Knit for the Health of It. Create for the Community of It.

Knit for the Health of It. Create for the Community of It.

“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.” 

― Elizabeth Zimmerman

 

For the past few years, we’ve hosted a Friday Night Knitting Club at Alongside You. Held once a month at our art studio from September to June, we’ve had people of different ages, stages and abilities gathered together to share in a common interest. The idea grew out of community interest and was borne out of a reading of the novel The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. What’s been fascinating about knitting groups is that everyone has a story of how they came to knit. Some of us have been knitting from a young age, taught by a family member or friend; others have taken up knitting to cope with chronic pain or illness, or have used it as a way to help those less fortunate. Some knit more regularly while others pick it up after long periods of rest.

I fit somewhere in the middle. Knitting has always been in and out of my life. My twin sister and I learned how to knit from a family friend in our neighbourhood when we around 6 or 7 years old. Because of my sisters’ short stature, a lady from my parent’s church handmade and measured custom knitted outfits for her to wear. Though both of us began knitting at the same time, my sister has kept it up more consistently. She is a little more skilled and comes to my rescue. Though I liked the idea of knitting my first-born a blanket, I had a difficult time finishing it. During the early stages of labour, I thought it was a good idea to attempted to knit. I put so many holes in it that my sister took all the stitches out and refinished the blanket just in time to wrap our daughter in the blanket. She has made both of our girls’ blankets that they cannot, I repeat, cannot live without. That’s the beauty of a knitted item. So much time and effort are laced into a piece that is well treasured. Since then, we have been the happy recipients of well-loved knitted baby clothes, children’s sweaters and blankets by friends and family that are true keepsakes.

 

How Can Knitting Help Us?

 

Here are a few things I have learned about knitting over the years.

 

1. Knitting has a long history all over the world.

Whether the piece is from England, Ireland, Scotland, Latvia, Japan, Australia or Peru, only to name a few possibilities, each is derived with their own styles and techniques. The history behind each garment and each stitch made makes my head swirl!

 

 2. Knitting has major health benefits.

Because of its repetitive nature, knitting keeps your hands busy, produces relaxation, and teaches mindfulness as you tune into each stitch. It can also provide tangible results and garner a sense of accomplishment.  It is these very attributes that have increased the use of knitting as therapy in addictions and recovery programs, and dealing with things such as eating disorders, drug and alcohol addictions, and chronic pain and illness management. Knitting is not simply a creative activity, it is constructive as well; activities using both your body and brain, like knitting or crocheting, actually promote the development of neuropathways that aid in memory retention and stave off symptoms of Dementia, strengthen hand-eye coordination, and offer exercise in joint movement, decreasing symptoms of arthritis. Knitting may as well be known as the “new super craft” just as cauliflower is known for being the “new superfood!”

 

 3. Knitting requires skill. 

Because knitting requires a certain amount of knowledge on everything from how to make yarn, dye it and craft it into something using an array of colours, yarn types, stitches and patterns, you need to learn it from an experienced teacher, relative, friend, or nowadays, YouTube! Knitting is truly a skilled art form that embraces the efforts of knitters with a variety of skill levels. I’m still at the square dishcloth, or scarf stage and hope to move into creating large blankets or shawls! Though historically a woman’s craft, knitting is now being accepted as an activity suitable to all. 

 

 4. Knitting for others in need has been and continues to be a huge part of knitting.

Knitting, for the most part, is made to be functional. Knitted items such as socks, sweaters, scarves and even undergarments are made for regular use and warmth. Historically, hand knitted socks, scarves, sweaters, hats and mitts have warmed soldiers, farmers, the elderly, children, and even those in hospital.

For instance, last year, our Friday Night Knitting Club received over 70 knitted scarves to be distributed at the Union Gospel Mission’s Women’s Shelter. This year, we received over 60 knitted items (hat, scarves, socks, mitts) and over $300 of grocery cards to be donated to Azure House, Delta’s new transition for women and children seeking refuge from domestic violence. This is run by  W.I.N.G.S. (Women in Need of Gaining Strength). Similarly, The Knitting Sisters, a local group made up from women in both South Delta and Richmond, have made it their mission to support local and international charities with their knitting. Whether it is knitting items for a friend or family member, infants in the Neonatal Care Unit, the homeless, or even women’s shelters, many knitters carry on that sense of purpose. 

