Hooked – Quietening the chaos with good old-fashioned craft.
It’s the day before lockdown. Our last chance to stock up on those non-essentials we’ll need to get us through the next 21 (wouldn’t that have been nice?) days. For me, there’s only one item on my shopping list.
I head over to my local craft shop and am stopped in my tracks by the sight I’m met with. Forget toilet paper. Teenagers, adults and grannies alike are charging for their favourite skeins, social distancing be damned as they stock up on everything from mohair to merino.
When I eventually join the queue, I tune into the conversations around me, and am comforted by the sense of solidarity among these crafters. There are questions on colour, advice on patterns, and of course, the ubiquitous, ‘What are you making?”
Craft, it seems, is a physical manifestation of the hope all these quilters, knitters and crocheters are seeking out.
Because ‘a jersey for my soon-to-be-born granddaughter’, ‘a blanket for my school’s charity project’, ‘a quilt for my friend who is getting married in September’ – all of these answers speak of a return to normality, of life after coronavirus.
For many years now, my mornings have started with crochet. I find it akin to meditation, a quiet, calming few minutes to set the tone for what usually becomes a harried day. And now is no different, except that the days are no longer harried, and those stolen minutes have become long, lazy stretches, often repeated throughout the day. So much so that three weeks into lockdown I have crocheted a blanket, knitted three scarves, sewed two cat toys and printed out patterns for countless face masks that admittedly sit unmade.
One thing I’ve come to realise over the past few weeks is that while craft is a solitary endeavour, it also has the ability to bring people together.
During lockdown, I have pointed a few friends in the direction of YouTube tutorials and blog posts, so they can use this time to learn the basics of crochet, the same way I did. It has been a unifying and incredibly rewarding experience, receiving their project updates via Instagram and Whatsapp.
Globally, there have been countless corona-inspired craft drives, from sewing masks for healthcare workers, to knitting blankets for charities, and these have given thousands of people, locked down at home, a common sense of purpose over and above the personal benefits brought on by their hobbies.
For there are myriad benefits of craft – research shows that knitting, for one, helps to lower anxiety, improve cognitive function, combat arthritis and lower blood pressure.
More immediately, when our days are so defined by one simple thing – waiting – it offers not only an invaluable way of passing the time, but also a sense of achievement. Watching a project take shape is a phenomenal counterbalance to the uncertainty of the world around us.
If you had told me just two months ago that we’d go weeks without leaving our front door, I would have thought the concept inconceivable. But here we are. Life has slowed down, time has morphed into an abstract concept, and nobody knows where to from here.
During all this, I’ve found something incredibly satisfying about watching a ball of yarn shape into a solid item. As such, I’ve become pretty attached to the blanket I made. As much as the wool is holding itself together, it’s managed to hold me together.
The blanket was meant as a gift, but I may just want to hang onto it. A souvenir, as such, of the wildest time I hope we ever live through.