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Crafting in the Time of Quarantine

by Annika Inampudi, Editor in Chief

Ask anyone, quarantine is rough. I was five days into the quarantine, pacing around my house, having exhausted all conventional means of entertaining myself-- binged all the Netflix shows I had promised to watch, scrolled to the bottom of every endless explore page, finally downloaded Tik Tok. It felt like a constant onslaught of information. The first week in, and my head was already cotton-stuffed. I needed a way out of the claustrophobia. So, in some funny form of quarantine-logic, I decided to clean out my room.

As I was cleaning out childhood artifacts and old homework assignments, I found my old embroidery floss, from my friendship bracelet making days. Looking at the brightly colored thread in front of me, I had an absurd thought: I should learn to embroider. It was an absurd thought, I suddenly had a vision of myself as an old housewife in the nineteenth century, wearing a thimble and sitting on a rocking chair. But what else did I have to do? I dug out some needles, put on a youtube video, and began to sew.

I’m not really an artist, but putting effort into a work of art, however silly it was, brought me a sense of comfort. At a time when twenty things are competing for your attention, focusing on the mindless task of moving a needle up and down through fabric is refreshing. People around the world are rallying together, through art. Across the United States, volunteers are sewing masks for healthcare workers, to offset a potential shortage. Haniya Cheema, a high school junior and organizer of one such drive, says: “In times of crisis, human instinct gives us all the urge to come together and help out. This particular crisis is different: most of us can’t soothe our anxieties and survivors guilt by going out and directly aiding those affected. Making masks is a way of keeping ourselves productive, occupied, and helpful.”

This isn't a new phenomena. Knitting and crafting have always been a way for people to help from the homefront. During the Civil War, women from all over the country began to knit socks and other garments for soldiers at war. One of my favorite stories of knitting activism from the Civil War comes from an anonymous poem tucked into a pair of knitted socks left in front of a Philadelphia Hospital:

"By the fireside, cosily seated, With spectacles riding her nose, The lively old lady is knitting A wonderful pair of Hose. She pities the shivering soldier, Who is out in the pelting storm; And busily plies her needles, To keep him hearty and warm. Her eyes are reading the embers, But her heart is off to the War, For she knows what those brave fellows Are gallantly fighting for. Her fingers as well as her fancy, Are cheering them on their way; Who under the good old banner, Are saving their Country to-day."

This goes beyond the Civil War. The November 1941 issue of Life Magazine had a very simple cover story: How To Knit. In addition to basic instructions about how to knit a vest, the article advised: “To the great American question ‘What can I do to help the war effort?’ the commonest answer yet found is ‘Knit.’"

Eleanor Roosevelt "Knitting For Victory"

Even beyond the world of craftivism, working with your hands has proven to relieve stress and improve neuroplasticity, keeping your brain younger and stronger.

Manual tasks release serotonin and endorphins in your brain. Knitting has even been proven to lessen your chances of developing memory loss later in life. There’s something so cleansing about the act of creating something tangible, no matter how small it is. In a digital age, where so much of our work product is amorphous, it can be immensely satisfying to hold a finished product in your hands.

Being in quarantine is not easy. The hazy future can feel both daunting and claustrophobic, and the constant barrage of bad news isn’t really helping. There is a sense of that survivor's guilt, that "idle hands are the devil's tools" mentality. We are incredibly lucky to even be able to quarantine without completely disrupting our lives. But in our most conflicting of times, human beings have always turned to art. And they’ll continue to do so. So, take an hour out of your day, and try to do something with your hands: paint, knit, woodwork. In our solitude, let’s create something lasting.

Submit to the Bitter Fruit Review by June 30th to be included in our Summer 2020 Edition!

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