Before I begin, I want to acknowledge that “disabled” is a word that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. There are a great many disabled people in the fibre and textile community who will not or cannot use the word to describe themselves, and that’s okay. We all make our individual choices to use a label or not. I also want to mention that while this essay is about my experience with my set of challenges, there are an infinite number of other ways to be disabled. No one disability is more or less than any other.
I learned to knit in 1983 and from the minute I picked up those needles, I was hardly ever seen without a project in my hands. Knitting led me to spinning, and spinning led me to weaving, but I always circled back to knitting. I was one of those “never not knitting ” people—it kept me focused and it kept me sane. When I knitted, I was calm and happy.
Then, in early 2013 I started having pain and stiffness in my hands. My wrists swelled up every time I knitted. I was knitting less and less because it hurt. A lot. Over the course of the summer, I developed more joint pain, then other symptoms, and that fall I was diagnosed with symmetric psoriatic arthritis.
My rheumatologist advised me to continue knitting to keep my joints moving and the tendons and ligaments in my hands limber, so I kept knitting. But it was no longer enjoyable. I knitted grimly, with a clenched jaw, until I ruptured a tendon under my thumb. I stopped knitting in early 2015.
Read on for how Michelle came to adjust her perspective on and her approach to knitting so that she continues to enjoy her beloved craft.
All images courtesy of Michelle Boyd.