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Dear readers,

Today we’re delighted to present an essay by New York Times bestselling author—and knitter—Caroline Leavitt. Caroline’s twelfth novel, With or Without You, was just published (yesterday!) by Algonquin Books.

—Kay and Ann

Age of Dinosaurs

I taught myself to knit during my first marriage. I was really young, and really naïve, but back then I told myself the reason my husband was never home was because he was a partner at a law office, and he was busy. His absence left me to make a life for myself with the oceans of time I had—with writing, with occasional teaching jobs I was always fired from, with dance classes, and then, with knitting.

Knitting ate up the empty hours and made me feel productive and full of hope. I charted my own patterns, using graph paper and measuring tape, doing mathematical calculations for a sweater with elephants marching diagonally up a side, vests with people gathered in forests. I spent hours in the yarn shop. Knitting came easily to me.

I decided to make something special for my husband, something he could wear, that people would know I had made for him. Something that would tell everyone that he was mine.

“What would you like?” I asked him and he said, “Brontosaurus grazing on vegetation, front and back.”

I took up the challenge. I made graph upon graph of the brontosauruses, one on the front, two on the back, the careful arch of their long necks, the three different shades of bright green of the vegetation they were eating, so real and alive they seemed to be waving in the wind. For a lark, I added a sun.

When I was working these intricate patterns, I couldn’t do anything else but knit: I couldn’t worry about my husband not calling during the day because I couldn’t stop knitting. If he didn’t come home at midnight, but at one, well that gave me another hour to knit.

When I finally finished, I stared at the sweater in wonder. It was the most gorgeous, mysterious thing I had ever seen. The whole design was as alive and vibrant as a painting. The stitching was perfect. I put it on as if it were my husband hugging me, and then I wrapped my hands about myself, practically swooning with pleasure.

The night I finished, he came home at two in the morning. I was so excited I could hardly sit still.

“I have something to show you!” I said.

He sat down heavily on the couch.

“I have something to tell you, too,” he said. “I want a divorce.”

False Start and New Beginning

Of course, that tragedy changed me. I couldn’t knit anymore. Just the thought of lifting a needle made nausea roil in my stomach.

It wasn’t until years later, when I felt I had gotten over my first marriage, that I tried to knit again, seduced by some soft gray yarn. But I couldn’t knit, and every mistake seemed like a hammer to my heart. I decided that I hated knitting. It was boring. It was not for me anymore.

Fast forward another five years. I fell in love with a funny, smart journalist named Jeff and we got married. It was such a different relationship from my first marriage! We were together 24/7. We talked all the time!

I began to think I wanted to make him a sweater, and this time, I did, a knit-from-the-top, deep chocolate sweater, and though I struggled through the process and the planning, it was perfect. Except that Jeff didn’t really wear sweaters, but still, he wanted that sweater, in his drawer, where he could look at it and touch it and admire it—and me.

I stopped knitting again.

Nothing Fancy

But then the Coronavirus came, and everything changed. We had a curfew. We all had to wear masks. We had to see our son virtually on Zoom, which broke my heart. Restaurants, movies, museums, subways. All shut down. Every day the news got worse. The death toll rose. The anxiety grew. I couldn’t sleep. I began having virtual sessions with a cognitive therapist.

“There’s something you can do to help your brain,” she told me. “You need to do something with small motor skills. Do you knit? Do you crochet?” she asked.

As soon as she said that, the memories flooded back, the hunching over graph paper, the joining of different colors and textures of yarns.

I bought the cheapest cotton yarn I could find, in wisteria with a kind of sheen to it as if it had been dipped in starlight. It would be pretty to look at as I knit. I didn’t mind that the needles I had didn’t match. I began to knit lopsided rectangles, planning to rip out the yarn when I was done. The mindlessness of it was satisfying, and I carelessly knit like this for weeks, until I began to notice how pretty the rectangles looked, how good it felt to touch them.

I browsed online for the very easiest of sweater patterns: no fancy complicated stitches, just garter; just one color so there would be no worry about joining yarns; just two big rectangles for the front and back, and two smaller rectangles for the sleeves. It was a pattern I would have disdained before.

“Won’t you be bored?” a knitting friend asked me.

“I’m just straight knitting,” I told her. “For anxiety. I’ll probably just rip it out and I don’t care.”

I began knitting at night when Jeff and I would sit on our couch and watch a film. I began to notice how I loved that I didn’t have to think about anything, that I could just knit in the dark and not even have to study a stitch. I loved the surprise when the film was over, and the lights went back on, and there was 3 inches of knitting and it actually looked okay.

“That’s really pretty,” Jeff said, touching the yarn, and I felt warmth traveling up my body.

“Yeah,” I said, “I guess it is.”

Knitting Myself Calm

It took me three weeks to make my sweater. I put it on, astonished. There were holes in the front that before would have made me crazy. Instead, I focused on the feel of the yarn, how soft it was on my skin. I looked at that full-of-holes sweater, and not only did I feel pride, but I told myself calmly: the next one will be better.

And the next one was simple, perfect, olive. I didn’t need another sweater, but I needed to knit.

I suddenly wanted to knit for the people I loved, who would love the sweaters back. So my third sweater was for my niece Hillary. She wrote to thank me and to let me know that her twin 9-year-olds wanted sweaters knit for them, too.

I ordered more yarn for more sweaters in the same simple pattern—in deep purple, in silver, in lavender with a touch of gray.

And I know now that knitting was always about love, but I just had it all wrong when I was knitting for my first husband. Back then I was so desperate to be seen, to be perfect.

I knit every single night now. It’s saving me through this virus time. Yes, it’s soothing, but it’s so much more. I think about who else I can knit a simple sweater for: my cousins, my friends, my sister who has estranged herself and who might be coaxed back by the perfect soft yarn, the deepest color. I sit beside the husband I love and knit myself calm, every ridiculously simple stitch and click of my needles knitting everyone I love together, even as we are apart.


