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Knitting in cancer care with Susan Yaguda

Susan Yaguda is passionate about knitting as a form self-care. She is an oncology nurse who has used knitting with both staff and patients at the Cancer Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. These have included setting up a knitting group for people who are receiving chemotherapy and developing a study into whether knitting can help with the symptoms of 'chemobrain' (problems with memory and thinking after chemotherapy).

We also speak about the importance of supporting health care staff particularly since the pandemic, and the potential for offering knitting as a self-care intervention to prevent burnout.

You can find the full transcript for this episode at the bottom of the page. If you'd rather listen, click play below

Full Transcript


Susan Yaguda, Mia Hobbs

Mia Hobbs 00:04

Hello and welcome back to series two of the Why I Knit podcast. My name is Dr. Mia Hobbs and I'm a clinical psychologist who's passionate about knitting and its benefits for our mental wellbeing. Each episode I interview a different knitter about why they knit and how it benefits their mental health. This week on the podcast I'm joined by Susan Yaguda. Susan is an oncology nurse working at The Cancer Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. Susan joins me to talk about how knitting has benefited her own wellbeing and also how she's used knitting in her place of work with both staff and patients. Please note that during our discussion, we do talk about cancer and bereavement. So hi, Susan. Welcome to the podcast.

Susan Yaguda 00:54

Good morning! Thank you.

Mia Hobbs 00:57

It's afternoon here but morning where you are.

Susan Yaguda 00:58

Oh, it's good morning for me!

Mia Hobbs 01:00

What's the time where you are?

Susan Yaguda 01:02

It's 8 o'clock.

Mia Hobbs 01:04

8 o'clock, so early! Thank you so much for joining me.

Susan Yaguda 01:08

That's okay, I'm a morning person.

Mia Hobbs 01:09

Oh that's good, me too. I always start the podcast by asking where your story with knitting began.

Susan Yaguda 01:19

I grew up in a family of knitters, to be honest with you. I'm the youngest of six. My mom, my aunts, my sisters all knit, growing up. For some reason, I did not. I'm not sure why. I did some cross stitch and that type of thing and really enjoyed that. And then when my children were in Montessori school, they were quite young, and another mom, who was an amazing knitter, said, "Hey, could we do a mother-daughter knitting group?" And so I was up for that, and there were several other moms. So we would get together, the kids would kind of knit for a few minutes, and then they'd go off and do their own thing. But we really, as parents, enjoyed the sense of community and of course learning a new skill. That was about 20 years ago, I think, as my daughter is now 28. So I think she was around 8 years old when we did that. And I haven't stopped since. It's just been such a blessing to my life for so many reasons that I'm really grateful to that mom for spearheading it and getting me started on it.

Mia Hobbs 02:58

So you hadn't knitted at all before that point?

Susan Yaguda 03:00


Mia Hobbs 03:02

Oh wow!

Susan Yaguda 03:03

The funny thing is now, my sisters and my mom... my mom is quite elderly so she doesn't knit as much now, but my two sisters and I get together with my mom (particularly before the pandemic we would) for what we would call a girls weekend. We all had our knitting projects and have tea and good food and wine and just really enjoy a nice weekend together, and that's such precious time when I think about it now, that we just enjoyed one another's company, but it was always around knitting too. Sometimes we would go to the local yarn shop where my mom lives and just enjoy that as well. So now we all share patterns. We ask each other about different techniques we might have questions about, and so it's really become something that I'm very... I'm very close to my sisters but it's been really a nice thing to bond us as well.

Mia Hobbs 04:16

Yeah. So it really feels like part of your connection with your family now?

Susan Yaguda 04:20


Mia Hobbs 04:22

And do your kids still knit?

Susan Yaguda 04:25

I have a son and a daughter, and thinking back like 20 years ago, I did teach my son how to knit and he's actually very good. He didn't keep it up, though. And my daughter, she'll pick it up from time to time. She actually lives in the UK now. And so, you know, being away from home has been difficult during these past couple of years. And so I really have encouraged her because it's been so helpful to me to have something in my hands. And so she'll pick it up now and then, and does still enjoy it, so who knows what she might do in 20 years? So we'll see.

