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Spotlight: Local author writes about knitting as therapy

BY KENDALL MCCABE | MARCH 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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When Michelle Edwards walks into Home Ec Workshop to knit, she’s surrounded by familiar faces.

Other patrons know what project the local author is working on, and she knows what their next creations will be.

Edwards, who has written and illustrated 14 children’s books, will release her first full-length book, A Knitter’s Home Companion, today.

The book is about a knitting and how it can improve people’s lives.

“Knitting is a companion,” said Edwards, an Iowa City resident. “I hope that in some ways [the book] is like a companion.”

Edwards, who knitted alone until she moved to Iowa City, said she has found community through local yarn stores such as Home Ec and Fae Ridge Farm.

Throughout the process of creating her book, other patrons helped her knit projects to be featured in the book and acted as both a sounding board and a cheering team, she said.

As a child, she learned to knit from her mother. As an adult, she began to write for Lion Brand Yarn’s e-newsletter and quickly became a regular columnist. Though she said she enjoyed receiving free yarn from the company, the responses her columns solicited from readers were a greater gift.

Edwards said it is an incredible experience to share the creation process with other people. With her children’s books, she did not have the chance to build up a communal dialogue with her readers.

Besides building a feeling of community, knitting has therapeutic elements as well, she said. The craft involves many sensory materials, beautiful needles and yarn and is very tactile. The end result is a productive and satisfying activity for many people.

Comparing her craft to people who fly-fish as a hobby, she explained, “I doubt that any of them consider it therapy.”

Mereta Vindum, a local knitter who frequents Home Ec Workshop, 207 N. Linn St., said she likes to take on simple projects so she can socialize while she knits.

“It’s a social thing,” she said. “After work, it gets you away from stress.”

Stay-at-home mother Arianne Waseen, who has been knitting for eight years, said the craft helps her calm down.

“It’s meditative,” she said.

Knitting and other art forms can be a type of therapy, said Phil Striegel, who works at the Counseling Center of Iowa City. He said he thought knitting could be similar to people who keep a journal, using a creative output to feel relief.

“When we’re working with art, we’re able to take it and create a metaphoric representation so we don’t have to carry that feeling inside of us,” Striegel said.

Ultimately, the sense of community trumps any therapeutic benefits of knitting for Edwards.

Edwards, who attended the University of Iowa and got an M.A. and M.F.A. in printmaking, grew up in Troy, N.Y. She is married and has three daughters, and though she left Iowa City for 16 years after graduating, she moved back in 2002.

Iowa City has great civic pride and is community-oriented, she said.

“It’s only fitting that the knitting community would mirror the outside community,” Edwards said.


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