Editors’ Note: Scroll Down for Caroline’s sweater recipe. She has kindly written it out for us in the comments.

About The Author

Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels, including Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World.  Her latest book is With or Without You (2020). Caroline’s essays have appeared in The Daily Beast, Modern Love in the New York Times, New York Magazine, and Real Simple. She has been knitting since she was in the Brownies, and she can be reached through


  • As someone who knit Pink Floyd album covers into sweaters for an idiot ex-husband, your story really resonates with me. I’m so glad you found your way back to the love of knitting. I’ve been on “house arrest” since March 15 and I can’t imagine how I’d survive without knitting. Well, and Netflix and Amazon Prime.

    • I would knit any number of Pink Floyd sweaters just for me. (Good job. The ex didn’t deserve them!)

    • Oh, photo of that sweater!

      • I’ve just started it and I’m going to make one small change. Since I hate sewing pieces together I’m going to measure the neck opening from another sweater and do a 3 needle bind off for the shoulders. I hope you don’t mind.

        • I learned to knit when I first married. My new husband said he wanted wool socks. I replied I didn’t know how to knit. “Why?” He replied, looking at me like I had 2 heads. I took a knitting class from a local yarn shop, making one sock and one mitten so I would understand how to read a pattern. The rest is history. From those socks came knit from the neck down sweaters, hats, slippers, scarves, and gloves. During Covid-19 and my retirement I knit 2 sweaters, 3 scarves, and several pairs of gloves. It is therapy, bringing calm, satisfaction and a visible demonstration of love for those whom I make them. Once you begin it becomes an obsession, a need.

      • Yes please. And a pattern of the rectangle sweater. Thanks so much for your story of hope.

      • I posted photos of one I knit myself on Instagram last year:

        • Thank you for sharing your story, Caroline. I love it that each yarn crafter has The Story of how she came to her craft: through crisis, through boredom, through anxiety, through tradition, through curiosity, etc. The yarn that weaves those stories together creates a patchwork of love, hardship, joy, and just plain life.
          When I use my grandmother’s pattern to knit blankets, I channel her spirit. When I knit socks, I think about my ancestors who fashioned their own garments. When I knit hats for charity, I knit my prayers into the stitches. I came to knitting through curiosity and stayed because it is a lifeline.

    • Pink Floyd sweaters amazing!

  • Your article is absolutely wonderful, from your words to your content. I could picture each sweater that you made along the way. There is something so incredibly cathartic about knitting for me, even the patterns that require a lot of attention. I need to knit everyday, sitting on the couch, holding my needles and feeling the yarn as it passes through my fingers, what joy. It feeds my soul. When the pandemic first hit, I found it difficult to focus on anything, even on my knitting, but it is still my place of peace.
    Welcome back to the family!

    • I absolutely agree with you, Linda. I find myself yearning to knit during the day and it really feeds my soul. It’s such a gorgeous discovery for me after all this time!

      • In all these comments I cannot find the pattern. I love to knit without watching and exercise my sense of touch. Love love love your story.♥️

    • I never knit a sweater for my undeserving ex, and now live with a beautiful, respectful man, who has a five year old grandson that I am cloaking in handknits! Knitting saved my life, too! Let all of us warm and beautify the people we love!

  • Wonderful story, and I’m so pleased you found your way back to knitting. But where’s/what’s the sweater pattern?

    • I just put it up in a comment!

      • Where is the sweater pattern? I can’t find it.

    • I made it up! I sent the whole pattern to MDK editor and I’m sure she will post. or wait. I can do it here I think!

      • Great read. Really enjoyed it. But where’s the pattern?

      • Wonderful story – would love the pattern of the sweater – thanks so much

    • I learned to knit right after the doctor told me I was pregnant and I haven’t stopped for 34 years -except a break during my divorce. My daughter is about to have a baby in September and I have been knitting during the past 4 months as proof that life goes on even on these strange times. I loved your essay and would also like the pattern for the simple sweater.

      • I don’t suppose you have a photo of the brontosaurus sweater. It sounds totally remarkable! Thanks for your very wonderful story.

  • I feel the same way right now about knitting. Have been making baby blankets for our local hospital, but switched to dishcloths for gifts for Christmas. But I have always wanted to make myself a sweater, EXACTLY like the one pictured, but could not find a simple enough pattern. Could you share a link to your pattern, please? I am suddenly inspired!!

    • OF COURSE I WILL SHARE! I posted it in comments for everyone!

      • Can,t find the pattern! Please repost or send!

      • Sorry to say I have scrolled through and can not find the pattern either. I have been looking for it but luck can you start new comment and post it there ?

      • Sorry, I’m not finding the comment with the pattern. But I would really like to make this. It seems perfect for our times.

  • Thank you for sharing this .. resonates with me …knitting keeps me sane

    • Me too. And there’s plenty to make me crazy these days.

  • Knitting has always been about love for me. I knit socks for my 86 year-old Father. He only wears socks that I have made. I knit socks for my three 30 something sons. My oldest called recently and asked about putting cedar blocks in his drawer to protect his wool socks. His call warmed my heart. ❤️

    • Ann, this is so moving to me. I knit a sweater for my 24 year old son and it made my heart open. I swear it did.

  • Wonderful story. I, too, would love the source for the sweater pattern. It’s perfect!

  • I’m knitting hours and hours now. Gifts for others, gifts for myself. Soothing, peaceful.

    • Hi Christine, I know. I so look forward to the end of my working day when I can knit!

  • Your story speaks to my heart—life’s ups and downs laced with “save me” knitting. Thank you.

    • Oh Niki, thank you. I think knitters have a shared DNA, don’t you?

  • At the age of 76, I wonder how many millions of stitches I have made over the years. Knitting is as much a part of my life as breathing. This article really touched me.
    Any chance you can tell me what yarn (aqua) was shown in the photo?

