Yarn Relief

The Hillsborough Yarn Shop is located on a quaint, downtown street.

Last Wednesday, I caught a snippet of a TV news broadcast, where the anchor discussed the chairperson and CEO of Xerox, a woman named Ursula Burns, who recently revealed that the key to her success is having married a man 20 years her senior.  Burns didn’t cite any attempts on her husband’s part to use money or influence to promote his wife’s career, but, rather, she noted the fact that her spouse was able to retire and stay at home with their kids once her job got more demanding.  As I heard this account, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the sound basis of this successful woman’s statements.
At the time, I was in Chapel Hill, NC, at a two-day conference on the European Union financial crisis.  This event is one of many opportunities I’ve taken advantage of since my husband retired from teaching last June and took over much of our domestic duties.  This school year, for the first time in over a decade, rather than hang my head and grumble when additional duties are presented to my school’s staff or come to me via email, I’ve taken part in workshops, designed an online book study for teachers, and written grants, through which I’ve received materials for my fiber arts club and funds to pay for a trip to England this summer.  I’ve even taken two classes in social media at my local community college and also had time for fun—going on a weekend knitting retreat this past October and attending Vogue Knitting Live in New York this past January.  

While learning about the debt crisis in Cyprus and Greece, the history of
environmentalism in Germany, the effect of referendums on European politics,
and other topics, I worked on this knitted cowl using some alpaca from my stash.
I’ve felt liberated from cooking, cleaning, laundry (although I still help with these duties), and the endless sea of conflicts that used to exist related to coordinating staying home with sick children, attending extra-curricular activities, and scheduling dental and medical appointments as well as home and car repairs.  I’ve been eating well, too, and have been finding time that used to seem nonexistent to walk my dogs when the weather allows. 

But my year-long vacation was interrupted last week, when my mother-in-law made an emergency trip to the hospital and, after five day of tests, received a pacemaker and is now at home in her house in the country.  In addition to my concerns about her health and my wistful sadness at the passing of time, I’ve also been dealing with the reality that my brief respite from struggling to balance home and career in a positive way is suspended for now.  
My husband is busy caring for his mother during the day and is spending much of his time embroiled in all sorts of care-related phone calls and paperwork.  In him, I am also seeing vestiges of the tired high-school teacher he was before he retired.  In addition, last Tuesday, during my mother-in-law’s hospital stay, I tripped over an extension cord in my classroom and sprained my ankle, bad timing as I had to drive 150 miles the next day to Chapel Hill.  
Struggling with the decision to stay home or go brought back all of the overwhelming feelings I used to experience in years past, times when stay-at-home moms used say to me, “I don’t know how you do it,” and I'd think to myself, I'm not doing it very well.  I headed to the conference, however, and found myself feeling like a terribly selfish person when I took some time out for me and stopped in Hillsborough, North Carolina on the way to stop for an early lunch and to check out a yarn shop I’d found online.  Hillsborough Yarn Shop offers an extensive selection of yarn made from natural fibers.  As I’m still technically on a “yarn fast” (at least where yarn for items for me is concerned), I was able to find some wonderful yarn made in Vermont to give to a friend who lives in England.  Unless one goes to fiber festivals, farm shops, or shops online, I’ve learned that it can be really difficult to find yarn made in the US at independent yarn shops—let alone big chain craft stores.   

The yarn in the Hillsborough shop is conveniently arranged by weight.
I paid for my walking around Hillsborough, however, as I woke the next day to find I had an ankle the size of a baseball.  Sitting through sessions all day was uncomfortable, to say the least, and the drive home that afternoon was awful.  But if I needed confirmation of knitting as my drug of choice, I found it when I made a quick stop at Yarns Etc. in Chapel Hill before heading down the road.  Perusing this shop, which stocks some of my favorite yarns, made me forget my ankle pain for a few moments.  Wanting to get home, though, I didn’t spend too much time there but did buy a Rowan book of spring designs and drove to the interstate.  

