Stitching Myself Together
By. Ellen Coy
Knitting isn’t just for you Grandmother or your crazy Aunt Norma anymore. More and more knitting is showing up in pretty cool places; whether it’s the Finish Olympic team or Krysten Ritter teaching Stephen Colbert how to knit. Suddenly we’re rock stars, more people want to learn to be like us busy-handed introverts. So what changed? In our fast-paced digital lives, knitting is something tangible that brings us a sense of community and real-world social interaction. Barbara Hannah Grufferman spells it out best in her Huffington Post article “Why Knitting is the Must Have Life Skill” - knitting is good for both our physical and mental health.
For me knitting is so much more than a hobby. I’ll even be dramatic and say it saved my life. I first started knitting when I was only eight years old on my Grandma’s couch. I continued to be an occasional knitter my entire life, picking up needles when I was bored or when someone was having a baby. Then my life got flipped upside down when I started having symptoms of Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a disease, affecting 1 in 10 women, where tissue that normally grows inside the uterus grows outside anywhere in the pelvis. For me this meant frequent debilitating pain, heavy bleeding, extreme fatigue, and pain accompanying both sex and bowel movements. The scariest symptoms were mental- I had anxiety, and dark bouts of depression. It felt like the only solution was to just stay asleep forever. I didn’t want to make plans knowing I would most likely cancel if I was having a “bad pain day”. I felt isolated and like I was a burden to those around me. The Endo Monster is a real jackass when it causes stress but then stress, or cortisol (the stress hormone), just makes the endo grow more. Yes, I’ve been a real delight to be around at times.
Cue The Black Squirrel, unicorns, rainbows and all things magical. The Black Squirrel is a sunny, colorful yarn and craft store in Berkeley, CA that opened across the street from our apartment at the time, and just in time. Soon after opening, the shop posted about having an event to start knitting Andrea Mowry’s “Find your Fade” shawl. This actually took a lot of courage for me to do, as I was so fragile emotionally at the time that I was timid to do anything social. I went across the street and met the owner, Chase, and we had a blast picking out the yarn needed for the shawl. The night to cast on came soon after, and Chase and I became instant friends. After building up a little more courage, I became a regular at the weekly Stitch n’ Bitch, and would also typically spent a couple hours at the shop whenever I had a day off of work. I had found my tribe. There is something magical about bringing knitters, or any fiber artists, together. Everyone needs a community, and I personally believe there is no better one out there than the fiber community.
Fast forward to the present: I have managed, with the help of a very supportive husband, to dedicate almost all of my time to building a career in knitting. We relocated back to our hometown of Syracuse NY for a more affordable life closer to family. I quickly found my new Local Yarn Store, Knitty Gritty Yarns. The best day ever came when the owner Kerry asked me if I wanted a job. I guess I spent enough time there I kind of forced her hand. Bringing her lunch from time to time probably didn’t hurt either. I now have the privilege to live any knitter’s dream of working at a yarn shop and also teaching knitting classes. The remainder of my time is dedicated to knit design and creating new knitting patterns to sell in my Ravelry Store.
Since the beginning of dealing with the Endo Monster I have had laparoscopic surgery to remove as much of the endometriosis as the doctor could. This has lessened symptoms but unfortunately there is no cure for this all too common women's health disease. At least I now have a better understanding of the disease, and can recognize when the Endo Monster is trying to creep back into my life. In the meantime I’ll be stitching myself together one knitting project at a time.
Ellen Coy is the knit designer behind Ellen Rose Knits and can also be found teaching Knitting Classes of all levels at Knitty Gritty Yarns in Syracuse, NY.