    • Caroline,
      I wanted to know the yarn used in the photo at the very top of the article. It was aqua and shown on the needles.

    • YES! I put it in the pattern I posted, it is Cotton Shine from Knit Picks, wisteria is the color.

  • Beautiful writing, beautiful story. Pattern please.

    • Ann I just posted! So happy you all want it!

  • What a wonderful story. I too find knitting so essential to calm my fears during this scary time. I listen to books or music too while knitting. I love everyone’s comments. You can probably get information on yarn and pattern from the author’s web site in the comments at the end of the essay.

  • Pattern source, please and thank you!

    • Loved. Yes pattern please. Years ago I knit a sleeveless sweater just like this, making my pattern myself! I still have it! Hope to have you pattern soon.

      • Would you mind sharing your sweater pattern, too? Don’t forget to copyright your pattern! Thank you. Jane H.

      • Oooh, the sleeveless pattern sounds wonderful Faye!

    • Inspiring knitting story! Just what I needed today!

  • This was a wonderful treat to start my morning. Thanks for this gorgeously told story.

    • Oh Susan, thank you so much for reading!

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I love to knit to give away to the ones I love❤ It’s the only knitting that really excites me and gives me pleasure.

    • Yes, KC giving it away is somehow so wonderful!

  • It is knitting has saved so many lives….all of us as a story to tell..

  • What a beautiful story. So many times I have “knit myself calm.” I have an amazing man who loves to wear and show off his hand knit socks! You have given me words to cherish!

    • Cindy, thank you so, so much. I’m so glad you have a man who loves his hand knit socks. i haven’t yet attempted socks….but maybe with a little courage, I can!

      • Socks are addictive

      • You can definitely do socks. Get MDK’s wandering socks book and some yarn and you’re all set!

  • My mother taught me to do it when I was five and I am now 67. I did take some time away during college and my first marriage but came back to it when our son started playing hockey. So many road trips. So many practices. And I need something to reduce the stress of watching him play goalie. It worked. It continues to help in these terrible times but sometimes I’m wondering if I’m using it to escape and isolate myself.

    • I have definitely hidden behind my knitting at times, I described it as my shield in my post lower down. But don’t feel bad if you sometimes need to escape and isolate yourself, everyone needs to do that for their own wellbeing sometimes. People who never pause and take stock end up burning out (ask me how I know lol).

    • Hi Holly, my therapist told me these small motor skills really help anxiety, and I think it does. And this community here is anything but isolating, right? Sending you love.

  • What great way to begin my day. Zen knitting is what gets me through all kinds of nightmares—deaths of mother and sister, a husband with early onset Alzheimer’s, and the current state of the US. Thanks for the lovely essay and heartfelt words.

    • Knitting definitely helps. It’s like you are turning pain into art, Robin.

  • Thank you for sharing your story with us. I love to hear how knitting weaves itself into a person’s life.

  • What a beautiful essay. I also knit my way through the lockdown. It was a wonderfully calming distraction. I think knitting can do many different things for people. For me it builds my confidence when I take a pattern I don’t really understand and row by row I figure it out and at the end produce a beautiful useful item. It’s magical! I’ll look at it and just be shocked I actually made something so beautiful. An absolute confidence booster.

    • Karen, yes!! The shock that you made something so beautiful!

  • This is so beautifully written and I can completely relate. I’ve always knit off and on but it’s really come back to me since the end of March. I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer right at the onset of lock down and had to begin treatment. I found Denise of EarthtonesGirl Podcast on YouTube and her No Fear Sock Classes. I decided I would learn to knit socks! I’m on my 6th or 7th pair now and love the new world I’m immersed in. Knitting has saved me and helped calm my mind. Next new item to knit will be a sweater this fall and the search and planning have begun!

    • Oh Adella, I love that knitting is saving you, too. I cannot wait to see your sweater.

  • So well said. This is the perfect description of how I feel about knitting.

    • Thank you, Bebe. And i love your beautiful name.

  • When I first started knitting, it too was to calm my need to fidget and mindlessly knitting things helped me feel productive and like I found part of myself I didn’t know was lost. Earlier this year, my mom was diagnosed with glioblastoma and I threw myself into knitting and caring for her while waiting for hospice to be approved. And in the aftermath of her passing, in that cliche way of saying how when you’ve lost someone, you suddenly see your life through a different lens as if with more clarity, I realized and accepted the fact that I was unhappy in my own marriage and am also going through a divorce. Sometimes I worry that I won’t be able to view knitting the same way and that picking it up might mean associating it with my stresses, but then I skip a day and I feel even worse than I did when I was knitting.

    • Juliet, I just want to send you some love. I hope your knitting can bring you some peace and solace.

    • Oh Juliet, I am so sorry for your losses, but I felt the same way about knitting at the beginninng–didn’t want to associate it with my ex. But you will come back–like you I feel worse when I don’t knit.

  • I would also like to have that sweater pattern! Wonderful story; I will look for your books.

    • Hi
      I am really looking for the sweater pattern ravelry sends us ti Lion Brand and they say unavailable. Please help.

  • I am glad that 1)you found something to help through this time and 2)that you are enjoying the calmness of knitting.
    I am knitting a blanket ( king size) for each of my 2 sons. I will not see them until next spring and the knitting makes me feel closer. Though I think it is a crazy idea.

    • I’ve been knitting as well and am coming up on one of these projects. I went through a phase I call “dish cloth madness” where I made a bunch of dishcloths for the son who’s moving out. He already has a blanket. My other kid is a high school senior and I’m planning to make him a blanket for when he goes to college.

    • Elaine, this is a WoNDERFUL idea. Now I want to do one for MY son!

  • This might just be the best post ever—and you’ve had some great ones!

  • Thank you for your story. Made me cry, remember, laugh…
    Also would love sweater pattern, please.

    • Thank you so much! I posted the pattern!

