By Nera Birch
Knitting is one of my special interests. I learned to knit when I was in second grade, but due to abusive situations all of my life, I wasn’t allowed to pursue it the way I wanted, until now. I have very quickly become obsessed with it, as one tends to do with an autistic special interest. Knitting has allowed me to explore my creativity, helps me stim, and builds my wardrobe. It also has helped me immensely with the pride in my autism.
Knitting is all around an amazing sensory experience.
I love all the different textures of the yarn. The silkiness of one skein versus the coarser, more solid wool skein. The slight feeling of wistfulness when I run my hands over a yarn that is beyond my budget adds its own texture at the yarn store. I adore the sound of my needles clacking together and the whoosh of the yarn being wrapped around my needle. And the colors.
Can I espouse about color for a minute? I have always loved colors. I have to love a good spectrum, right? I love having as much color in my life as possible and knitting allows me to play with it. I can pair brilliant turquoise with a variegated yarn featuring blues and greens with little speckles of yellow. I can marry together red, cream, and gray tweed or use black to make neon pink and chartreuse pop. The possibilities are endless.
Knitting is my favorite way to stim. I first realized that knitting was a form of necessary stimming rather than just a hobby, when I was stuck in traffic one day. There were horns honking and lots of headlights flashing and I got very overwhelmed. I automatically reached for my project on the passenger seat to calm my nerves before I reminded myself that knitting while driving is not very safe.
Since it is my main way of stimming, I always have needles and yarn in my hands. If I don’t, I’ve noticed that I tend to knit an imaginary object, just so I can put my hands through the repetitive motions. I’ve learned to keep a project solely in my car in case I ever leave the house and somehow have forgotten my knitting, because I will be fixating on it the whole time I am away from my yarn.
I love the fact that I can create something whilst I stim. I love feeling productive and nothing makes you feel more productive than watching a knitted object grow before your eyes. It is also a socially acceptable way to stim. I sometimes feel self-conscious about my stimming while in public, and knitting allows me to stim in a way that just feels positive to me. Plus, you can rock and knit at the same time. What is a good knitting session without some rocking mixed in?
I have very bad fine motor skills and I feel so accomplished when I learn a new technique. Knitting has also taught me how not to give up on something. Even if I have to rip out something four times, I know with patience and practice I will learn and be better for it. I might not be able to tie my shoes, but I make magic with my hands while I knit.
Knitting can also help stave off my autistic burnout. Burnout, for me, really creeps in when I am by myself. It can tell that my safe humans, the ones who help when I feel sad, are off to work or elsewhere and takes the opportunity to slide in and take control of my brain. To prevent this, I need to have activities ready. I can pull out some knitting, listen to some music or a book on tape, and truly let myself be happy. After click clacking through a few rows, the burnout will often go back into hibernation.
I use knitting as a way of meditation, as well. When the weather cooperates, I go sit on my front porch and knit. I am surrounded by my favorite trees, who are as much of a special interest to me as knitting. I’m able to pace my breathing with the tempo of my knitting and really just clear my mind. I have had more spiritual experiences knitting on my porch than anywhere else.
Not only do I get to knit for myself, I get to knit for others. Whether its’s a project for a friend or for charity, it gives me great joy to know that I am creating a piece of art for someone else. Not only is it art, but it keeps you warm as well. It’s almost like I’m knitting someone a hug.
Knitting, all around, is one of my favorite things in this world. It brings me joy, regulates my body, and calms me down. It has changed my life for the better. I love everything I have created so far and I cannot wait to see what the future of my knitting brings.
Nera Birch is an autistic self advocate who is passionate about speaking and writing about the autistic experience. She lives in Cleveland, OH with her beautiful commune.