 

Want to infuse knitting into your life?

 

Here are some ideas on where you can start:

  1. Alongside You hosts a Friday Night Knitting Club once a month for those of any age and ability. We share stories, skills, knitting projects and refreshments. Basic instruction is available. The evening is by donation to raise funds for our Step Forward Program, that helps subsidize our services for those needing financial assistance. Everyone brings their own supplies but we also sell a selection of yarn and needles on site. So far, donations and yarn sales have raised over $2000 for the Step Forward Program and have donated numerous items to women’s shelters. The next one is February 22nd from 7 – 9:30 pm. To register, please visit our Facebook Page.
  1. Knit and Stitch is a knitting group that meets at the Ladner and Tsawwassen Libraries. Bring your own projects and share ideas. For more details, contact your local library.
  1. The Knitting Sisters are a group that meets at McKee House. They also focus on knitting for others. Here’s a great story about them.
  1. Check out Meetup, a popular site devoted to connecting people with similar hobbies and interests. Look by location or by craft.

 

Where can I find knitting supplies and inspiration?

 

There are shops all over the Lower Mainland that have beautifully crafted fibre arts for sale. Fibre Art Studio on Granville Island offers classes and have an extensive collection of yarn in vibrant colours and textures. You can also visit stores in Vancouver such as Three Bags Full, Wet Coast Wools, and in Delta, Crafty Fibre.

Want more inspiration? Check out Etsy for knitted items and patterns.

 

What Is The Takeaway?

 

Knitting is fun. It’s good for your health. It can be used to help others.

Meet the new take on graffiti or street art…YARN BOMBING! Public spaces are adorned with knitted and crocket items: Trees, statues, lamp posts, and even fire hydrants. You never know where you’ll see knitting coming into your life…it may be just around the corner!

World Book Day: What we’re reading at Alongside You

world book day

In honor of world book day, we thought we’d give you some examples of awesome books we’re using in the art studio! Check out your local bookstores for some of these titles and maybe you’ll find other gems out there! Feel free to share books you are reading, we’d love to hear from you!

1. Living Artfully: Create the Life You Imagine by Sandra Magsamen (2006) is about how to enrich your daily life in new and creative ways.

2. Imagination in Action: Secrets for Unleashing Creative Expression by Shaun McNiff (2015) shares stories and insight from therapists and educators who are using artistic and creative activities as a way to spark the creative process. Different techniques are described and case studies are explored.

3. Kesu’: The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer Jennifer Kramer (2012) records the life and times of Doug Cranmer, a renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artist know for his big personality and with a fierce love for his culture, his community, and teaching others. Meg Neufeld had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Doug Kranmer in Alert Bay, BC, and her research has been incorporated into parts of this publication as one of his last interviews before he died.

4. Knitting Stories: Personal Essays and Seven Coast Salish-inspired Knitting Patterns by Sylvia Olsen takes a close look at Cowichan-style knitting designs through personal stories about history, family, culture, community and more recent fusions of the art. It contains beautiful photographs of both ancient and contemporary knitting designs that are interwoven with personal stories.

5. Journaling As a Spiritual Practice by Helen Cepero (2008) is book for beginners as well as experience journal writers that helps you go beyond the surface and guide with your relationship to God. Based on the authors own experience, each chapter contains journaling practices and helps to sharpen your focus on your spiritual journey.

6. Creating Together: Participatory, Community-Based, and Collaborative Arts Practices and Scholarships Across Canada (2005) by editors Diane Conrad and Anita Sinner explores newly developed approaches to research that combines art practices into community-based collaborative projects. Outlining several case-studies, contributors discuss art forms such as writing, mural projects, photography, and expressive arts, highlighting the positive and more challenging issues that arise during the process of creating and sharing collective knowledge.

7. Micawber by John Lithgow and illustrator C.F. Payne (2005) share a delightful children’s story about a squirrel who loves to paint. In order to explore his passion for painting, Micawber becomes a stow away in a painter’s bag, creating beautiful works using the tip of his tail. This inspiring stories shares that everyone can create, even a squirrel!