  • Reading your article, Caroline, touched a deep place in my soul. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with us. I really appreciate it.

  • Please share the sweater pattern! I would love to have a copy too.

    • Looks like this might be the sweater pattern.

      • Thank you Kathy, I have looked and looked and cannot find it in comments. Bless you for finding it!!

      • Oh now, see, seeing a pattern like that would have terrified me because I would worry I couldn’t do it properly or follow the directions. I think that sort of making it up as I went along made me less stressed!

      • Thanks, Kathy.

  • I am so thrilled by the warm welcome I got from this community! I have sent the pattern (I couldn’t figure out how to attach it here) to MDK and I cannot wait to see what all of you do!

    • Caroline, do you still have the dinosaur sweater? I would buy it from you and love it!!!

      • I wish I still had it! It was totally magnificent! But I scissored it up into tiny pieces. What a fool I was to do that!

        • Oh no you weren’t. I think it would have been a constant pain giver whenever you saw it. You needed that cathartic act. Better than chopping up the ex DH (which is not short for dear husband….).
          Never regret.

        • I bet it was cathartic, though! Much love to you!

  • Caroline Leavitt’s Yes I Can So Knit a Gorgeous Sweater sweater pattern

    This is the easiest pattern ever, though it took me a few tries to get it right. I’ve never written a pattern before so if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me. I am @carolineleavitt on Instagram.

    I fell in love with this shiny cotton yarn from Knitpicks, which was so soft and felt so good to knit with and it drapes beautifully. It was also really inexpensive so I figured if I screwed up, it wouldn’t be a major disaster. I used Dk weight for some sweaters, and now am knitting something in sport weight.

    The gauge changed according to the yarn I used so I made up lots of sample blocks, with different needles, and then I did the math to figure out how many stitches would make the two squares of front and back. For me, it was 5 stitches to an inch, size 8 needles for the DK weight, and size 6 for the sport weight, which came out to 6 stitches an inch.

    First, find a sweater you love so you get the measurements. Measure length and width, though because this is a drop-shoulder style, you want it to be wider than you might normally wear. So I measured 20-22 inches across and I did versions that were 24 inches long for a tunic, and shorter.

    The sweater front and back is really just two squares or two rectangles if you want a longer tunic-y sweater! That’s the beauty of it! And you just garter stitch! You can do it with your eyes closed.

    Sleeves were trickier for me, until I realized if I made the drop of the shoulder low enough, I didn’t really have to increase the sleeves at the top so much.

    The sleeves are two big rectangles. Again, I measured my fave sweater for how big it was around my elbow, and I knitted from write to sleeve that same amount of stitches. Then when the sleeve got to my elbow, I started to increase every other row—just ten stitches. Then I cast off!

    I tried. I really tried to weave the pieces together until I was near hysterical, and then my knitting friend Elinor Lipman whispered the magic words to me: back stitch. Suddenly it was really easy and fast and it looked great.

    I gently washed and spread out on the floor to dry on a towel.

    I hope you all love your sweaters!


    • Thank you!

    • Which of the Knitpicks cotton yarns did you use for your first one?

    • Elinor Lipman! One of my favorites, a knitter too?

    • Thank you for sharing your story, your pain, and your healing. We each come to knitting for different reasons at different times, but this wonderful art (craft, therapy, hobby, etc) is always there for us, giving us what we need in that moment. I am grateful for the creative process, the projects and the community I found when I picked up the yarn and needles, and that no matter how often I may step away, it’s all always there when I come back <3

    • Thank you so much! This wonderful, a recipe, the kind of knitting pattern I like best. Typical knitting patterns stress me out, I am afraid I will do something wrong. This is an EXPERIMENT, and I love experimenting! My grandma taught me to cook this way, and it is the way I pretty much do everything in my life….LOL. Thank you !

    • I knit but cant knit from a pattern to save my life, LOL! Usually look at the picture of the pattern & then go from there..
      You my darling Caroline might just have taught my ‘picture brain’ how to knit that sweater. Just busy with a huge crochet project & will then switch.
      I LOVE crocheting & still have my Gran’s crochet book that was printed in 1946. All these ‘modern’ patterns seems to originate from it & I’ve done baby blankies, scarves, you name it. Bear in mind some of the patterns call for yarn is as thick/thin as sewing thread…havent been down that rabbit hole…would need a microscope on my nose instead of specs!
      Big hugs from a wintery Cape Town, South Africa

    • Brilliant, it’s a recipe kind of pattern! Thanks for sharing 😀

  • Love this. I knitte through my mother’s illness and hospice care and then my own cancer battle. The creation of stitch after stitch is so calming. I generally have two projects going. One that mindless for when I’m tired but stll need to knit and another to stimulate my brain.

    • Oh Diane, I have started a project that is basketweave and requires thought, I don’t know how I feel about it yet, except PROUD of myself for taking this next step.

  • Thank you for this beautiful piece of writing, and sharing your love of knitting. I didn’t know anyone else saw knitting this way. I feel less alone now.

    • Jan, you are definitely not alone. ❤️

    • Oh Jan, I feel less alone reading all of these beautiful comments. And yes, I definitely feel as you do.

  • Your story is beautiful and most definitely brought tears! As I am almost 81 years old, I have been Knitting for a very long time. Although I have taken a break once in a while, I always return to my knitting. For 40 years, I was married to a wonderful man who loved my knitting and welcomed every pair of socks I made for him. This sweet man passed away in June 2019 and my heart was broken. I cannot bear to get rid of those socks and have kept 30+ pairs in a drawer all this time. I can’t look at them nor can I give them away. So now we have the Covid virus with all the angst it brings. I fill my days happily knitting as this stay-at-home isolation continues since March. It brings me great joy and a calmness to my soul. Reading the many comments to your story, Caroline, I know I’m in good company and it warms my heart!

    • Thank goodness for knitting, and for hearing the stories of a world full of knitters sharing the same source of solace and quiet pleasures.

