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The other day I saw a quote from the artist Corita Kent, also known as Sister Kent, that I haven’t been able to shake:

We can talk, we can all write, and if the blocks are removed, we can all draw and paint and make things … Doing and making are acts of hope, and as that hope grows, we stop feeling overwhelmed by the troubles of the world. —Los Angeles Times

These last eight months of 2020 have definitely been a bit overwhelming for me, and at times I’ve struggled. Struggled to write, struggled to find balance, struggled to just do what is required of me in a day.

This semester a lot of the research I’ve been working on has dealt with Covid-19 and the protests around social justice reform, so I often feel like I don’t ever get to step away from everything that is happening in the world. Couple that with teaching in a pandemic—which means helping students navigate this uncharted circumstance—and I am definitely left feeling overwhelmed by the troubles of the world.

So, this fall, I decided that I had to find time every day to pick up my knitting needles, for my own sanity. Once I pick up my needles, I always feel the anxiety and stress I’m carrying slowly dissipate as I focus on the yarn in my hands.  

Hope for the future, knit for distraction

In October I knit a stack of knits for my cousin, her husband, and their six-month-old son. I had not seen my cousin since January, anticipating always going over to snuggle her newborn whenever I wanted.

Instead, seven months into the pandemic, I sat socially distanced on a porch looking at her adorable baby from afar and leaving her with a box of knits I made just for them. I knit matching father and son hats and matching mother and son Southwood sweaters. As I knit them, I was filled with hope for her son’s future and a time when I could snuggle him without fear of an invisible virus. 

During the week of the election, I knew my husband would be anxiously glued to the TV, so I decided that I would need a special project to distract me. I decided to use yarn I had been coveting, Cosmic Tie Dye by the Wandering Flock Yarn, to make Alicia Plummer’s Garnered Cardi. A dropped shoulder cardigan with just enough lace to keep myself engaged and a wardrobe piece I wanted while sheltering in place at home.

As I knit, I focused on how the pastel-yet-neon rainbow of the yarn blossomed and how the pattern and the yarn were meant to be together. I knit that sweater in 11 days. I had other projects on my needles and sometimes other things to do, but I kept getting drawn into that project. As it grew, so did my optimism. 

I know that, traditionally, November and Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude, but for me this year is about hope and optimism. There is a lot that I’m hoping will change in the future, but in the meantime, I will keep writing, I will keep knitting, I will keep creating; and I will hold on to hope that the troubles of the world will be resolved.  

About The Author

Dana Williams-Johnson knits every day. Knitting is what brings Dana joy, and she shows that through her use of color (hello, rainbows) and modifications of favorite patterns into replica sweaters for her dogs.

You can read about it all on Dana’s blog, Yards of Happiness, and watch her video podcasts on YouTube.


  • Enjoyed reading this. Beautiful sweater, beautiful lady. ❤️

    • Thanks for sharing. Your words echo my sentiments exactly. I work in a hospital and lately have been feeling dispirited. Yet when I pick up my knitting I feel the calm wash over me, and hope is restored. I love your sweater by the way. It’s inspired me to knit one too!

  • ❤️

  • Your sweater is absolutely STUNNING on you! Thank you for the words of wisdom. I too have been trying to hope for a better future when I can see my granddaughter. I just ordered some monogrammed needles to help me with my journey

  • Thank you once again for your calm, hopeful and inspiring words that encourage those same feelings in others.

  • Thanks for your inspiration, I have now bought the cardigan pattern to make one for myself as a new year gift, once all my Christmas present makes are off my needles!

  • You have articulated what I couldn’t. Thank you! Your gifts are thoughtful and beautiful. And your cardigan shines on you….as do you! I’m SO grateful you are part of the MDK family and pop up in my inbox…

  • Many thanks for this & for your past columns. I believe we need the reminder of hope & optimism as you said. This year I have knit less-mostly hats & cowls for a charity group. I have sewn quilts for friends – I believe I want to keep them cozy. Recent sweet news for me: I’m returning to knitting. Reading your features in MDK always inspires me – thank you for sharing & for the gifts you give us with your writing. Stay well & safe.