8. The Artist and Me by Shane Peacock and illustrator Sophie Casson (2015) explores the eccentric life of Vincent can Gogh in France in the 1880s who was mocked for looking unusual and creating strange paintings. No one was buying his paintings, yet he continued to paint. Using some of van Gogh’s famous paintings as a backdrop, this fictional story follows a young boy and his negative attitude towards the painter. By following van Gogh around, the boy’s attitude changes as he learns that everyone’s point of view is valuable.

5 Ways To Stay Sane During Back To School

5 Ways To Stay Sane During Back To School

I don’t know about you, but the phrase, “back to school,” is starting to sound synonymous with “My kids are nuts and I’m going to lose my mind.” Alright, that may have been a bit dramatic, but the return to school this year is really starting to feel chaotic. From what I’m hearing from clients, friends, and family members, I’m not alone in feeling this way. Whether it’s trying to calm the excited screams of our children without getting a migraine, or prying our anxious kids off the bedpost when they refuse to leave in the morning. Sound familiar? It’s not easy, trying to juggle school schedules, sports activities, and work. In today’s post, we talk about why transitioning into a back to school routine is so tough (for both parents and kids!) and provide some tips and tricks that can help you cope with it better.

 

What makes back to school so tough?

 

Times of transitions for individuals, and particularly families, can be difficult to navigate. While it may be but a long lost memory for you at this point, my suspicion is that the transition from school to summer holidays may have been a bit of a challenge too. The kids go from being occupied 6 hours a day outside of the home to being unoccupied at home which can make them bored, lethargic, and sometimes cranky. However, soon that pent up energy gets put to good use whether that’s in the form of summer camps, baking cookies with grandma, or having friends over for play dates. Time passes by quickly and before you know it, getting your kids back to the school routine becomes the new challenge.

Transitions are dreaded by people mostly due to the feeling of anxiety that often occurs during periods of uncertainty. Anxiety builds in times of transition because we’re thrown off of our rhythm. Just when we finally have a summertime routine set in place, things change and we’re back to a school schedule. Instead of the laid back summer days, we now have a jam-packed schedule of classes and other extracurricular activities. Our kids often get anxious at the return to school as they now have to adjust to new teachers, a new classroom, and reconnecting with friends who they may not have seen for 3 months. An increased workload, daily homework, and high academic expectations may send those stress levels soaring.

It also doesn’t help that school-related anxieties are met with the stresses of life at home. Parents have to juggle work with making lunches, managing sibling quarrels, childcare issues, and getting the kids to and from school and other events.  Some parents get pre-empty nest syndrome where the home feels like an empty house.  Their major stress comes from their kids getting older and spending more time at school. Both situations make the back-to-school transition tough for parents.

 

How do we stay sane and cope with the transition?

 

Here are a few quick tips to manage this year’s transition. This tricks will help you and your kids come out the other side with most of your marbles intact.