  • This is a beautiful story, and so relatable! Thank you for sharing – both the story, and the pattern!

  • I think this story resonates with a lot of women who knit. I knit a Kaffe Fasset sweater for my ex, but I was seaming it up when he told me he didn’t think he had ever loved me. Oh, those colors that had seemed so gorgeous now looked like years of wasted effort in more ways than one. I still have that sweater in a project bag, and I occasionally take it out look at it. Over the years, I have made peace with all of it, and I keep trying to figure out how to use that knitting for ME! I have been trying to talk myself into getting back to knitting. Your post has inspired me. Thank you Caroline. I am now married to the love of my life, so happy ending!

    • Becky, I love your happy ending, and that jerk didn’t deserve your gorgeous sweater.

  • I’ve been knitting for more than forty years and it has save me more time than I can count but most especially now. The sanity it has provided has almost made up for the giant yarn stash. Who am I kidding? It makes the stash totally necessary.

    • Oh yes, I sometimes love just looking at the colors.

  • I’m so thrilled to see this. I’m a huge fan of Caroline’s work, and very, very lucky to know her IRL, too. I can’t wait to read her newly-published novel, though I have to wait a few more days until my local bookstore gets their copies in.

  • So glad knitting is helping. Here in Canada knitters are making squares for a COVID Memorial Blanket; it seems it’s designed for all of us feeling the emotions you describe… it’s simple twelve inch squares of garter and stocking stitch.

    • I have already contributed 2 squares commemorating 3 people who died from covid that I personally knew. A great way to remember them

    • What a wonderful project! Do you accept donations from the US?

    • What a lovely, lovely idea, Dorothy.

  • Thank you for this beautiful essay! I’ve been knitting most of my life, but until I retired it was always “dessert;” something I could indulge in only after everything else was done, which was almost never. Just shipped off a perfect pink lace cotton baby blanket (with “silky” binding, of course!) today to my newest granddaughter Sabine. It’s so satisfying to imagine her (and the other 3 grandkids) having some of me to hold on to.

    • I used to worry when I knit, Tatoland, that some of my long curly hair would find itself in the knit, but now I feel that that is just more love and connection!

      • Ha! I’ve often said that there’s a bit of my two dogs’ hair stitched into everything I knit. I consider it added warmth!!

        Thank you for the wonderful essay, Caroline. My heart broke for you in the beginning, I rejoiced for you in the middle, and at the end I commiserated with your quest to find some peace of mind in these uncertain, turbulent times. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and insight. And congrats on the new book!!

      • Oh yes! Always some of my blonde/getting gray in everything I knit! So glad you mentioned that

  • What a lovely article. I have been a twenty year obsessive quilter who just began knitting last fall after touring some of Northern England’s charming sheep farms and yarn shops. Oh my! I have a lot to learn but it is so comforting during these days of isolation. Thank you for this lovely reflection.

    • MaryCginn, quilting! Oh I would so love to learn that.

  • I’m a 57-year-old beginner who crocheted for years and wanted to step up to knitting but couldn’t make it stick. Tried 15 years ago and gave up, tried again five or six years ago and gave up. This year I started again and have really been hanging in there and getting better, even with all the mistakes and frustration, and sometimes even throwing stuff across the room. I wondered why it’s sticking with me this time and not before?

    In the last few years my husband has had two strokes and my life has become at times quite stressful and unhappy, and then the pandemic came along to put the cherry on top of my catastrophe. I was listening to a Patty Lyons Quarantine Live where she was having a conversation with her guest about working in a yarn shop and all the emotional customers one has to deal with, who invest so much in their knitting and sometimes treat mistakes like the end of the world, etc. Patty said that to deal with all of that you had to understand that many people “come to knitting through crisis” and so of course bring a lot of emotional baggage with them into their new hobby. Suddenly I understood why I’ve hung in there so well this time and haven’t quit.

    It’s so interesting to see here the stories of people who started knitting very young, walked away from it in crisis, but found their way back. The opposite of my experience, just different paths to the same place. Thanks to Caroline Leavitt for telling her story.

    • DawnMCD I love this. That people come to knitting in crisis. What saved me was knowing that I was learning, that I was doing this slowly, easily and it just calmed me so, so much.

  • Thank you for sharing your story Caroline. I used knitting as my shield through my terrible marriage and divorce when my children were small. At the time it kept me safe, but, like you, I didn’t knit much for quite a long time afterwards. It was only a few years ago, when I got rid of the last in a line of abusive partners, that I finally came back to knitting to give myself calm and peace. I don’t have as much time for it as I would like now, but I also feel it’s an act of love, both for myself in the doing of it, and for the recipient (who is often myself too). I really appreciated your post. Thank you.

    • Oh yes, Ruth, it is indeed an act of love.

  • Beautiful story with so much HOPE!
    I knit, but rarely finish anything. I love the colors and the yarn. Your sweater MIGHT just get finished. Thank you.

    • Hi Evelyn, it’s a gorgeous soft cotton shine from Knitpicks!

  • I laughed. I cried. I applauded! Some of the best “sit beside me, I have a tale to tell” moments I have ever read!

    • Aklacelady, THANK YOU!! You made my day! love, C

  • I too only ever knitted one sweater for my ex boyfriend. Lying flat in bed recovering from back surgery, unable to move anything but my arms. He was away with work, and the young girl from the office he ended up moving out to live with.*
    I didn’t knit then until I met my now husband. Who now has drawers full of wildly striped socks that keep him cosy every day. There’s a carefully folded stash of sweaters to warm him through chilly northern days.
    Then there are sweaters and cardigans and socks for small people, who wear them until the cuffs and hems are to short. At that point they find new homes with friends who too will wear them till too short. And pass them on again.
    Knitting is an act of love. To both the recipient and to the knitter.

