THE KNITTER'S LUCK

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Dear Knitters, how about a powerful and positive message? According to the experts, our needles are an unbeatable defense against almost any challenge. And by that I don't just mean that they can be really sharp if need be ;) but something a little deeper. Let me explain....


Recently, while I was knitting the Cherry Peaks hat and enjoying some hot chocolate tea, I was listening in the background to a podcast in which a group of psychologists and pediatricians discussed a very interesting phenomenon they called "learned helplessness". In case this is also a new concept for you, let me give you a glimpse.

Long story short, we talk about "learned helplessness" when a person or animal resigns themselves to a difficult situation because, in the past, they made great efforts to get out of it, but were unable to do so. Thus, the person or animal gives up on acting even when conditions have changed and they now have the resources to come out ahead.

The speakers in the podcast gave a couple of very illustrative examples:

The first one is the short tale "The Chained Elephant", by the Argentinean writer and psychotherapist Jorge Bucay. From a young age, the protagonist of the story wonders why the circus elephant, so strong and powerful, does not free himself from the small stake to which he is tied after the show. One day, a wise friend offers him the answer: "The circus elephant does not escape because it has been tied up since it was very, very small. At the time, he tried to free himself with all his strength without succeeding. Since then he thinks it is impossible".

The other example is from the book "Burnout" by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. It seems that studies have been carried out with mice where they develop learned helplessness in the animals by giving them impossible tasks. Eventually the animals stop trying, even when the task stops being impossible. I.e.: put a mouse in a maze with food it can't get to until it develops learned helplessness, then put the food somewhere it can get to it and it won't even try.

The very good news is that as soon as you show the mouse that it CAN get to the food, the learned helplessness just vanishes.

In the opinion of those experts, there is very powerful yet straightforward tool to overcome that learned helplessness that sometimes grips us along with the feelings of frustration or futility that comes with: simply DO SOMETHING. Make a call to a long time no see friend, cook a cake, make a cool album with the photos of the latest getaway weekend... It doesn't have to be something big, just do something.

And then I looked at my hands and there it was. A half-knitted hat, a pattern that was taking shape between my fingers, which would soon be finished and warming my head.

We knitters are lucky enough to be creators, and simply by creating, we push away moments of emotional unrest, of being overwhelmed by circumstances and helpless and numb. By knitting we create the physical evidence that we can make a beautiful impact on our world, and this simple gesture does us great good.

Happy making.




HEATHER

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How grand are the mountains of bonnie auld Scotland,

Her torrents' wild waters, sun-jewel'd and gloaming;

How rosy the breath of each moorland and heath,

How lovely her lakes, and her valleys how blooming.

No foreign strand, no classic land,

Earth's fairest scenes together,

Can win our praise like yonder braes,

And fragrant hills of purple Heather.

—G. Bennett.

Heather, in all its varieties, shapes and colors, is one of my favorite plants and one of the many reasons why I look forward to visiting the Highlands of Scotland, where its little hardy flower has made it's mark on the wind swept landscape, rocky hills and moors until it has become a symbol of the region and its people.

And it's not just for her beauty, or her fragrance... if we're talking about usefulness, Heather is a firm candidate for first prize. In times gone by it was used to sweep the home, taking away the dust leaving behind a sweet aroma... very metaphorical, right? In the Highlands the medicinal properties of an infusion of heather tops were used to treat coughs, and to soothe the nerves, and heather tea and ointments were used to treat arthritis and rheumatism. ‘Moorland tea’ made from heather flowers, was reputed to be a favourite of the poet Robert Burns.

Heather has its fair share of legends attached to it. As the story of heather goes, when God created the world he looked at the bare hillsides of Scotland and decided that a plant was needed to make the slopes more beautiful. He asked the Oak, the Honeysuckle and the Rose but none were able to live in the harsh conditions. By chance he came upon a small, low-lying shrub with tiny white and purple flowers. It was Heather and He asked “Will you grow on the hillsides to make them more beautiful?”. Heather was not sure if she could do the job but said she would try her best. God was so pleased that he bestowed three gifts upon her; the strength of the Oak, the fragrance of the Honeysuckle and the sweetness of the Rose.

And last but not least, if you have a sweet tooth like me, you'll probably want to know that some of the world's award winning honey comes from Heather Hills Farm, in the stunning landscapes of rural Perthshire. The bees thrive on heather in the moorlands and create a fragrant heather honey that is not only delicious, it is also said to have health benefits too!.

Anyway, when I stumbled upon a wool whose colors matched Heather's so well, I couldn't help but use it to design not one, but two patterns, adding some white motifs, just in case the legend that says that white Heather brings good luck is true...