The Calming Stitch of Stuart MacIver

When Stuart MacIver was a child, he came down with a case of poison ivy.  His mother’s prescribed remedy for his itching would turn into what would become a lifelong love for him.

“Naturally, when you have poison ivy, you itch,” Mr. MacIver says.  “My mother needed a way to keep me from scratching.  So, one day, she asked me if I would be interested in learning to knit.  She figured it would keep my hands busy.”

In the following years, he possessed the skill, but admits that knitting was never a hobby.  One day, however, as Mr. MacIver and his wife, Donna, were browsing in a craft store, he found himself standing in front of the knitting supplies.

“My wife asked me why I was looking at these things,” he says.  “I told her, ‘well, I can knit’.  Then, for my birthday, I believe, she bought me a knitting set.  Since then, I’ve been knitting regularly.  That was probably about 15 years ago.”

Stuart and Donna moved to Greenville from Broward County in April 2010.  One day, while set up at a booth, which was used to market his sweaters and afghans and his wife’s canned goods, he was approached by a local resident about participating in a knitting class at the Greenville Public Library.

“It was either late 2010, or early 2011, when I started teaching the classes at the library,” he says.  “I’ve been teaching them ever since.”

On average, each class session includes anywhere from three to eight people.  Classes are held every Wednesday, from 11:00 a.m. to noon; however, Mr. MacIver isn’t opposed to staying longer if anyone needs extra time of help.

“Not everybody works at the same speed; that’s a given in any situation,” he says.  “The library used to close for lunch, but it doesn’t anymore.  If anyone wants to stay later and get extra help, I’m willing to stay a couple of hours so that I can help out.”

He welcomes all comers to the classes, though he does require that parents attend along with any young knitters.  For newcomers, Mr. MacIver starts with the basics.  He has new students purchase a set of needles (eight-inch straight needles are recommended because of their versatility) and a skein of yarn.  He advises against buying expensive yarn because, when first starting out, the process can be frustrating, and it is better to learn the basics with inexpensive thread.

“Every new person starts out the same way,” he says.  “I teach them the basics; they learn about the equipment, patterns, and other necessary basics.  For the first week, we put about 25 stitches on their needles and have them practice stitching.  This helps develop muscle memory, which is a key part of the process.  A big part of the classes is the willingness of the veteran students to help.  They are always willing to assist the newcomers if anyone ever needs help.”

According to Mr. MacIver, the benefits of knitting are endless.  He says that, aside from being able to create memorable clothing and keepsakes, there are actually health and wellness benefits to go along with the memories.

“Of course, there’s the obvious; knitters are able to make quality items that can last for a long time,” he says.  “With proper care, an afghan made of acrylic wool can literally last a lifetime.  But aside from that, knitting is calming.  It’s hard to knit well when you’re tense or upset, so the process can be therapeutic.  Also, there is a strong sense of pride that comes from knowing that you were able to create sweaters, scarves, or other items on your own.”

There is a widespread notion that knitting is something that is traditionally popular with women.  However, it has documented that many professional football players knit during the offseason in order to keep their fingers nimble.  Mr. MacIver shares an interesting story about one player in particular.

“One of my favorite players was (former New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle) Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier,” he says.  “Nobody wanted to line up against him on the field; he was one of the biggest, toughest players I’ve ever seen. Many people don’t know that Rosey’s hobbies were knitting, stitching, needlepoint, and things like that.  I think the therapeutic aspects may be what led him to develop the hobby.  Knitting can be very relaxing.”

By James Washington

Health-Life / January 2016

Stuart MacIver

Greenville, Florida

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