GLEN ROCK, N.J.– Allison Marcilla of Glen Rock started knitting while working as a social worker at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.
Her supervisor was an avid knitter. Marcilla, then 23, was not.
"I had zero interest — none," said the mother of three, who runs "Together We Knit" programs at the Valley Hospital in Ridgewood and at her daughter's school. "When your boss tells you to do something, you do it."
She and her boss knit together on their lunch hour.
It wasn't until years later when she gave birth to her daughter — Jessica, who was born with a genetic disorder — that Marcilla picked up the needles again.
"It’s like riding a bike," she said. "It comes back to you."
Knitting became her therapy as she waited for Jessica in doctors' and therapists' offices.
"It kept me focused, it kept me busy and yet," she said, "I was able to focus on taking care of my daughter."
Teaching her other daughter, Abby, 9, to knit recently is what led Marcilla to launching a knitting program at The Valley Hospital.
"I decided as a social worker to combine that experience with being mom of child with special needs and bring that to different populations," Marcilla said.
She teaches three adult classes and offers private lessons, in addition to children's classes at Richard E. Byrd School, which Abby attends.
"I see how much it helps people, moms struggling with kids and different issues," said Marcilla, a certified knitting instruction through the non-profit Craft Yarn Council. "It gives you something to do, a sense of self satisfaction.
"It's tactile – you see it," she added. "You hear it, you feel it. It's very calming."
Marcilla buys the supplies – a ball of yarn and knitting needles – and shows her students the knit and purl stitches.
Her students have created shawls, fingerless gloves, headbands, scarves, bags, and iPad covers.
But the real gift isn't the product, Marcilla said: it's the knitting.
"I didn’t realize what a gift my boss gave me at the time," she said. When I needed it, it saved me.
"I finally found my niche."