I taught myself how to knit during graduate school. For the first few years, I loved being out in the field and doing interviews alongside participant observation and archival work in museums and churches. When it came time to write my dissertation, I needed to plan in some time during the day away from behind the computer. I volunteered at a local hospital several days a week, but needed something at home when I was tired of staring at the screen. A friend shared her knitting with me and I loved it. I watched online videos and poured over knitting books to learn how to get the stitches to work. It has since become my refuge from stress and is my way to work both sides of my brain: mathematical precision and creative design.
My favorite type of knitting is lacework. I especially enjoy learning the cultural traditions that are tied into lacework; often lace was used for major rituals of life like birth/baptism and weddings, so the objects became cherished heirlooms with a tradition of patterns and style.
In the many hours of knitting, I've perfected my lacework enough to enter competitions. The piece below won best of show and first place at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair and is worked in traditional Estonian lacework patterns:
I also work lacework in crochet. This next example is called "hairpin lace" and was popular in the Victorian era when women at home used everyday objects (like hairpins and broomsticks) to create the open work of lace.
Another way of experiencing other cultures through knitting is through colorwork. Usually colder climates employed this type of knitting to create a thicker fabric made of several strands of yarns. Instead of holding the same yarn color and knitting plainly, the knitters incorporated traditional patterns into the colorwork. The first example below is an Icelandic cardigan and the second is a hat done in Fair Isle (Scotland).