Mia Hobbs 05:12

I think lots of people that I've interviewed, and certainly for me, have had long dormant periods where they didn't knit, and then suddenly it was the right moment in their life, and they pick it up and kind of go with it again. You said there are many ways it's been helpful for you. I'd love to hear more about that: about why you knit and how it's been helpful for you.

Susan Yaguda 05:35

So the practicality of it - I really enjoy giving homemade gifts, handmade gifts to people. So that's definitely part of it. I'm a little choosier now, who I gift with my knitting, because I think I hear other knitters say too, some people don't quite get it. But definitely, I have an appreciative pool of family and friends, and enjoy doing that for them. But really it's a mindfulness practice for me. It's definitely a way... sometimes for me in the morning, when I'm having my coffee, I'll just knit even if it's just for five minutes. It just sets my day straight with a calmer attitude, I think, about going into the day. And then definitely towards the end of the day, too, I might have a cup of tea and just pick up my knitting again. Even if I only have a few minutes to do it, I still appreciate those moments, just to de-stress, to kind of let go of anything that was going on during the day so that I can get a restful night's sleep. It really is a very big mindfulness practice for me. Other than my sisters, I don't knit a whole lot with others. But there is a sense of community, I think, around the knitting world, whether that's through social media or going to a local yarn shop. You can always talk to a knitter about what they're doing, what they're interested in, and it inevitably leads to other conversations too, that keep that kind of sense of connectivity amongst us. And I think, particularly during this pandemic time where we often feel disconnected, it's really an important tool to to being connected with one another. In my work it's really been important to connect with patients even, and to allow them to connect with one another. So I would say between being able to produce something that is homemade and I can gift from my heart, to the mindfulness practice, and then the connectivity piece of it, too, it's just been a really rich hobby to have in my life.

Mia Hobbs 08:20

I'd love to go on to ask you, in a minute, more about your work and how you've used knitting there. But first of all, I'm curious for yourself, like have you got specific things you prefer to knit? Does it matter what the knitting is, in terms of the techniques?

Susan Yaguda 08:36

Yeah. So I usually have two things typically going at once, and one is kind of a no-brainer - I can sit in a meeting and it helps me pay attention, but not have to count or follow a pattern or that type of thing. And then I like to knit just about anything. I've gotten into socks and go in spurts with that. Mittens... I had like a run on mittens! And I'm working on a sweater right now for a friend's birthday. Shawls... I really, really love to make shawls, especially if the designer has some really clear instructions. Hats off to designers! I think that it's just magic what they do, you know, to be able to create a pattern, put it on paper, so that I can just blindly follow the directions and then voila! Here comes some beautiful piece, you know, just because they've had that skill set to do that. So I do love to make shawls. I haven't done certain techniques, like brioche I haven't tried.

Mia Hobbs 09:55

I haven't either, actually! I wondered whether maybe this was the year for me. [Laughs]

Susan Yaguda 10:00

Yeah, me too! [Laughs] Yeah, so maybe try that. I've done some lace work, and again I've enjoyed that,you know, as long as I am able to pay attention to it as well. So having something that's mindless, and then having something where I do have to pay attention a little bit. I love cables - to me they're magic as well, just how slipping one direction or another just makes this beautiful pattern! And it's fun to work on those too.

Mia Hobbs 10:34

So have you got times when you feel like you need the more complicated pattern? It sounds like there are times where you need the simple one, which is if you've got to pay attention to something else. I'm interested in the times you might need the more complicated one.

Susan Yaguda 10:47

Yeah, when you have to pay attention to something, follow directions, make sure you're counting properly, it kind of takes your mind away from other things that might have been creating stress in your life or things you kind of need to let go of. It's a nice distraction, if you will. And then after working on something for a bit, the stuff that was bothering you previously just doesn't seem to be a big deal anymore and you can kind of let it go until maybe the next day. And you'll address it with fresh eyes and be able to maybe be more productive in how to manage something that was going on. So there's also definitely times where I'm like, "I can't concentrate on this right now. I'm just going to enjoy the soothing aspect of the rhythm of knitting and just feeling it in my hands, and go forward with that, too."