  • Get to know your kids’ teachers – sooner rather than later. They are an invaluable resource in keeping tabs on your kid’s mental and physical health, as well as their progress at school. If your kid has difficulties in school, make sure there’s a learning plan in place that is supported both at school and at home. If your kid needs extra support, schools often have Education Assistants or blocks of time for students to get extra help. It may also be wise to invest in the services of a tutor, which will give your kid some extra help, and also allow you to attend to other important things on your plate. Kids also tend to respond better to tutoring that isn’t at the hands of a parent.
  • Keep tabs on what’s happening in the lives of your family members. It makes planning much easier and keeps everyone organized. My wife and I battle over how best to do this (I’m a geek, so I’m all about electronic calendars and schedules. She’s a paper pusher and loves physical calendars). So, since it’s my article, here are a few good electronic options:iCal/Outlook: Built into your operating system (OS X or Windows respectively) these calendars are flexible and networked so you can see activities/appointments/etc as they change in real time.
    • For what it’s worth, we use iCal at our house.Cozi: One of the most popular electronic calendars, built specifically for families and has many nice features such as calendar integration with your desktop computer calendar, as well as its own separate app. It also allows everyone in the family to add to shopping lists, to-do lists, meal planning, and even journaling functions.
    • Google Calendar: If you’re wrapped up in the Google ecosphere with your emails, their calendar functionality is very good. Very similar to iCal/Outlook, but quite frankly, it’s probably better. If you use Gmail, it’s well worth looking into.
    • If you insist on using paper, I’d suggest getting one of those large monthly calendars from somewhere like Staples that rests on a desk, and pin it to the wall and have everyone add all of their activities onto it so it’s visible, and acts as a compass for the family, and particularly the kids.
    • Whether you choose electronic calendars or paper calendars, kids respond best to structure, Instead of tugging them from one activity to the next, a timeline helps kids react better to change if they know what to expect.
  • Make your life easier by cooking in bulk, and freezing leftovers in containers to be taken for lunches. One of the best habits to get into is doing some bulk cooking on weekends and freezing meals or making extra of whatever you are eating and freezing the leftovers. Kids often have activities on weekends, or maybe you’re at church all Sunday morning, or maybe you actually work weekends so weekends may not work for you. Whatever your schedule, I highly recommend identifying chunks of time in your week where you can meal prep ahead of time and freeze meals. It will make your life easier, I guarantee it. Once you have identified the time to do this, put it on your calendar and stick to it.
  • Set aside time daily to connect with your family. It is a difficult task given how overscheduled we all seem to be in life, but it is incredibly important. As parents, we need to connect with each other to know where we’re at, support each other, and discuss any concerns. We also need to connect with our kids so they have the opportunity to tell us how they’re doing, and also, just have some good old-fashioned fun as a family.Now, I know how busy life gets during the week, and sometimes even sitting down to a meal together seems like a monumental task (or even impossible). We certainly know this in our family and have the same challenges!
  • So, here’s a quick 5- minute exercise you can do each day as a family to connect each day. It’s very straightforward – each person takes a turn telling everyone one good thing, one bad thing, and one funny thing that happened that day. This ensures that even at a basic level, everyone is connecting on a daily basis. This also gives parents a chance to talk about challenges of the day, which reinforces to kids that it’s ok to talk about difficult things in the day and that other person will listen and care. Finally, it encourages everyone to laugh together – this is perhaps the most important part!
  • Make sure you and the rest of your family have down time. It is so easy in our day and age to overschedule ourselves and think that we have to do everything that is presented to us as an opportunity, or that our kids have to do every school activity, sport, extra class, etc. Nobody can do it all, and further, we are not designed to work or study all day every day. As important as work and school are, the fundamental thing we all need in life to be happy, healthy, and successful is a balance. In order to be balanced in life, we need to offset work and school with social connection, play, reading, drawing, exercise, and other fun activities. We all need to be refreshed, or our well will run dry.

 

Seek balance, enjoy life. Even during “back to school.”

 

I hope that this short article encourages you – you are not alone in the mayhem that is “back to school!” This is an exciting, yet challenging time of year for us all – lots of possibilities and opportunities, while full of challenges and chaos. I hope these five strategies will help you as you muddle through this transition period and allow you and your family to strike a balance. Balance is possible, but sometimes it means making hard choices and may even mean not doing some of the things we feel we must, or even just really want to do. If you can make some of these hard choices, your family relationships and your physical and mental health will thank you. When in doubt, choose balance.

___________________________

 

If you’d like some help finding a balance for you or your family, we’d love to help. Please give us a call at 604-283-7827, send us an email through our website, or book an appointment online and one of our counsellors would love to help you out!

Friday Night Knitting Club – June 17, 2016

friday night knitting club

 

 

Friday Night Knitting Club Is Back!

Friday, June 17th, 2016 from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm

The fourth Friday Night Knitting Club event is this Friday at our offices! If you’re not sure what the Friday Night Knitting Club is, you’re missing out! You’re invited to a casual evening of knitting and socializing in the heart of Ladner Village! If you have always wanted to try knitting, want to hang out while working on one of your pieces, or would like to share your stories and skills with others, this is the place for you! Bring your own yarn and needles or purchase yarn for $6 and needles for $1. Guidance for beginners will be available.

Admission is by donation. Coffee and tea will be provided, bring a treat to share if you like! Hope to see you there!

If you’d like to read the book that started it all, you can get a copy at Black Bond Books and mention this event to receive 10% off. Or, click here to buy your Kindle edition online in time for the event!