I was in a hurry to get home when I took this, so I
didn't notice the reflected cars until I got home. 
Further confirmation of need to reduce my stress level this week is the fact that I headed to Costco on Saturday and found myself, instead, at Cottage Yarn, my local yarn store.  I found some Berroco cotton and acrylic blend yarn in a bright pink to make my mother-in-law a shawl and picked up some Debbie Bliss Cashmerino.  The design for the shawl is by Amy Swenson and is from Stitch Red, appropriately a book with a portion of its proceeds going to further women’s heart health.

I finished this shawl for my mother-in-law last night.  The design is very simple and easy to knit up quickly.  I can't believe I completed this in less than a week's time. 

Buying yarn and knitting to deal with pressure must reveal some type of addictive personality, but, as long as I don't indulge in too many luxury yarn sprees, I suppose I should be relieved that I don't turn to destructive methods to cope with the inevitable tensions and difficulties of life. In fact, Tamara Grand in a Gaimlife blog post entitled, "Can Knitting Give You a Runner's High?" asserts that knitting and exercise share a commonality, in that they both "make you feel better and . . . help to ward off depression."  She adds that "they mitigate stress and facilitate better sleep" because both knitting and exercise have an effect on the mood-related neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.  Grand also discusses how "people immersed in repetitive spacial-motor tasks show remarkable similarities to those engaged in deep meditation."  I'd heard about this connection before, but now have personal proof of its truthfulness. 


  1. We are knitters, we cannot ignore the call of the yarn store, it is just to strong to resist! Hearing you talk about how you have been challenging yourself this year is very inspiring to me, I'm hoping to do the same thing for a healthier lifestyle. Also, I am really interested in where Tamara Grand got that information, I may have to track that study down, it sounds interesting. I hope you are doing well!
    Also, before I forget yet again, I wanted to let you know about a really neat event going on next month just in case you didn't know about it. NC DNA Day: http://ncdnaday.org/, graduate students in the sciences from Duke, NC Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and others will visit high school science classes and share their enthusiasm for science. I'll be taking part because I think it is an important cause. It might be a fun event for your school to take part in!

  2. What a time you've been having! In good ways and not so good ones! So sorry your mother-in-law has been unwell - she will absolutely love that shawl! Your yarn discoveries sound very exciting and yes, everything you say about knitting as therapy and stress-dissolver I am sure is absolutely true. Wouldn't be surprised if it released pain- relieving substances also so make sure you keep the dosage up while your ankle recovers! You did make me smile at the idea of walking on a sprained ankle in search of a yan shop! This is exactly what I would have done in your shoes! Amazing how far dedication to our craft can take us! Now Lent is over has your yarn fast come to an end? I think you deserve a little Easter yarn splurge just for yourself! Take care and look after yourself. So looking forward to your visit - feels quite close now! E x

  3. Hi there Liz - I find your blog such a comfort as well as being very amusing and informative. I've resisted the urge to follow the blogs of other teachers so I was very pleased when I discovered you as a 'knitter who also teaches' rather than a 'teacher who also knits'. There are some weeks when I am just so tired and busy with the stress and demands of teaching and family life that I feel a bit of 'blog-guilt' that I haven't had time to write up anything on my blog, or that I feel that if I did sit down to blog I would be just moaning and groaning about how tiring my life is and how I never have any time for myself. So I have EVERY sympathy for what you are going through now and you still make me laugh - no matter what life is throwing at you you've found time to have a quick nip around a yarn shop! I'm sorry to hear about your mother in law but I am sure that she will love the shawl. The other thing is that it was while I was recovering from an operation to my ankle that I started this blog - please, you MUST look after it and get it attended to asap, listen to their advice and FOLLOW. Ankle problems don't heal easily unless you are very careful. Resting it is essential - what better excuse to do some more knitting and reading! Take care of yourself, Judy.


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