Lindsey Fowler: “Knitting Was a Huge Comfort”
When Lindsey Fowler was recovering from postpartum depression, knitting offered her an identity outside motherhood. With her first book, Lindsey hopes to give something back to the community, from which she has received so much.
One day, six years ago, while Lindsey Fowler was taking a shower, she wondered how far she could walk before someone would notice she were gone.
Lindsey and her spouse, Jared, were living in the small town of Hudson, Ohio, and their twin sons had just been born. Lindsey had thought that this would be the happiest time in her life, but instead she was suffering from postpartum depression. As well as her sombre thoughts, she felt ashamed. Why do I feel like this? Why can’t I enjoy this when it is exactly what I always wanted?
Lindsey didn’t know it back then, but this moment would become a part of her journey as a knitter and knitwear designer. The craft has helped her overcome difficulties and give meaning to life.
Lindsey still longs for Oregon on the West Coast, where she is originally from.
Becoming the perfect mother
Lindsey had studied interior design and graduated in 2009 in the midst of an economic depression. Lindsey and Jared had always planned to have children once Lindsey had an established career, but when she couldn’t find a job that matched her education, they decided that now would be the time to expand their family.
“I thought, OK, I will throw myself into this and become the perfect mother,” Lindsey recalls.
It took a long time to get pregnant, however. During those five years of trying, handicrafts were a true lifeline for Lindsey. She had got her first sewing machine while in high school and experimented with different techniques. Most of all, she enjoyed quilting.
When Lindsey finally got pregnant, she thought: now everything will be fine! However, being pregnant wasn’t as wonderful as it had seemed on blogs and Instagram. Lindsey was constantly afraid that something would go wrong, and her body no longer seemed her own. Quilting became difficult, as her hands swelled and her stomach no longer fitted in front of the sewing machine.
When the twins were born, Lindsey thought she had reached the next milestone. And again, it was so much more difficult than she was prepared for.
“I loved my children, but it just felt like we went cold turkey on our old life. The realisation that things would never be the same again was difficult to come to terms with.”
The changes and hormones in her body lowered her mood, and breastfeeding didn’t work out. Lindsey tried to use the breast pump to increase her milk production and sought help from lactation consultants, but the fact that she was not able to feed her children as she had planned only made her more depressed.
“I remember how I sat pumping milk one night and I could swear that I heard the breast pump talk to me. Then I realised something was wrong.”
Lindsey’s mother lived with the family back then, and Jared also saw the warning signs. Together, they took Lindsey to see a doctor.
Lindsey hopes that her book will teach knitters something new as well as give them comfort, one way or another. “I have received so much from this community so it’s great to be able to give something back in return.”
Tools to recovery
Little by little the situation improved. The boys started drinking formula milk – what a scientific miracle that such a thing exists, Lindsey now thinks. Lindsey got on antidepressants, and she was able to take care of the children and herself again.
“I felt more level but still isolated and very lonely. It felt as if I had zero identity outside motherhood.”
Lindsey desperately wanted to get back into quilting, but she didn’t want to take out her sewing tools and iron with the babies around her, and the sewing machine would have made too much noise. During her pregnancy, Lindsey had received a skein of beautiful Malabrigo yarn from her friends. She knew how to make a knit stitch, and that was about it. However, she decided to knit a simple scarf she had found online.
“I sat in the nursery, rocked two baby bouncers with my feet and knitted. I felt productive, I was creating physical things. It was a huge comfort.”
From there, things started snowballing. Lindsey learned techniques from YouTube, books and magazines, expanded her yarn stash and turned her first heel. A few knitting friends introduced her to the online knitting community, which became an important part of her identity.
When the boys were nine months old, Lindsey went back to work. She understood that she wasn’t born to be a stay-at-home mother. Jared, on the other hand, was contemplating a career change, so he resigned and stayed at home. In the US, that is still an exceptional thing to do, but they have been happy to break the mould.
Lindsey is grateful that postpartum depression is discussed more these days, but it is still easy to get pulled into the idealised picture of motherhood. “For some, motherhood is easy. However, it’s not true for everyone and it is important to be prepared for that.”
Love letter to the west coast
Nowadays Lindsey, 35, has a day job as a project manager in IT. In her work, she gets to use her analytical side, but in the evenings and at night she turns to her creative side. Six-year-old Harrison and Vaughn are already more independent, and Lindsey has time to knit and design while the boys are skateboarding and playing with Lego.
The family lives in Hudson in a small house from the 1870s, and within walking distance there are parks, a farmers’ market and a coffee shop. However, Lindsey still longs for Oregon on the West Coast, where she is originally from, and now her nostalgia has also brought about something concrete. During the pandemic, Lindsey decided to write – or rather knit – a love letter to the West Coast. In the end, it turned into a book: Salt & Timber came out in August, from Laine Publishing.
When Lindsey talks about the West Coast, you can hear the love in her voice. She describes the rain forests and mountains, but above all, the sea. She says she’s a beach person – but not “the Florida kind”.
“In Oregon, the sea is unfiltered, unrestrained, wild and loud. There are no private beaches, so you can walk miles without anyone stopping you.”
For her book, Lindsey’s aim was to create modern knits that suit the coastal lifestyle – relaxed and cosy, yet adventurous. There is a beanie, which Lindsey imagines having a basketful of in her dream beach house, as well as a pattern for the kind of all-rounder cardigan that seems to be found in every summer cottage.
“I believe that although the West Coast scenery is unique, the mind-set is easy to relate to. There is a similar feeling of wilderness in many corners of the world.”
There are two things above all others that life has taught Lindsey. The first has to do with the fact that she can find joy in what she has instead of always longing for more. Lindsey feels that this is also a generational issue: many millennials know that they will never be wealthy and are at peace with this thought. They value free time over money.
Another important life lesson is to accept that however much you plan and whichever goals you set yourself, things don’t usually go as you think.
“It is a beautiful idea to teach your children that they can become anything they set their mind to. But I think that adaptability and acceptance, the ability to find new paths, is just as important as dreaming.”
Text: Maija Kangasluoma
Photos: Kristen Hardesty
Translation: Kirsi Suutarinen
This feature was first published in Laine issue 15.