No tickets necessary, but if you’d like to let us know you’re coming, please let us know on our Facebook Event page, by clicking here!

All proceeds go toward our Step Forward Program, providing financial assistance to clients who may need some additional help subsidizing our services.

 

 

Friday Night Knitting Club - May 13, 2016 - 7pm-10pm

Benefits to Bringing Art Into Everyday Life

bringing art into everyday life - alongside you ladner bc

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

by Meg Neufeld and Mary Ann Burrows

Everyday life can be monotonous, full of repetitive tasks and, yes, even dusty, from the time we wake until we hit the hay.

Finishing off the last bites of our regular breakfast of choice, most of us face the day trying to get through our never ending “to-do” list of chores and errands, care for family members and drive carloads of folk from one appointment or activity to the next.

Art, however, can bring vibrancy to our daily grind. Art sparks curiosity and creativity; it makes the colourless colourful, the dull bright and the dreary shine.

Not sure how to add a little art and creativity to your day? You might be surprised… you may already be doing it.

Creative activity awakes the senses and can mean doing anything from taking a walk through a museum, gardening, making a batch of cookies, viewing the local high school theatre production, making a card for someone, writing in a journal, knitting, taking photographs or painting a picture. In the process, we’re creating.

By making decisions about what we like and don’t like, we’re on the path to discovering our own interests, opinions and tastes.

Art helps us to think about the world around us in new and exciting ways, and helps us discover more about ourselves as individuals and what we want to share with those around us.

When we do something creative we are “self”-making.

Not only does art allow us to self-reflect, it has a positive impact on our overall health and wellbeing.

Research shows that participating in creative activity can have a positive influence on health outcomes.

It can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety; improve memory, problem solving and other cognitive functions; increase cardiovascular health and help address daily mobility and balance issues; improve social isolation and crossgenerational learning; and provide an outlet to explore difficult emotions while promoting personal growth and healing.

It can also be used as a tool to manage persistent chronic pain and a variety of other chronic illnesses.

Consider the satisfaction you get when finishing a page-turning book, the calm you feel as you view a beautiful sunset

filled with indescribable colours, the connection you feel when you share your passion with someone else, the wonder when you paint something new, or hear music that moves your soul.

Whether you are drawn to the visual, literary, performing arts, design, music or dance, creative moments like these help us to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle and they enrich our everyday life.

We look forward to walking with you as we explore themes on arts and aging, mental health and wellness, inspiring and creativity boosting activities, and share with you art stories on influential people, places and things.

For now, take some time this month to connect with your creative side by trying something new, or to reconnect with something you haven’t done in a long time.

The time is now: live An Art Full Life!

Meg Neufeld is a cultural anthropologist, practicing mixed-media artist and program director at Alongside You, a health organization that offers a multi-disciplinary approach to health, and where creative activity is encouraged amongst people of all abilities for overall health and wellness. Mary Ann Burrows is an artist, and the president and founder of Artists in the Village, a non-profit society that focuses on inspiring creativity within each other and the community through connection, expression and awareness.

Friday Night Knitting Club – May 13, 2016

friday night knitting club

 

 

Friday Night Knitting Club Is Back!

Friday, May 13th, 2016 from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm

The fourth Friday Night Knitting Club event is this Friday at our offices! If you’re not sure what the Friday Night Knitting Club is, you’re missing out! You’re invited to a casual evening of knitting and socializing in the heart of Ladner Village! If you have always wanted to try knitting, want to hang out while working on one of your pieces, or would like to share your stories and skills with others, this is the place for you! Bring your own yarn and needles or purchase yarn for $6 and needles for $1. Guidance for beginners will be available.

Admission is by donation. Coffee and tea will be provided, bring a treat to share if you like! Hope to see you there!

If you’d like to read the book that started it all, you can get a copy at Black Bond Books and mention this event to receive 10% off. Or, click here to buy your Kindle edition online in time for the event!

No tickets necessary, but if you’d like to let us know you’re coming, please let us know on our Facebook Event page, by clicking here!

All proceeds go toward our Step Forward Program, providing financial assistance to clients who may need some additional help subsidizing our services.

 

 

Friday Night Knitting Club - May 13, 2016 - 7pm-10pm