Louise Hare is the author of This Lovely City (HQ, HarperCollins), available now in hardback, audio download, and e-book.
Lockdown when you live alone leads to a very particular feeling of discombobulation. In March, I had just quit my career in the travel industry to write full-time. But just as my hobby became my dream job (and my first book was published), my brain turned to mush. Anxiety, a heady combination of book publication panic and corona-related stress, led to insomnia. Words on a page refused to make sense. I resorted to rewatching shows on Netflix because I couldn’t concentrate on anything new (special mentions to Schitt’s Creek and RuPaul’s Drag Race, my saviours).
One afternoon, bored of box sets and endlessly refreshing social media apps on my phone, I came across an Instagram ad for Stitch and Story’s knitting kit. When I was a child my grandma attempted to teach me the basics of knitting, but I was so bad that even a scarf came out looking as though it had been dragged through a holly bush. I don’t know why I thought that now, 30 years later, it was time to try again, but £35 for the kit — everything you need to make a small pom-pom hat, including needles, yarn, a pattern, and the instructions — seemed like a low-risk investment.
I’m not going to lie and say that I picked it up instantly. I made several false starts and watched all the Stitch and Story instructional videos, plus a load more on YouTube, but once I finally got going, it only took a couple of days to finish. Surprisingly, the finished piece actually looked quite decent: a stylish baby hat, knitted in soft, mustard-coloured, 100 percent merino wool with a jaunty grey faux-fur pom-pom fixed to the top. I posted the hat to a good friend whose son had just been born, and I was so proud when he sent me a picture of his newborn wearing something I’d made.
My project over, I felt a sort of loss. One hat wasn’t enough. For reviewing my initial purchase, Stitch and Story offered me a 10 percent discount and so I ordered another kit and made a snood. I found that I finished making this unsatisfyingly quickly so I bought a cardigan kit (a much larger and trickier project — I’m currently still working on it). Knitting is a soothing addiction and though I’m an enthusiastic knitter I’m not yet brave enough to dive into the world of designing my own knitwear. So, for now, I like the Stitch and Story kits — I love the soft merino wool that many of them use, ordering is easy, delivery prompt, and the patterns are forgiving for a rookie like me.
When I’m finished with this cardigan, I’m thinking of a jumper and maybe some fingerless gloves for when the weather turns colder. But I can’t see myself giving up my new hobby post-lockdown. Maybe it’s the repetitive rhythm, the knit one, purl one, that clears my mind and lets me regain my focus. Or perhaps it’s just that I’m no longer putting pressure on myself to fill my free time with word counts and self-imposed deadlines. Either way, I find that I am writing more than ever, I’m reading books that have sat on my bookcase for years, and I’m sleeping again.
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