  • It was Dana’s article this past June that moved me to look at my involvement in social justice and knitting and go deeper into both. I circulated that article to the knitters at the senior center where I live. It was not without controversy; but it was “good trouble”. We wound up having a an email exchange where everyone chimed in (unusual), recognizing how knitting and other fiber crafts brought us together in community in which aspirations for a better world were shared… no matter what the personal, partisan politics might be. I used to think that it was faith communities that would unite us but now I believe it will be the makers. For me, it was Dana writing in MDK who moved me into a new perspective and I will always be grateful to you all.

    • This is true for me too – many events at that time influenced me but the one that made me look closer and at myself was Dana’s column in June. I can’t thank her enough for reaching out

  • You have certainly changed my thinking that cardigans should be in solid colors only (in order to be able to “go” with everything). Now I want one just like yours. Thanks for your link to Corita Kent. I was fortunate to be taught by many strong-minded nuns like her.

  • Beautiful thoughts, comments and knitting Dana. Thanks so much for your writing and generously sharing it with us. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

  • What a pretty sweater! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  • You always give such wonderful advice ❤️ !
    The need to knit is therapeutic right now.

  • Love Dana

  • I appreciate your offerings here Dana. This week I have worked at the election recount in Milwaukee as an observer, so all day I sit and knit and watch the tabulators. In addition to calming me, it has been a way to connect to people from the other party, as they stop to check my daily progress. It seems to diffuse some of the distrust we all walked in with. It does give me hope.

    • The beauty of that image brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for describing your experiences at the recount.

  • Thank you for your words of wisdom. I always enjoy reading your columns. They give all of us hope.

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful message. Wishing you a very blessed Thanksgiving. You are a shining light.

  • Thank you, as ever, Dana! This post is such a gift. I’ll be thinking about you as Thanksgiving arrives.

  • I am always thankful when one of your posts pops up in my inbox, Dana! So glad to hear that you are knitting again and feeling hopeful. You are an inspiration. And I’m so jealous that you can knit a beautiful cardigan in eleven days. Holy cow.

  • Definitely uplifting thank you for sharing

  • I was so happy to see your post this morning. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • What a great read to start my day! Love your new sweater.

  • What a beautiful essay. And I loved hearing Sister Corita’s words honored. She was a remarkable person, who I was lucky enough to work with on one book. Every time I pass the gas tank that she painted on the road into Boston, I have to smile and maybe hope.

  • Beautiful! Thank you for making me smile today!

  • Your columns are always an inspiration and I am so grateful to you and for you.

  • Thank you for your perfect post today. I’ve been feeling chronically overwhelmed. Reading your post felt like sharing with a friend. Deep breath. I love seeing pics of Jellybean in a matching sweater. May you carry hope and optimism with you. I’m going to try and do the same. Gypsy

  • I’m so glad knitting continues to offer you hope in difficult times, and you continue to share your work and thoughts with the knitting community. You are a beautiful artist.

  • Thank you for sharing your journey through the treacherous past several weeks, with, to me, unprecedented national animosity that impacts all 300+ million of us in our own worlds and ways…and thank you for transcending the fray, creating order in your world and with others therein, conveying kindness and expressing it in your creative garment gifts to others. Beautiful. Thank you.

  • What an encouraging article. Thank you Dana! I love the sweaters you’ve knit that shown.

  • Dana, Your posts always give me something to think about. I may not always agree with you but your honesty broadens my horizon. … and I respect that. Thank you. Sheryl

  • What a wonderful piece, thank you. Here’s hoping we can all snuggle our loved ones very soon.

  • Thanks for this lovely note and picture of the beautiful sweater. My first grandchild was born in April. Her mere presence, plus knitting for her and her parents has buoyed me on a vessel of hope through this year.

  • Thank you for being a model of hope and resilience for all of us.

  • Thank you for writing & creating you have inspired me to pick up bigger projects this year and it has helped so much.

  • Thank you for the reminder – to find hope in small things. I read your post right after reading Meghan Markle’s piece in the NYTimes today. Same message- small actions can make all the difference.

    • You are an absolute jewel.