Mia Hobbs 11:52

Yeah. You're a nurse, working in oncology, and I'm really interested to hear about how you've brought knitting into your place of work. I'd love to hear more about that.

Susan Yaguda 12:04

Yeah, thank you! So I manage a team of integrative providers. We have a wide array of services. So we don't treat cancer itself, but we help support people through their cancer journey at any aspect along the way. And part of my team is we have a group of artists. And so one of my artists had started with us as a volunteer, and then we were able to contract and bring her on, and she's just amazing. My whole team is amazing, but she was really just open to anything. And I said, "Hey, I really want to start a knitting and crochet circle for our patients and care partners." And she was like, "Sure, okay, but I need to learn how." [Laughs] So she went off and took some lessons at a local yarn shop. And, of course, this was several years ago, so she's a great knitter now, as well. And so she started this group. Now it's on Zoom because we're not meeting in person (hopefully, at some point in the future), but I'm really happy that we were able to still provide things virtually even, to help people stay connected. And so the purpose of the group was not to do great knitting, just like the purpose of the art programme is not to create great art but it's really to use it as a processing opportunity to have patients and care partners support one another. There's something about when people have something that they're working on in their hands, and for this group, obviously, it was knitting, the conversation becomes much better flowing, I think. People feel a little bit more comfortable sharing. They find that they have shared experiences and can maybe have their own experience authenticated because they're hearing it from somebody else. It's just a very healing process to have that type of support. And so Deborah, our artist that was facilitating this and continues to, really her role is just to maintain inclusivity with the group, to make sure that the environment remains positive, that people feel comfortable talking and sharing. And it's been just a really positive experience all around. We also had some fun things come out of that for community. So in our community, there's several organisations. We're very philanthropically dependent, and they help support us. And one is an organisation called 24 Foundation that does a 24-hour bike ride every summer in Charlotte, where I live. It's a fundraiser, and a lot of those funds go to support the programmes that I manage. And so we got a bicycle, an older bicycle, and the people in the knitting and crochet circle yarn bombed it! It's so cool-looking. They did an amazing job. They had yarn bombed two chairs the year previously, and we displayed them at a gala that we had too, but this bike was something that we could give back to the organisation that supports us, just as a way to say thank you for all. So we bring it out when we have events with them, and they in turn have gifted it back to us, and it's actually hanging in our cancer rehab gym. But it's always just a really nice reminder that we are all community supporting one another through that. So that's been just fun. The chairs that they did, it was really whimsical, little mice and spider webs, and they did a beautiful job with that. And those are on display in our cancer institution now, so anybody can walk by and just enjoy taking a look at them. And then from a medical perspective, I mean this is purely anecdotal, but we had several patients who got chemotherapies that cause neurotoxicity, and they can get neuropathy in their hands and their feet, like a tingling and numbness. It really can be distressing and impactful on things, even like buttoning a shirt or walking safely, that type of thing. And one woman who was really involved in this group also said that the knitting helped her neuropathy, and she said, "If I could figure out a way to knit with my toes, I could address it in my feet as well!" But she swore that it was just keeping herself moving like that, and maybe the tactile part of knitting, that helped her. So that would be something that I would love to study at some point. Can we really be impactful on that with something so simple and low cost and extremely low risk, and make an impact on something that really can be distressing to somebody who's gone through cancer treatment.

Mia Hobbs 17:54

What's the kind of feedback you've had from people who've engaged in the knitting, so some of the people receiving treatment for cancer?

Susan Yaguda 18:03

It's really heartwarming to go into the infusion suite and see people there knitting as a way to pass the time. Oftentimes, they're there for several hours.

Mia Hobbs 18:17

Is that when they're receiving their chemotherapy?

