Thursday, March 18, 2010


Somebody died and a relative brought her knitting to the library. Unpacked, it covered a large table in the room where the Langworthy Knitters meet on Wednesday nights. It was mostly synthetic yarn. Jane urged us to take whatever we wanted. I waited until the end of the meeting to see what the others chose. Very little, it turned out. I found a pair of number six needles and some stitch holders and took those, because they're useful to me.

I certainly didn't need any more yarn, and I rarely knit synthetic fibers. By the end of the meeting just about everything was still left on the table.  I had another look. There were a lot of completed afghan squares, and jumbled skeins of Orlon and acrylic.

I noticed a clear plastic bag from a hospital, the kind you're given to put your clothing in after you exchange it for one of those hideous johnnies.  The bag was filled with off-white aran wool, and a pair of almost-finished children's mittens. I decided I'd take those, too. Then I saw the beginnings of a red sweater on two number eight needles that were capped with very nice point protectors and embellished with a stitch counter. Suddenly, I wanted those notions, and I thought it would be unkind to strip the red acrylic yarn from the needles. I took it all.

The hospital bag made me remember when my mother was hospitalized in 1984. I was living in a really depressing part of Illinois and had just had my second child. Mother came to visit her new grandson and unexpectedly fell very ill, spending the next three weeks at the same joke of a hospital where her grandson had been born without my having anesthesia because "we don't have an anesthesiologist on call at night.  If you want anesthesia, you'll have to go to Peoria."

The children weren't allowed to visit, lest they bring in infections, so every day I'd take them and stand on the hospital grounds outside her room. She'd come to the window. I'd hold the baby up high, and my other son, who was four, would jump up and down and wave to his grandmother. Grandma was really bored in the hospital and she asked me to bring her some yarn and knitting needles. During her stay, she made two pairs of mittens, which I still wear, and two children's sweaters, now stored in mothproof bags.

The hospital docs thought she had pneumonia.  Eventually, when she was strong enough to travel, she went back to New York and had further testing at a real hospital.  She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

When I unpacked the hospital bag with the aran yarn, I discovered an old green measuring tape among the neatly-wound balls.


  1. I wonder if anyone has done an survey-- even informal-- of knitting that was done during illnesses. Or if anyone has documented a positive effect on patients...? Sometimes knitting can be a powerful calming device, as we know. It is touching that you still wear the mittens your mother knitted during that time.

  2. Yes, those mittens are still going strong. One pair is off white, the other a dusty rose.

    I'll do a Google search on therapeutic knitting during illness and see what comes up!

  3. What came up when I did the search were mostly history-oriented articles on recuperating soldiers who knit in hospital during World War One. There doesn't appear to be much recent study on whether patients knit in hospital or not.