    *so glad he did. His bad choices put me directly in the path of my much loved husband. Such a wonderful outcome

    • Oh Evie, so glad you have that wonderful husband. And yes, knitting is such an act of love!

  • Thank you for this. My crocheting calms me and makes me feel good. I’m making scarves for the homeless. I’m hoping to have 50 done by Oct.

    • You are so welcome, Fran, and what a goddess you are knitting scarves for the homeless!

  • I couldn’t love this more! Working from home during our lockdown was far harder than I thought it would be. I started out strong but it was lonelier than I expected. The knitting was always there to keep me company. Maybe I have too many projects going right now but I’m drawn to the ones that make me feel connected. My Tiny Tassels which has been in a tote bag for emergency knitting got moved into full rotation because it brings me back to the event at mYak that I bought it at and the fun I had with Kay that day. There was pink wine and great conversation. My niece’s wedding shawl was going full force, wedding got postponed so it got put down, but then picked up again because the designer is an infectious disease nurse practitioner at Columbia Pres and somehow working on it makes me feel like I’m keeping her safe. Gifts have been knit in patterns by designers I’ve met here and sent on their way with too many stamps because I didn’t want to go into the post office. This isnt the first time that knitting has saved me with its clever little sense of accomplishment and beauty. I’m sure it won’t be the last.

    • I loved what you wrote, karen, especially your last line. The clever little sense of accomplishment and beauty. I am SO THERE WITH YOU. xx

  • I loved this essay! The mindlessness of simply knitting is a wonderful state to be in.

    • I crave it now, Agathar.

    • Mindless and mindful – every stitch a little kiss to someone you love – for yourself or someone else

      • Yes, exactly, every stitch is a little kiss. I love that, Tatoland!

  • Wow, I love your evolution (some sad parts) and I love the sweater; I have been looking for something just like this!

    But, this incredible thing happened. I saw the piece when I opened Google. Enjoyed it and, as usual I was reading some comments and a writer posted about a Covid Memory Blanket in Canada. I am Canadian, but had not heard about it. I looked into it, and 6 hours later am making my first square and have ordered the yarn they require!

    Happenstance is wonderful especially when it comes to helping other folks.
    Thanks again,

    • I LOVE THIS LINDA. Things connect and magic happens, right?

  • Loved this story
    During the quarantine knitting helped me with the loneliness of isolation and the anxiety that would creep in
    My “sweater” was blankets for everyone
    Bernat big blanket yarn and big needles and just knit

    • Oh, I would love to knit a blanket! Nancy, how long did it take you?

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I started crocheting after being diagnosed with depression. It has really helped me out of despair and hopelessness. I am going to try that sweater, it is lovely.

    • Hi Letlhogonolo–It helped my anxiety more than any pill. I’d love to see what you are knitting, too!

  • Thank you for this essay. You express so much how I feel about knitting, though I kind of lost my mojo after my dad died 2 years ago. The projects I was working on then are still in their bags, frozen in time. Since then, I’ve made dozens of hats to donate to kids, but no big projects. And never a sweater. But now you’re inspiring me. Thank you!

    • Oh jennifer, knit the sweater! I want to see it when it is done!

  • My mother raised three daughters. I was the youngest. When she saw me starting to knit a gift for a current boyfriend, she smiled wryly, shook her head, and said, “Ah, when you start knitting for a guy, the relationship is doomed.”
    I was shocked and hurt, but it turns out, she was right. Fifty years later, I have finally learned. I now only knit for myself or to make an occasional baby gift. Turns out, few of our loved ones really want our hand-knitted gifts. My excess yarn/scrappy winter hats now go to the homeless shelter. And I am perfectly fine with that. Knitting has become about keeping my own hands busy while I enjoy the creativity, the colors, the textures, and the rhythm of the handwork. It’s much more peaceful and satisfying that way. No more hurt feelings, just the pure pleasure of creating something that pleases *me*.

    • Barbara, your mom is wrong! But I am so happy you are loving knitting.

      • I made a baby blanket for my nephew’s new baby, and when Wesley started to outgrow it, his mom shyly asked if I would make another. She didn’t want to ask for more… but I was THRILLED by her request. I will make her a zillion blankets if she wants them, with love knitted into every stitch.

  • I love this story. Have often heard that when you knit for someone, you are giving them the gift of your time. Would be easier to buy a sweater for them, but by knitting it you think about them and spend your time for them. And, so wonderful that hand-knit items don’t have to be perfect. We aren’t machines so they shouldn’t be perfect. Thanks for a wonderful read.

    • YES! It was so important fo rme, Carol to realize that imperfections were part of what made a handknit beautiful.

  • Thank you for sharing your story and being so vulnerable. I am glad you have found a happy love now. I too knit for peace and loved your explanation of why that works, using a different part of your brain. I don’t knit sweaters – I find them too scary, fitting is very challenging. I knit blankets, the bigger the better, but no one seems to want hand knitted anything these days. I have knit at night and then ripped out the next day and then re-knit, just to have something in my hands. I love the 10-stitch blanket. It can be endless and uses up all the odds and ends of wool left over from other projects. Pattern free on Ravelry. I’m currently knitting baby blankets as friends kids’ are starting to multiply :). I just love MDK as well, it has been a pandemic brain saver for sure.

    • Oh Izzy, if you knit blankets, you can knit this sweater. No shaping! Just garter stitch and two squares and a rectangle. I would be happy to send you the pattern!

  • I wild love this pattern need something to fill my t’e Could I get pattern

  • Beautifully written and knitted! My life could easily parallel your’s. That fact always amazes me. What seems and is so very personal is also shared by many. My anxiety would not have survived Covid without knitting. Good news: wip’s are getting finished; bad news but not really I’m challenging my skills more. Old dogs and granny’s can learn new tricks. Thank you Caroline for sharing your’s and our story so eloquently.