Susan Yaguda 18:20

Yeah. And they really appreciate the community. They come together when... you know, inevitably we have to say goodbye to certain people at different times, and they really come together as a community to support one another through that grieving process. I think it also shines the light on... well, for all of us but especially if you also are dealing with cancer... your own mortality, and really coming to terms with that, because you've lost somebody that you've been close to. So I really appreciate that they form kind of a support group amongst themselves. So that has been definitely one of the outcomes that I was hoping for. The other thing is they really have appreciated, particularly during the pandemic, having knitting as a hobby to continue with during their time when they've had to be more isolated, as well. The other thing that is so cool about this group is they also... (this wasn't intentional, they just kind of came up with this organically)... they'll knit caps for patients who have lost their hair because of chemotherapy, scarves, fingerless mitts, that type of thing, and then they go to our resource centre and then anybody who's in need can take something like that. To know that it came from somebody else who has walked your path as well, I think is really meaningful.

Mia Hobbs 20:08

There's a project here actually, that I've seen on the news, called Knitted Knockers. I don't know if you've heard of that?

Susan Yaguda 20:14

Oh yeah! We did that. People continue to make knockers. It's really taken off, hasn't it? It's so fun. And, you know, women who require a prosthesis really like the knitted knockers. They're soft, they're light, they're washable, you can form them to fit yourselves perfectly, they're free... you know, prostheses can be very expensive. With some local yarn shops in our community, we did a knitted knocker campaign, and then the fire department has a pink firetruck and so they stopped at the yarn shops, and we filled the firetruck up with knitted knockers! There were bags of them! [Laughs] And then they delivered them to the Cancer Institute, then we had to sort them and get them where they needed to be in that way. But that was such, again, another fun community project.

Mia Hobbs 21:21

It sounds like some of the people in the group have been very inventive about finding ways to have a more kind of group knitting experience. Because I guess a lot of us, even if we're knitting in a group, often the project is just ours, I suppose, or we might be knitting something that's just ours. It's not that often you knit something that is part of a kind of cooperative project.

Susan Yaguda 21:46

Yeah, we really saw it particularly when they were able to meet in person and work on the yarn bombing pieces, because they had to kind of plan it out together. And again, nobody was telling anybody, "Here, you have to do this." It just all came very organically. But it was fun to kind of be a fly on the wall and just peek in and watch them and hear their conversations. It just really fills my heart because that was exactly what I wanted when I said, "Can we start this?"

Mia Hobbs 22:23

Yeah. And have you had the opportunity to go and join in with knitting with them at all? Or is that difficult?

Susan Yaguda 22:29

I haven't since they have gone to Zoom, and it's also during my work day. So sometimes I don't have the time to do that during the work day. But when they did meet in person, I would often just stop by, because they're lovely people anyway so I would always love to catch up with them regardless, but just to again, like I said, hear their conversation and see what they were working on. To see them helping each other, because there were some that were very, very skilled knitters helping others that are maybe new at something, new to knitting or new at a technique, and really to have that fellowship within the group is really precious to watch.

Mia Hobbs 23:19

Yeah. And that's brilliant for both parties, isn't it? It's brilliant to be somebody who can share a skill. That gives you a sense of self esteem, I guess, doesn't it? And also to be able to be somewhere where you think, "Oh, these experienced people can help me with this thing I'd like to get better at."

Susan Yaguda 23:36

Yeah, definitely. It definitely goes both directions.

Mia Hobbs 23:40

Yeah. And you mentioned that you've been involved in a research project to do with knitting. I'd love to hear a bit more about that.

