Teacher Stacey Cler on knitting through life’s rough patches

Teacher Stacey Cler on knitting through life’s rough patches

Anjali Bhat

Literature teacher Stacey Cler develops a creative passion and finds knitting to have therapeutic effects.

Literature teacher Stacey Cler laughs as she covers herself in a handmade blanket and pretends to be “a stuffy old lady”. The blanket required Cler’s unrelenting patience and took more than four months to complete.


1. When and how did you first start knitting?

I first started to knit when I knew I had to have some surgery, and I knew I had to be home for a couple of weeks. I wanted to do something with my hands, and I always wanted to learn how to knit. One of my students knew how to knit, and at that time I asked her to teach me the basic stitch. I liked doing it, so I found a knitting store that was near where I lived at the time and I went there. It’s very communal, so I just kept going there and elderly ladies, and sometimes gentlemen, kept teaching me things.

2. What do you do with the things you knit?
In the beginning, I often described my knitting as a revenge activity. I was very bad. I made some ugly stuff, so I gave it to people who made me mad … I did it all the time to my sister; every time she made me mad, I would give her a scarf that was kind of jacked up. And you can tell that she knew it was ugly but she had to take it because I made it by hand, and then when we’d go places I’d… make [her] wear it out in public and [I] felt happy.

3. When did you get better at knitting?
I’ve been knitting for 8 years, and it took me five to six years before I got to where I’d say I’m good at knitting.

4. What fueled your passion to continue?
Knitting helped me through a hard time in my life. I lost a lot of weight; I used to weigh 413 pounds and I would diet and exercise and lost a lot of weight. I will always be grateful for knitting, because when I would get super hungry, I would pick up my knitting needles and not eat. Knitting has helped me through my cravings and it’s helped me through being sick, and it makes me forget about stressful things. I’ve never been artistic; I would consider what I do to be artistic, but it’s the one thing I found that I’m able to do and be like, ‘Oh my god, I made that.’

5. Would you say that you’re a perfectionist when it comes to knitting?
No. Every knitter makes mistakes. You learn to fix them. But what I’ve come to learn over time is that I can make a mistake that you’ll never see. I think that things we think are wrong with ourselves, no one ever knows. I really, truly believe that. We may be like “Oh good Lord, what’s wrong with us?” but no one ever pays any attention. I would say that I’m not a perfectionist. I know how to fix my mistakes, but I’ve learned to live with some of them. Every single thing I knit has mistakes in it. But only I know where they are. No one will ever know, and I’ll take the secret to my grave.

6. When do you find the time to knit?
[I knit] at night, most of the time. Or I do it during lunchtime, or if I’m [overwhelmed with] my work. I pretty much always have my needles in my hand, and pull them out at any variable moment in time. If there’s any spare moment in the day, I’m knitting.

7. Is it true that your Achilles’ heel is crocheting?

I cannot crochet right now. It’s not my Achilles’ heel, but it’s a physical thing I’m working on. You need a very steady left hand in order to crochet, and currently, I don’t have one. I have a little tremble in my left hand. Until that goes away, I can’t crochet. But when you knit, it’s mostly with your dominant hand, so it’s okay. I’ll get to crocheting as soon as I can –– it’s on my list.

8. What’s the best thing about knitting?
Knitting has taught me many Monta Vista metaphors: You never get it right the first time. I always start over, and there’s no shame in starting over. It teaches persistence. You have to really want it to really do it. And you have to know that you can get help and it’s okay that you get help, and that everybody gets help and it’s okay to choose to seek assistance. These are lessons that I think are important.


Roll over the image below to learn more about Cler’s most recent projects: