Introduction 1.3—How it Grew


The three girls asked to be taught how to knit. As I recall at least one if not all knew how to crochet. All were motivated and bright and sweet… and we were all in the throes of our own versions of PTSD.

I told the girls to give me a couple of days to gather supplies and then I’d have them meet me at lunch and I could teach them. Shortly there were 45 girls and boys learning to knit and crochet. Our counselor—a better knitter than I—helped teach, too. In desperate need of yarn and needles I wrote to anyone I could think of for help. We received boxes from SoHo Publishing (Vogue Knitting’s parent company), Patternworks, Elizabeth Eakins, local shops, and I’m sure my memory is failing now because I know other companies sent us yarn (Time Warner sent the teacher’s roller bags FULL of supplies—I still have that bag).

It was amazing the support we received, but, then again, maybe not so amazing. 9/11 definitely affected the whole country and there’s no question that a NYC high school teacher writing to beg supplies to teach city kids how to knit after being evacuated on 9/11 is a plea that will get heard. The neat part was watching the kids open the boxes when they arrived. It was a rolling Christmas—boys and girls alike oohed and aahed over the goodies, so we made a pact:

  • we asked for supplies; we got them.
  • the supplies would only be used to make things for others in need.

Collectively we chose two charities:

  • Women in Need (WIN)
  • Bowery Mission

WIN is that kind of run-for-your-life shelter program (among other things) that means the women and children will often have to run without anything. The Bowery Mission is not far north from our school and they were affected by 9/11 much the same. 2001’s winter was cold. Everyone needed warm things.

So the kids knit and crocheted for others. All the time. I could tell it calmed them the way it calmed me.

Which is when it got interesting.


Not long after we were back in our building (in the above left, the South Tower would have blocked the light in that pic) a math teacher came by and asked me what one of his boys was doing, or, as I recall, he asked about the student doing “that stick thing”. Turned out that one of our boys was an avid crocheter.


In the course of our conversation we discovered that this boy was now taking notes, paying attention, and doing well. That hadn’t always been true—and he wasn’t alone.

Aside from students, I noticed for myself I felt better (as much as possible) and attended better in meetings when I was knitting. Annoying to others? I imagine so. But I didn’t have the data at the time that I needed to be able to explain to them what was happening in my brain—and the brains of my students—when we knit, crocheted, or doodled.

It’s research into those automatic hand motions that finally gave me what I’d been looking for—and that’s what gave me the idea for this blog and book.

Next installment Tuesday, January 7, 2014


  1. Sincerely looking forward to this. Thank you.

  2. Really enjoying your Journey from Disaster to Calm
    through Knitting.

  3. I am not able to read fast enough…
    To read about the outpouring of help to start theses students knitting and crotcheting…my heart is swelling as I read.
    I am so thankful you are writing this!

  4. WOW, I just located your site. I love this.

    I know I have used knitting, crocheting and quiting to deal with the difficult things in my life. I once sat in a waiting room while my husband was in surgery, they came and gave me what we thought was VERY bad news, I took it, and sat down and continued to knit, and I remember the people around me watching like they thought I didn’t get what I’d been told. I completely understood and was concerned but I had to finish my scarf, that tangible thing in front of me that I could control, to make something useful and beautiful with my time waiting. I can’t wait to read more of your blog!

    • Boy, if that doesn’t sum up the power of this stuff! That’s how your brain processed the shock. Just so cool! (And very glad it turned out better than they said!)

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