched a lot of TV, I read a lot of books, I got pretty good at Mario Kart. And, after a friend gave me the gift of a lesson, I learnt to knit.
It was calming, interesting, a way to solve problems and make things, and a lot of fun. When friends came to visit, so many of them would say things like, “I wish I had time for that” or “I don’t think I’d be very good at it”. They’d admire my wonky scarf politely and ask about my leg.
Knitting made it easier to forget about my injury, as well as providing challenges and a goal to work towards when I wasn’t working.
Knitting, I had discovered, was a simple, fun, interesting thing I could do to pass the time and feel like I had accomplished something. If it’s good enough for Julia Roberts, it’s good enough for me.
Since then I’ve had a lot less time for knitting, but I have noticed that it’s become something that more people are doing as a way to pass time, relieve stress and build friendships. Knitting has begun creating communities here in Australia, which is lovely. But in some parts of the world, knitting is building communities that create work and help people take charge of their lives and economic circumstances.
That might sound like a tall order for a ball of wool and a couple of sticks, but knitters in Nepal are already benefiting from this kind of program. They’re making the Khusi beanie for Kathmandu, and are knitted by women who otherwise might not have access to their own job or financial security.
One Khusi beanie knitter, Sabina, told Kathmandu’s Summit magazine that working on the beanies transformed her life.
“I feel a strong connection with the other knitters. We work like friends and this helps us enjoy our work,” she said.
“I used to have frequent headaches when I used to stay at home alone. But once I am here, I feel like I am in community and knitting has become like a therapy for me.”
In Nepal, while it is changing, largely the expectation on women is that they stay at home to manage the household.
That makes it harder to access education, find a job or even have any semblance of economic freedom, so the Khusi beanie, and initiatives like it, can make a big difference in the lives of these women.
See their beautiful work in this video:
Women all over the world are finding economic empowerment through traditional craftwork like knitting the Khusi beanie. It’s a skill they already have, and it enables them to make their own money – something that in too many societies is still a challenge for women.
And why call it a Khusi beanie? Well, Khusi means “happy”.
While it may seem strange to think of knitting as some kind of radical or activist act, programs like Kathmandu’s are a great example of how women can use their skills to challenge what role women play in the community.
Here in Australia, they can also use them to do good for people in desperate need. Like many knitters around the world, women here use their talent with needles and yarn to help others.
In New South Wales, for example, knitters make blankets, scarves, beanies and jumpers for homeless people who need the extra warmth in the winter. They also donate their beautiful handmade wares to women’s shelters, children’s help groups and refugee support networks.
Knitting is one of the best practical ways to make something that is helpful, useful and from the heart. It could be a pair of slippers, a scarf, a blanket or even a comforting children’s toy.
And as I found, all those years ago, the process of learning to knit, and the pride and accomplishment of making something from a ball of wool and a couple of sticks is quite a thrill. It’s the kind of work that makes you satisfied and calm, and keeps you focused on your task, and at the end of it you have something wonderful to put out into the world.
I don’t have as much time for knitting these days, but the people who do are quietly making a difference with the clothes, blankets and toys they create and donate.
And for women like Sabina, who knit for their livelihood, the practice has transformed their world and created more opportunities to claim their independence. That’s a pretty powerful thing for a humble ball of wool to do.
So whether you decide to take it up yourself, or you just pay a little more attention to where you get your knitted goods and who made them, remember that knitting is so much more than the scarf around your neck, or the beanie that’s keeping you warm this winter.
How has knitting changed your life? Tell us in the comments section below.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Kathmandu.
Kathmandu were born in New Zealand – a breathtaking country where isolation breeds innovation and the hunger to explore.
Over time, the gear has been adapted to endure different weather conditions, diverse terrains, and the everchanging needs of travellers.
Kathmandu act with people and the planet in mind – from the creative minds of the designers, to the careful hands of the suppliers, to the backs of customers all around the world.
We believe that adventure begins when you pack your bag.