Susan Yaguda 23:47

Yeah, sure. So one thing that patients receiving chemotherapy sometimes experience is something called chemo brain. And if you're not familiar with that, it is just difficulty after finishing chemo or even during, with tasks that normally would have come easily to you. So it could be things like sequencing or memory issues or word finding even sometimes, and it's very distressing to patients to experience this. And it's especially distressing when they finally finish treatment and then they're like, "Okay, I'm going back to work." You know, it's like some sense of hopefully some normalcy in their lives again, but then they're having really some difficulties functioning to their pre-cancer diagnosis levels. And so one of my colleagues is a neuropsychologist and she started knitting because we... This is another story, but we started with my teammates. We had a couple of knit nights and taught them how to knit, and several of my teammates continued to knit as well, which has been really fun. And Jen, the neuropsychologist, is one of those that has continued to that. And so finally, I was like, "I know how knitting makes me feel, as far as calming my mind and all of that." And we got talking about the bilateral aspects of knitting, and we also were thinking about chemo brain. It's not fully understood, why it occurs. It could be related to inflammation or who knows. But we were looking through the literature and did not see anything that looked at increasing neuroplasticity around cancer-related cognitive impairments. And so we wanted to see: could teaching somebody to knit make an impact on their cognitive impairment? So we did a pilot study, and we had the support from Universal Yarn, which is a big yarn company, particularly here in the US - I think it is in Europe, too. They have a headquarters very close to Charlotte, and they provided us with yarn and with needles and really put together these nice kits for the study. And we enrolled patients who had finished the chemotherapy and were self-describing some cognitive impairment. And they could not have been knitters before, so it had to be completely a new skill. And then they came in and we gave them a battery of neuropsych tests, which are all validated for the age group within the inclusion criteria. And then we had a volunteer working with us, and she taught them to knit. And so she would have groups of maybe 1-3 women. They were all women. It wasn't designed to be all women, but that's the way it fell, which I think is another thing I'd like to change at some point along the road.

Mia Hobbs 27:04

So that was who opted in?

Susan Yaguda 27:05

Yeah. They learned to knit. They got a project - it was a scarf. And then they had another lesson, we gave them videos, we checked in with them every week, and then 8 weeks later they came back in. They had to have at least 8 inches of their scarf done so we knew that they were doing it. So we had to measure it, and then they were re-tested. And what we found was really fascinating, in my opinion. All of them tested within the normal range at the start; however, it may have been low for them. They were all college educated, they were all professionals, that's the group that we got for this pilot. However, the distress levels were quite high across the group. Post-intervention, they all improved cognitively, in certain domains at least. I think almost 70% of the group improved cognitively in at least one of the domains that we tested. Across the board, they all significantly reported less distress. That was just really validating, that there's something going on, whether it is neuroplasticity, or whether it's decreasing stress so you're able to manage some of those challenges better. I mean, who knows? We're really eager to dig a little bit deeper into the whole 'what's happening behind the veil' kind of thing. We had to close accrual early because of the pandemic. We ended up with 16 people, I think, going through and we'd wanted to get 18, I think. So just a little bit short of our original goal, but enough to have some significant data. And to this day, I hear from people in the study and they're still knitting! That's another win of the whole thing. So I look at this as such a low-hanging fruit for an intervention for a condition that is incredibly distressing for our patients, and how simple it could be, how inexpensive it could be, how low risk it could be to really provide this for people who are interested.

Mia Hobbs 29:42

Because like you said, from a research perspective, it would be great. It's such a shame you had to finish early because of COVID. And it'd be great to do a trial with a control group and lots of measures. But even without that, it sounds like it has offered a great benefit, even just anecdotally, or in terms of stress reduction, or giving people a coping mechanism to take with them for the rest of their lives. That sounds like it actually has been a super helpful intervention already.

Susan Yaguda 30:15

Yeah. And the neuropsych tasks were all validated tasks, so we really felt confident about those. They weren't tasks that you could do well with repetition, you know, we made sure we didn't have that practice benefit with the tests that she chose. So we do know that there was benefit. But yeah, to have a control group would have been nice, since they were each their own control, but there's so many areas that we could dig in and explore further that it makes it exciting, for sure.

Mia Hobbs 30:54

And I think you mentioned, while we were messaging about setting up this conversation, that you'd quite like to have a group for professionals as well, so for healthcare staff. I haven't done it formally for that purpose, but in the past I've informally ended up having groups of colleagues in health settings to mainly create gifts for somebody who's having a baby, but have really noticed the positive effect it's had on team morale, and that we've had different conversations, that people have been kind of taking a lunch break for half an hour, once a week, to sit and knit together, and that it really did feel beneficial, I suppose, on a team level. I'm interested in what your hopes were for that.

