Every winter I choose a creative project to help me slow down and flow into rest – a sort of hibernation project. One year I learnt to knit socks, another I stitched hundreds of tiny multi coloured fabric triangles together to make a quilt top. After 30 years of making quilts for everyone else, this one was for me. It’s finished now, and possibly my most favourite quilt ever.
In a more recent winter, I learnt how to knit a jumper. From an actual knitting pattern. You will know, if you followed that particular journey, that I have never really “got” knitting patterns, with their letters and numbers jumping merrily over the page and leaving me bemused and confused and frustrated, and without any actual finished knitted item to show for my trouble. But I did it. I knitted (with lots of support from friends who understand knitting patterns better than me) a beautiful woodland green jumper that was only an accidental 3 sizes too big for me but keeps me ever so cosy on our nature explorations. I think my brain did not rest as much as it should have that winter, but knitting involves lots of sitting, and for me, listening to audio books, so most of me rested!
Each winter hibernation project always has the core purpose of slowing me down and calling me to focus in on something I want to do or learn, with a finished item and lasting skill that are as much gifts to myself as the resting has been.
This winter I knitted a shawl. Initially, it was a romantic notion, to have a shawl big enough to wrap around me, in the style of the crofter women whose green fingers and spinning skills I seem to have inherited. I had looked at patterns for shawls, and found them all so difficult to understand, that I decided to make up my own, a simple triangle that just gets bigger and bigger until it’s big enough and you stop. In my usual make it up as I go along approach, I did, but also wrote down what I was doing as I went, so that at the end, as well as a warm woollen shawl in petrol blue, I also had the bare bones of a pattern.
This noting down of the what and the how of this shawl’s creation was something I wanted to share, so I tidied it up and wrote it out like a story, imagining I was telling someone who had never knitted before and who struggled as I did with the traditional way knitting patterns are written.
You won’t be surprised to know that over the several evenings it took me to write (in bed, usually with at least one cup of tea beside me) I wore my newly knitted menopause shawl. And in doing so, realised that I had overlooked the greatest benefit to me of owning such a garment.
At almost 50 years of age, I can tell you that the hot flushes of menopause are possibly one of the most annoying experiences of my life – how many hours and minutes of creativity or a good book have I wasted in taking off a cardigan or jumper, body on fire, only to find 3 minutes later I need to put it back on, rearranging headphones or my work as I go, because I’m suddenly absolutely bloody freezing?!
My mother’s generation did not speak of the amazing ways women’s bodies work, and so my feeling out into this new territory my body has entered is a mostly solitary journey. But we are breaking away from patriarchal notions of what is the done thing and what is not, in terms of the conversations we have about our bodies and our health and who we have those conversations with. I think its hugely important for our younger generations of women to hear the experiences of their Crone Elders, so they’re not as in the dark as my generation and those before us have been. And so I can tell you, hot flashes are a nuisance. An absolute pain in the behind. BUT!!! A shawl is Crone Elder Wisdom. A shawl made by your own hands, carrying all the meditations and positive intentions you can bind into it as you knit is powerful, in the same way that knowledge is powerful. A shawl made from natural fibres will wick away the heat and the sweat and regulate your temperature more than anything else. It’s also a heck of a lot easier to get on and off. In the winter of my cycle, I’m glad to be able to share this tiny piece of wisdom with you. And wherever you are in your cycle, I hope you can make time to knit yourself a menopause shawl. They’re great for keeping small people warm when they’ve left their jumper on the bus, great for making into a baby snuggling nest in the middle of the woods, amazing for a myriad of other cosy making purposes. If you make it big enough, it can also be adapted into a sunshade, a cushion for your back, a beach blanket, a baby sling, a bag. If you’d like to make one, my pattern is available here.
As for next winter, I’m already plotting my next hibernation project. Follow me on Instagram to find out more…
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