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Aversion Therapy?

I used to really enjoy knitting. I was pretty good at it, and found it very relaxing after a hard day at work. But I haven’t done any knitting at all for the past three and a half years. I told myself that was because it was giving me a nasty case of RSI in my wrist, and it was too physically painful to keep on knitting. But that was only part of the story.

In fact, what I think has really been going on is that I’ve been thoroughly put off knitting by some really nasty mental associations. When Christopher was in the hospice, I spent many hours sitting by his bedside, knitting the most complicated lace-patterned pullover that I could find. If I was concentrating really hard on counting stitches and following the pattern, then I could keep my mind from dwelling on what was happening. I finished knitting the sweater the day after he died, but couldn’t bring myself to finish sewing the pieces together, let alone wear it. It went straight into the recycling at the local tip, which was a real shame, but the only thing I could bear to do at the time.

Since then I’ve been frankly scared to take up my knitting again, because I didn’t want to be reminded of the worst two weeks of my life, nor deal with all the distressing feelings I’ve been burying. But at some point you just have to face up to your fears and get on with it, otherwise you get stuck avoiding things. And that’s not healthy. So I decided to use the New Year as a new start, and knit something. Not a lacy sweater – that would have been asking for trouble, and I’m not feeling that strong yet. And preferably something that needs the minimum of sewing up once I’ve knitted the constituent pieces – let’s deal with laying one ghost at a time.

So I went into the local wool shop in Malvern to see what they had to offer. In the window was just what I was looking for – an icelandic-style sweater, knitted in the round without any seams. Normally you would separately knit the back, front and two sleeves of a sweater, then sew them together. But with the “seamless” style, you make the body as one tube, the sleeves as two tubes, then knit them together across the shoulders, funnelling up to the neckline. I remember knitting a sweater that way when I was a teenager, and being very impressed by the cleverness of the construction, and the avoidance of the tedious sewing-up stage. I haven’t seen any patterns knitted that way for years – I think that knitting fashions must have moved on, so I was really pleased to see an example. But when I told the shop assistant that I wanted to knit a copy of the sweater in the window, I was in for a big disappointment. Firstly, that particular pattern was out of print, so they couldn’t sell me a copy. Worse, they didn’t even have any patterns on sale at all that were knitted in that particular style. And while I used to be a very confident knitter, I’m not prepared to mess around with adapting a pattern after several years away.

I was really cross. Why put a sweater in the window of a wool shop if you’re not prepared to sell customers the pattern? What’s the point? I nearly walked out in a huff at that point, but that wouldn’t have got me any closer to my goal of taking up knitting again. So I spent an age looking through the pattern books for something they would be prepared to sell me, that would be interesting to knit, have the minimum of sewing-up involved, and would be as different as possible from a lacy pullover. I settled on a pair of bed-socks, in an interesting variegated yarn, designed by one of my favourite knitwear designers, Kaffe Fasett. I get really cold feet at night, so bed-socks would be very useful. The pattern is complicated enough to keep me interested (turning the heel on a sock is quite a fiddle) but not so difficult as to be off-putting. And it’s a small enough project that I can finish it in a few weeks, without investing a huge amount of time, energy and money in something that I wasn’t entirely sure I’d enjoy.