Susan Yaguda 31:39

Yeah, definitely. So we did do for just my department. At the time, we were in a different location while our current building was being built, and it was tight quarters, you know, which has its own challenges. But we had a couple of knit nights, and it was just a time again, for whomever wanted to, to come together, learn to knit. And then, similar to what you're talking about, we did find people sitting at lunchtime knitting. And then we also found we were able to help each other out with questions about a skill, or, "Oh, I dropped a stitch. What happened here?", that type of thing. And it did allow us as a group of colleagues to interact on a bit of a different level. And then several of my colleagues really use knitting now as a self care practice. It's a relaxing thing that they go to daily, almost, in order to just take better care of themselves. So that's been really positive. I think, you know, it's no surprise to anybody how strained the health care profession is right now, globally. And interestingly, before the pandemic, I had been working with some other people on my team on moral injury and resilience, and what can we do to help support one another, to build up resilience and address moral injury in a positive way. And then to think that we were doing that work before COVID, and now what people are having to deal with still two years later, it's unfathomable. And I really feel like we need to now kind of shift gears and look at trauma care. How are we helping our colleagues through trauma, because that's what this has been, for so many people. And I don't want to simplify things to the point of saying, "Oh, just give everybody knitting needles and some yarn, and it's all fine." But I do think that knitting serves a role in the toolbox as a self care practice, as a way of soothing. We know that the rhythm of the movement, of using both hands, has neurological impact. And so I do think that it could be a useful tool for colleagues to be able to use for self care. There was a study that some nurses in Washington did, that I think Project Knitwell helped support. And again, this was several years ago, with oncology nurses. They taught them to knit, and the outcomes and the feedback from those who participated was really positive, how it was really soothing. And when I was re-reading the manuscript, "soothing" kind of kept coming up, and I kind of feel like yeah, it is soothing. And that's maybe part of the benefit of us bringing it to somebody. We're not going to fix the issues in our healthcare system by knitting, but if we can help somebody feel better for a little bit of time and then be able to be a bit more refreshed to go handle what they need to handle, then maybe that's our role at this point. So I'm looking at creating honestly like a toolkit for my colleagues, our teammates across our system, that has a variety of ways to take care of yourself and to address the trauma of what you have experienced during all this time. So I think it will definitely have a role there.

Mia Hobbs 36:17

Yeah, I think that's really true. I've had quite a few health professionals get in touch with me since starting the podcast, talking about the idea of having a group with their colleagues. And I think the tricky thing is, like you said, it doesn't have to be just knitting, and knitting isn't going to be for everybody, but the idea of maybe the system or prioritising self care for the health care staff, because you can't pour from an empty cup. And in the pandemic, it started off as a sprint and it's now a marathon. But people are just getting slowly more exhausted, I guess, and like you said, traumatised. But it is interesting, the idea of one of the trauma therapies, EMDR, is focused on using bilateral movements a bit similar to knitting. And when I spoke to Betsan Corkhill, I interviewed her for series one about that, and she said there have been ideas about doing some studies using knitting as the bilateral movement in the EMDR, so trauma processing. So it'd be really interesting. I think the tricky thing is funding for all of these studies.

Susan Yaguda 37:27

Most definitely.

Mia Hobbs 37:29

And also for the self care for the health professionals! That's also the problem, isn't it? Getting that as a priority and funding it.

Susan Yaguda 37:37

Yeah, most definitely. However, if you look at the cost of replacing a critical care nurse, for example, it's quite costly, especially somebody who has a lot of experience. And then who are we replacing them with? So I think that's one thing. And, you know, I'm talking about health care professionals but it's really across the board. My heart breaks for our teachers, for parents with young children, and how they're managing all of this and trying to work and keep their children happy and healthy. It's across the board - service providers of any sort. Our resources are not an unending bucket. There is a bottom to that. So if we don't start to really take care of what we've got, it's going to be quite impactful.

Mia Hobbs 38:39

Interesting, because I was going into a primary school to offer a therapeutic knitting group, and a number of the staff said, "When are you doing one for staff?" And I also love the idea of the parent and child knitting group that you started off talking about. I think that's a lovely idea, to be able to have an activity to share between parents and children. I'd love to ask you about a significant knitting project, Susan. Can you think of one, for yourself?

