In theory, the importance of rest seems like an easy concept to grasp. When you need to rest, you take a rest. Simple right?
But too often, in practice, I treat rest as an abstract concept. I overschedule my day and then tell my friends that I do not know why I’m burned out. I constantly complain about not getting enough rest, but in the rare moments when I find a pocket of spare time in my schedule, I find myself drawn to my phone and endless scrolling on social media.
I think it is safe to say that no matter your opinions on any of the events of the last two years, we could all use a break, and the importance of self-care has never been more prevalent. This is especially true for Black and Brown makers in our community, many of us struggling to cope with the trauma of these past few years.
More than a knitting book
I was pondering all these things when Brandi Cheyenne Harper’s new book Knitting for Radical Self-Care: A Modern Guide arrived at my door. At this point, I should warn you if you’re looking for a critique of this book, that is not what you’ll find in the next few paragraphs. If there is a Brandi fan club I would join and make buttons. This will not be about whether or not it’s a great book; it will be about why it is a great book and why I feel like its timing in this world couldn’t be better.
Knitting for Radical Self-Care is a love letter to knitting, Black writers, and creativity. You’ll pick up valuable life lessons, quotes to live by, thought-provoking essays, on top of the knitting patterns and the techniques that Brandi is so well known for. It’s an incredibly relatable deep dive into Brandi’s creative process and what it’s like to be a maker in this time.
Brandi’s patterns are instantly recognizable. She uses “simple” knit and purl stitches in unique combinations to create structure, style lines, and definition.
Brandi spotlights a range of patterns for different skill levels: if you’re a beginner, you can start with the first project and work your way through, each pattern building upon your skills. If you are a more advanced knitter you can dive right into the bigger projects; and I found Brandi’s detailed how-tos for all of the techniques mentioned in the patterns excellent refreshers.
The Audre Cowl
I have to admit that while I’ve always admired Brandi’s work, I’ve also been the person that says, “I love it . . . but I could never wear that.” It might be weird to admit, but I’ve always felt intimidated by a certain cowl—the one that probably comes to every maker’s mind when they think about Brandi’s patterns. The Audre Cowl.
As I thumbed through the book past the smaller projects, and landed on the page, I knew if there was ever a time to attempt it, now was the time.
I think as makers we can all agree that the process of stitching is special and, depending on the project, meditative. The Audre Cowl is one of those meditative projects. It’s not too simple as to lose your interest completely but not complicated to the point where you need to hang a Do Not Disturb sign from your neck as you knit.
I learned multiple new-to-me techniques throughout the process. As I neared the bind-off, I felt extremely accomplished for checking off an item on my knitting bucket list, but I also felt a little twinge of sadness knowing it was almost over.
Having finished, I had every intention of trying it on once, and then admiring it in my closet for years to come. Instead, I folded it on the chair in my living room and went to bed without trying it on. The next morning the East Coast was covered in snow. As I prepared to brave the cold, I remembered my Audre Cowl and decided on a whim to throw it on under my winter coat. Game changer!
I didn’t realize this while making it but when wearing the Audre Cowl—it feels almost like a suit of armor. Its garter stitches acted as impenetrable scales, ready to protect me as I entered the world. I felt powerful and safe in a thing that I had made. Suddenly, the Audre Cowl wasn’t this intimidating force . . . I was.
If you don’t want to feel like an intimidating force of nature, I understand. Well, I don’t understand, but I empathize. I will say that even before I put on the Audre Cowl I still gave the pattern a 10/10. Sometimes the finished knit is the reward and sometimes it’s the journey to the finished object that’s the reward.
For me, my crafting, not just stitching but cooking too, has been my touchstone to get me through these challenging times. Making has the power to heal if we allow it to. If you’re not one of the magical makers who have made it out of these last two years completely unaffected then I highly recommend gifting yourself Knitting for Radical Self-Care: A Modern Guide by Brandi Cheyenne Harper and making time for the self-care you deserve.
MDK receives a commission from books purchased through links in this article.