The Covid vaccine is not the only needle that has injected some hope into my life over the last year. Denied the access to my usual stress outlet of clubbing, I've unexpectedly discovered real joy and healing power in needle crafting.
When the first lockdown happened, I checked the pasta and toilet roll supplies, I didn't think about wool. A month into working and homeschooling, the novelty of being at home all the time had worn off. The kids were bored, I seemed to always be behind in my work, super unmotivated by working away from my office and doing emails at 6am or 10pm from the kitchen table. We were all stuck together, all stuck to screens. I was desperate to find something safe and quiet for the kids to do that didn't involve Netflix or having to order a ton of stuff from Amazon. It was during one of my 5am cleaning sessions that I came across the bag of wool shoved in the back of the top cupboard.
I should probably say at this point, I've always had anxiety issues and because of this, I sleep badly at the best of times and this last year hasn't been the best of times for any of us. Early morning cleaning sessions were one of my coping strategies- I'd tried running (exhausting) eating (too much), drinking (too much) and made so many attempts at meditation or reading, but my anxiety just kept me unable to focus and constantly stopping to pick up the phone for one last check of those Covid headlines or work emails. The wool took me back to a time before Covid, even before the kids- some of the scrap balls were left overs from the blankets I crocheted whilst anxiously (obvs) waiting for them to be born. Bright soft reminders of a point in life where there was masses of hope and excitement and anticipation for new starts.
Of course I went straight to every crafty Mum's resource-Pinterest banging in search terms 'kids activity wool easy no mess' and by the time they were up, I'd found the materials to fashion a couple of cardboard looms and one youtube video later we were off. By Lunchtime we'd spent a whole morning just making stuff, only roused from our efforts by hunger, we had a couple of wonky coasters, but with no expectation or judgement of our efforts there was something freeing and connecting about just taking the time to be creative together.
Later when the kids were in bed I went to tidy up the wool and decided to dig out my crochet hooks. the wool was all scraps and bits, so I started small. That night while watching the Downing Street briefing I made just one crochet square no bigger than the palm of my hand. A few weeks later I had 10, I sewed them into a strip. By the time the schools had reopened and closed again a day later I had 100. The act of having something real in my hands of completing a simple repetitive practice yet forming something unique and creative felt meditative- it helped me to just sit with my thoughts and worries and to take control of them. Counting the stitches, working with a structure requires patience, focus, and persistence. When everything else was falling out of routine when every day seemed the same, like our lives were stuck in limbo, this daily practice marked the time gave me a sense of productivity I didn't feel at work or home and gave me a quiet strength as I realised I could create something of comfort and beauty with my own hands.
In July the cat died. We couldn't be with her at the end, after 10 years, our lovely but very poorly pet was handed over to the vet in the carpark and silently handed back through the car window 15 minutes later, together with a card payment machine to cover the costs of the fatal injection. I didn't crochet that day or for weeks after, suddenly I felt all the grief for my Dad who died just before Coronavirus reached the UK and felt glad and sad at the same time because he hadn't lived to experience this year.
In September the kids went back to school, but things didn't seem to be getting easier. Places were opening up, but I didn't feel like anything was normal. We were still working from home, cases still rising and elderly parents, well precious only remaining parent still shielding, unvaccinated. The algorithms of Pinterest pushed me from crochet to embroidery. I moved my desk lamp to my dining table table and put on a podcast. I was instantly calmed and as the hours passed by, I let my hands turn all the weirdness and worries in my mind into something that made sense, that connected my disconnected thoughts and calmed my soul.