  • I might not be a knitter but do love to crochet…and I love this story….I’m in the middle making lap blanket for my Aunt to help her cope with the lost of her sister/ my mom… Crocheting helps out lot when you’re depress

  • How do you calculate how much yarn is required for an individual sweater?????
    I loved and can relate to your story.
    Thank you

    • HI B. I didn’t know what I was doing. I figured 1000 grams is usually a sweater, so I bought a little bit more for each sweater, and I ended up okay.

      • Caroline thank you so much. Just your gracious act of kindness answering back means ever so much right at the moment. I’m knitting my heart back together after losing my job this week to Covid-related staffing cutbacks. It hurts. Sometimes knitting means more than just creating something, at least I need it to be so now. Again, thank you.

  • I love this story. I have knitted for years, and only knit for people I love. I do have an exhusband I knit for, but I took the sweaters in the divorce (he didn’t deserve them anymore, in my mind). I have been knitting to calm my mind during the pandemic, and my sweater production is off the charts. I finished a wonderful, oversized cardigan this spring and mailed it to my sister as the hug that I can’t give her right now. I usually don’t knit in the summer, but have continued through all the heat and humidity.

    • I love that Brenda, I knit love in every stitch, too

  • What a treat the read this here, Caroline. I fondly remember your class through UCLA and seeing you at the book festival in Cville. What a delight to “see” you here as well.

    • Allyson! I am LOVING this community.

  • I learned to knit the summer after my dad died. I was a useless puddle of nothing and somehow knitting pulled me through. I find I’m struggling to find the light and your words were exactly what I needed right now. Thank you for your pattern and your story.

    • Oh Barbara, I am so glad. Knitting saves us.

  • I’m experiencing rather nasty anxiety at the moment. Just gone into lockdown and curfew here this week.
    I have lots of wool that I never use, just love buying it. I’d love to knit this simple jumper, but I can’t find the pattern in the comments ☹️

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Caroline Leavitt’s Yes I Can So Knit a Gorgeous Sweater sweater pattern This is the easiest pattern ever, though it took me a few tries to get it right. I’ve never written a pattern before so if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me. YARN I fell in love with this shiny cotton yarn from Knitpicks, which was so soft and felt so good to knit with and it drapes beautifully. It was also really inexpensive so I figured if I screwed up, it wouldn’t be a major disaster. I used Dk weight for some sweaters, and now am knitting something in sport weight. GAUGE The gauge changed according to the yarn I used so I made up lots of sample blocks, with different needles, and then I did the math to figure out how many stitches would make the two squares of front and back. For me, it was 5 stitches to an inch, size 8 needles for the DK weight, and size 6 for the sport weight, which came out to 6 stitches an inch. MEASUREMENTS First, find a sweater you love so you get the measurements. Measure length and width, though because this is a drop-shoulder style, you want it to be wider than you might normally wear. So I measured 20-22 inches across and I did versions that were 24 inches long for a tunic, and shorter. BASIC SHAPE The sweater front and back is really just two squares or two rectangles if you want a longer tunic-y sweater! That’s the beauty of it! And you just garter stitch! You can do it with your eyes closed. SLEEVES Sleeves were trickier for me, until I realized if I made the drop of the shoulder low enough, I didn’t really have to increase the sleeves at the top so much. The sleeves are two big rectangles. Again, I measured my fave sweater for how big it was around my elbow, and I knitted from write to sleeve that same amount of stitches. Then when the sleeve got to my elbow, I started to increase every other row—just ten stitches. Then I cast off! PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER I tried. I really tried to weave the pieces together until I was near hysterical, and then my knitting friend Elinor Lipman whispered the magic words to me: back stitch. Suddenly it was really easy and fast and it looked great. I gently washed and spread out on the floor to dry on a towel. I hope you all love your sweaters! Love, Caroline
  • I do so much needlework that we have a saying: which today? Weaving, knitting, crochet…..weaving,knitting, crochet, sewing or weaving, knitting, crochet, needlepoint

  • Thank you for your wonderful essay. Diane

    • Thank you so much, Diane!

  • I also knit to forget the virus. I try to knit 67 baby blankets for the hole in the wall baby orphanage in Berea in Johannesburg South Africa. It is a building with a door to the street side. So , if you cannot keep your baby or do not want it, place the baby in the hole, ring the bell and someone will take the baby. So you don’t have to abandon, dump the baby

  • Loved this – as I sit here tears streaming down my face but a smile in my heart. I too love to knit – just simple stuff and I donate most of my baby blankets and scarves to those in need. THANK YOU!

  • How much yarn did you use for your sweater? I love it. Just my style.

  • Hello Caroline, Thank you for sharing this story. My knitting has saved me many times, most recently from losing my mind in a house without power. LOL! But I knit on and I so love that you do too!

  • Thank you for sharing your story Caroline and the for the pattern. This is exactly the type of knitting I crave right now. I can’t seem to stay focused long enough to do cables or lace. I just want to knit.

  • Thank you, Caroline, for this very personal and yet not uncommon story, to judge by all the comments. I tried to read all the comments, but that was too big a task for Saturday morning. I have been knitting through all kinds of times. I am now trying to be a writer. Maybe I’ll take a crack at my knitting story.

    • Thank you Caroline, not just for sharing your story, but for bringing this group of commenters out of “hiding” . MDK Snippets and coffee are the Saturday morning lighthouse that gets me through the storm of my week, but I never realized until you started this, how much I had in common with the women here. This feels like a virtual group hug that we all desperately needed. In addition to the pandemic, I am dealing with several medical issues that result in constant back pain that is made worse by the tension that comes from anxiety. At this point I consider knitting a prescription. It lifts my spirits, it calms me, it soothes my soul. I can’t focus enough to do the complicated shawls that I love, and I think your sweater recipe will be perfect. I have been knitting multiple pairs of fingerless mitts to use up fingering weight leftovers from shawls. They are light enough to send them out to those I love with just a few extra stamps so that I can avoid the post office, as noted by a prior poster.
      Knitting is love made visible, and I want my family and friends to see and feel that from me during this awful isolation.

