SEA BRIGHT: KNITTING AS SANDY THERAPY

Megan Heath Gilhool first picked up her needles in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when she was in “full panic mode,” she said. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

Move over, yarn spinning and yarn bombing. A new knitting-based activity has entered the region’s post-Sandy lexicon: Yarn Therapy

“I think the whole activity of knitting in itself is extremely therapeutic,” said Megan Heath Gilhool, an artist and prime force behind the newly instated weekly knitting sessions taking place inside Sea Bright’s community center Thursday nights.

Knitters help one another out at the meet-ups, held in the borough community center. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

“It’s about the rhythm, the sounds the needles make when they click together, and the way you can get lost in your own concentration,” she said, while working on a skirt for herself.

Gilhool, who had no previous experience knitting before the hurricane hit, said she turned to knitting while power to her Long Branch home was out, when she was in “full panic mode,” she said.

“It’s just about the only thing I could do by candlelight to calm myself down in the middle of the night,” she said “So I learned.”

With her sister and resident knitting expert Holly Heath Gallagher in tow, Gilhool decided to bring her newfound hobby and bring it to Sea Bright, a beachside town still reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. Gilhool is well-known in town, having transformed its drab bus shelter on Ocean Avenue into a cozy study with her paint brushes a year before the storm.

“There have been studies done that show knitting can help deal with stress and even things like PTS [post traumatic stress], so we wanted to help create a place that residents can come to and participate in something positive and relaxing,” Gilhool said. The meet-ups are “very loose. Anyone can come and go as they please, and if you don’t already know how to knit, we can teach you,”

The group has been meeting for the past three weeks, every Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. All are welcome.

“It’s also very rewarding to create something yourself, plus anyone can learn how to do it,” she said.

Also just learning to knit is Sea Bright Councilwoman Peggy Bills.

“I think it’s amazing and a really great idea,” Bills told redbankgreen. “It’s a lot of different people coming together, sharing their stories about the storm, displacement and their lives in general. I myself have met a few new people I’ve never met before.”

“I know it’s been proven to be very therapeutic, and I really think it is,” she said. “It’s very soothing, and you get to chat with your neighbors, too.”

“Knitting definitely has some therapeutic value to it,” added longtime knitter and Sea Bright resident Lynn Shapiro. “It’s also so nice to be here with other knitters.”

The group relies solely on donations of yarn and needles to keep afloat, according to Gilhool, but so far, that has not been a problem. Through her friends and residents of Sea Bright, the knitting circle is well-stocked.

“We have more than enough supplies,” she said. “Anyone who wants to take part can come on down and we will give you everything you need to get knitting, free of charge.”

On this particular Thursday, Valentines Day, the knitting circle was stocked with tables baked goods, candy, drinks and goodie bags, all donated, to celebrate. Also on hand was Gilhool’s husband, Michael, on guitar and vocals performing for the group.

“As I said before, we’re very to open to anyone and everyone coming here to participate and share their idea in a stress-free environment,” Gilhool said. “We’ll take all ages, and would like to get more seniors and kids involved – not to mention a few men down here, too.”