  • Thank you Dana. Your words have comforted me and I will carry them through my day. Be well. Joanne

  • Thank you so very much, Dana❤️

  • What a lovely woman you are, Dana, inside and out. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • When I saw your sweater in wandering flock, I knew I wanted to knit it too, so I tracked down the yarn in a different color wave and am going to start knitting it asap- thank you

  • What a blessing this woman was. Thank you for introducing me to her and I am with you – this is better viewed as a season of hope and gratitude. Onward!

  • Love your words, love the sweater! ❤️

  • Hope is the word, Dana. Thank you!

  • Seeing you here, and daily on Instagram, have been bright spots for me in these troubled times.

  • Your calming words of hope are so important.

  • Love the sweater and thoughts Dana. It looks lovely on you and radiates with the optimism and hope you describe. Thank you for your heart and wisdom.

  • Rainbow pastels are pretty far from a color palette I usually chose but your sweater is perfect! It’s pretty and hopeful is a subtle way. That is how hope has been this year, subtle. You have to go out of your way to see it. And it’s nice to have a reminder in your article that there is still very much reasons to hope.

  • It’s going to be a joyful day when you finally get to hold that child.

  • the sweater looks fantastic on you! thanks for the kind words of hope.

  • A very inspiring blog and beautiful handiwork! For this I give thanks.

  • thank you for sharing your hopes and your beautiful self with us!

  • Thank you for this lovely piece Dana. I really appreciate your words of hope. You look great in your gorgeous cardigan too.

  • Thank you! I love your posts (and ig feed)! Although looking at Jellybean is tempting me to adopt another senior dog (ours, who looked very much like Jellybean, died this summer)

    • Oh, please do!

  • Beautiful, Dana! And beautiful Dana. Thanks for all of your warmth, positivity and love. You make my heart glad. Wishing you all the best and a happy Thanksgiving.

  • If I knew Joe Biden, I would ask him to put you in charge of something big.

  • Thank you for your calm and your wisdom. And for the Southwood pattern, which is exactly what I didn’t know I had been looking for to make a sweater for one of my nephews!

  • Thank you for the quote. I’m saving it to look at again and again. Great yarn, a great pattern and time are so motivating!

  • Dana, I always get a little “emotional” when I see your new posts. Your message of hope uplifts and encourages me. Plus I’m nuts about the sweaters for Jellybean! Happy Thanksgiving, stay safe!

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Knitting is a great therapy. Lovely knitting and colours.

  • Dana, I treasure you and appreciate your calm guidance. Be well!

  • Awesome!

  • I appreciate her peace I’ve never heard of knitting with such creative artistic glow I enjoyed it so much and I too shall attempt to use my creativity as I knit thank you so much

  • Beautiful cardigan. Your words are very true during the time of worry. Hope you get to cuddle that baby soon. Keep safe and carry on knitting x

  • I am always amazed at the knitting you can do with the teaching and research. The sweater is beautiful. And yes. Knitting is a mode of relaxing and it always helped me concentrate at seminars.

  • ❤️Thank you

  • Thank you, Dana, for your beautiful words of hope, and for your inspiring sweaters!

  • What a lovely surprise to open this post early on a Saturday morning while sitting here drinking a cup of coffee and waking up. This pandemic has taken it’s toll on all of us and turning to creative ways to cope and to see hope is so refreshing. I absolutely loved this post and will be reflecting back on it for the rest of the day.

  • Just when I think Dana Williams-Johnson can’t get any more fabulous, she writes a column like the above. Thank you so much for your optimism and hope. Love the sweaters too.

  • Thank you Dana! This year has been a comedy of errors keeping me from my knitting, but my 6yo daughter asked for a sweater a few weeks ago, and gosh darn it if I’m not going to get back on my needles and give her what she wants, and what I so desperately need! I appreciate the work you are doing off the wool as much as your sweater inspiration. When I read your posts its more fuel to keep going. <3

  • Thank you for an uplifting article. I’ve been learning things on the u-tubes and trying to knit a new square every day. The pastel rainbow sweater is giving me all sorts of new ideas!!

  • Thank you for writing these words of hope and optimism that we need to hear repeatedly. Your knitting is awesome and inspirational too!

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