  • Thank you, Caroline. Your thoughts and feelings have inspired me to “keep on keeping on.” I’ve been knitting since I was about 6 yrs old and I’m 73 now. Through all of my ups and downs it is the one constant. If I have a day without knitting, I truly feel strange the next day. Like many others, I keep several projects going at the same time, so there are challenges and there are really simple knits. My one regret is not being able to help my 13 yr old granddaughter with her knitting during this Covid. Maybe we can use zoom instead of cell video chat and I can help her take care of her new anxieties.
    Take care and “keep on keeping on” for yourself and your readers. You enhance all of our lives.

  • Oh, Caroline, i feel your story in my bones! I started knitting at the suggestion of my therapist, who told me i needed to do something for myself. And she was right, it gives me a focus that calms me. Sometimes life drags me down. My son stopped talking to me over a year ago and i put the needles away for several months as i found it hard to function. One early morning after a sleepless night, i saw a beautiful sunrise with gorgeous orange/pink color combo and i thought it would make a great scarf for a little girl. So i picked up the needles and worked out a simple scarf. Other scarves followed, which i donated to a local elementary school. Life, with all its bumps and bruises, carries on. I’ll try to keep the needles moving.

  • Maybe there should be a first husband rule like the boyfriend sweater rule? Thank you for this wonderful resonant article and your clever pattern. I am inspired to pick up one of your books!

  • Hi Caroline, I loved your essay earlier this week – Age of Dinosaurs and I want to make the sweater you created a pattern for. I’m good with most of it but when it comes to the sleeve you say to increase every other row when you get to the elbow. My instinct is telling me to decrease. Am ii wrong?

    • I’m not Caroline but when I first started knitting sweaters it was back in the 80s when boxy garter mohair sweaters were the rage and I used to knit them like this sweater except for adding a tight rib cuff… you might want to decrease if your sleeves are really wide and you want your cuff narrower, and in that case your cast on would be attached to the shoulders…

  • So many thanks for this! It immediately made me think of Michelle Dalbec’s workshop Knit, Pray, Love at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts (usually onsite, now online). Simple knitting really can put you right in this immediate loving moment.

  • My heart is with you — knitting kept me sane through the aftermaths of Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the deaths of my father and close loved ones, tough economic times, and the worst years of the AIDS crisis when I was losing another friend every few weeks. Most recently, in 2013-2014, I knitted my way through the long hours when I lived at the hospital while my husband fought for his life, and lost. Knitting kept me sane shortly after when my mother went into hospice, and then passed on in her turn.

    The night Donald Trump was handed the Presidency by the electoral college, two things happened: I finished a shawl, and I watched my dying mother weep uncontrollably for fear of our nation’s future. Mom had asked for an absentee ballot, and one of her last cognizant, independent acts on this earth had been, at last, to vote for a woman for President of the United States. Her own mother had worked and marched for suffrage after the first world war.

    Her tears were not selfish tears of disappointment because the candidate she supported “lost.” Her tears sprang from mourning for the future of this nation in the hands of a bankrupt “businessman” and cheesy reality show host.

    For almost three years after that night, I could not knit at all. I could not knit a single stitch without associating it with every single tragedy knitting had hauled me through.

    It wasn’t until after I moved cross-country in 2018 that I could pick up needles and keep a project going again. Since COVID, once again, my knitting is keeping me sane again. I look forward to the day when the world recovers from this nightmare, when knitting can fill me with pleasure instead of simply calming my anxiety.

  • An excellent article! Thank-you.

  • Thought I was gonna come to MDK on a normal day and read about sock heels or Kermit or dishcloths, which would have been fine, and instead I get treated to this absolutely beautiful piece of writing to ground me. thank you.

  • Wow; great story, Caroline; Sweet story, actually!! Sweet Caroline, actually.

    Neil was beating out this song the year I learned to knit. Three years later, I learned to crochet. The internet now teaches me so much more. Eleven years of classical piano lessons, along with improvisation, and I can ‘play’ music, too……..and I can google any music I prefer….even write a few tunes of my own.

    It could have been me, actually, your story…..with a pause in time of knitting and crocheting as divorce ate my soul, too.

    Time passes and I, too knit (and crochet) for anyone, every one…..for love. It soothes me………hoping it soothes those I gift with my work. If I make a mistake, I stitch mark it and leave it in there. It’s ‘my’ item until I give it away.

    *****I also don’t weave in yarn tails………aiming them to be trimmed thus more abstract. They’re wonderful, really…..

    Be safe and regards,


  • I loved your story i do both and it knit n crochet and just finished a challenging baby booties and then my arthritic knee doesnt even hurt.

  • I love all the stories. Knitting and crocheting are fantastic life savers that bless the knitter and the giftee . I do not see a pattern… could someone indicate which post has the link?

  • This is a great story, I loved every bit of it and the love behind knitting or crocheting, thanks for sharing.

  • I used to knit too, however, radiation damage to my left arm and shoulder stopped me. BUT – I was browsing knitting patterns on line just the other day j8maand I came across an article about a knitter who lost an arm and the different methods she tried. After seeing her knitting again with only one arm, I know there’s still hope for me! “When there’s a will there’s a way.”

  • That was an amazing read . I’m going to the library now to find your books . Thank you . I haven’t knitted in a while but am excited to start again now . You have awakened
    My spirit .

  • Thank you for sharing your story. l bought a simple knitted patchwork blanket and me and my daughter loved it so much l am now knitting one for her in pastel. And i never thought l would love doing it so much. l cant wait to pick my needles up now and take it with me on family visits. lm so glad you found somone worthy of you love.

    Take care xx

  • I love this piece, I don’t know how to knit, I only crochet, but this makes me want to make sweaters for myself and my friends and family.

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