Susan Yaguda 39:12

Yeah, certainly. It's so interesting to hear other people's stories about knitting through grief. And I think that, for me, I have a pair of socks... it was just when I was just getting to knit socks, so I still was not very confident about what I was doing. I had to pay attention quite some bit. But my dad had gotten ill and finally we got him into hospice care, which was such a blessing, and I'll never forget sitting with my mom. It was New Year's Eve that year, and it was just quiet in his room, and I really just wanted to be there for her, as well. And so I had my socks I was working on during that time. And I also wanted to give her the space to to be with this man that she'd been with for 70 years, during his final days. So I could work on my socks and kind of be there for my mom, but also be in the background for her to have some quiet time with him. He ended up dying, like two days later, very peacefully. And those socks are just so special to me because it just reminds me of how blessed I am to have had him for all these years as a father, but also how blessed I am to have been in that space with him and my mom. I'm just so fortunate to be able to be there, and be there with both of them. And for myself, as well. So those are my special socks. I don't wear them a whole lot, but I pull them out once in a while.

Mia Hobbs 41:10

I guess you want to take really good care of them!

Susan Yaguda 41:12

I do, yeah!

Mia Hobbs 41:15

It's interesting, Susan, that you mentioned that actually, because I think, like you said, grief has come up quite a lot when I ask people about a significant knitting project. And actually, you're not the first person to mention the idea of knitting allowing you to offer kind of companionship, but without conversation. So that's something that maybe in the grief period... or also other people have spoken about being with somebody who's unwell in a hospital, and that the idea is you don't necessarily have to say anything. And I think in a bereavement period, often there isn't anything you can say that can make it any better, but that you want to kind of be alongside somebody, and that knitting has offered an almost unique way of being able to do that, where it feels okay that there isn't a conversation happening at the same time.

Susan Yaguda 42:02

Yeah. You're just holding space.

Mia Hobbs 42:06

Yeah. So those are your special socks. And it sounds like you've got a very positive relationship to them now, even though it was from quite a sad time, in a way, also.

Susan Yaguda 42:21

Yeah, most definitely. He lived such an amazing life, so it wasn't like there was regret by any means. And I think that makes a huge difference in how you process loss. I miss him, you know, I still hear his voice telling me different things and stuff. But, again, it really comes from a place of gratitude, for sure.

Mia Hobbs 42:47

Yeah, sure. So I always end the podcast with asking: what's the greatest gift knitting has given you for the rest of your life? I don't know what you think of when I ask that question.

Susan Yaguda 42:59

Well, it's hard to choose just one. [Laughs] Definitely, it's that anchor to a mindfulness practice which has been really important to me, particularly through the pandemic as well. And again, I love the connection with my sisters and my mom, that we have that in common. And then the ability just to make something and share a bit of myself with somebody else, so that they know a piece of me was with them, whether it's a shawl or a sweater or a pair of mittens or whatever.

Mia Hobbs 43:44

When you say that, are you talking about gifts?

Susan Yaguda 43:46


Mia Hobbs 43:50

And also in the conversations you have sometimes with your patients about knitting - I guess that's a way of sharing yourself too, isn't it, to talk about what you're knitting or what they're knitting?

Susan Yaguda 44:03

It is. It's a great way to form a connection, and then people tend to feel safer, it seems, to talk about other things once once you've kind of formed that bond, if you will.

Mia Hobbs 44:17

Yeah, sure. Susan, it's been such a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Susan Yaguda 44:24

Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for the work that you're doing. You're shining this great light on the importance of using knitting and crafting for our wellbeing and I really appreciate that you're doing that.

Mia Hobbs 44:40

Oh thank you so much. Thank you so much for listening to the Why I Knit podcast. If you'd like to find out more about therapeutic knitting, you can follow me on Instagram @knittingistherapeutic or at my website If you're enjoying the podcast, I would really appreciate it if you could leave a rating and a review on your podcast app. This will help grow the podcast and let more people know about the therapeutic benefits of knitting. And don't forget to subscribe too. Thank you!

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