What to knit on morphine

Fiber arts are a refuge for me. A calm harbor for the fears and frustrations of life. So, for example, when I go to the doctor’s office to discuss distressing things, I take a sock to knit. My oral surgeon has seen several socks grace his office. One day I saw him looking at the sock I was furiously knitting while reclining in the big scary dentistry chair and I said, “I knit because it keeps me calm.” He said, “Yeah I’ve noticed that—keep knitting.” So, I was not going to the hospital for an overnight stay without some kind of fiber arts. As much as I would have loved to take a floor loom—not so much with the portable. So knitting, it would be. I don’t do medication as a rule. When have a cold I take tea and chicken soup, not Comtrex. Instead of aspirin, I take hot baths. So I figured that morphine and the remnants of general anesthesia would leave me pretty well looped. I figured tiny sock needles would be too much for me, and yet I wanted something easy and portable. About a year ago, I was at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat. At the end of their charity knitting talk, a yarn manufacturer gave away skeins of free yarn for folks to use to knit hats. I resisted: I rarely knit worsted, I didn’t know any cool hat patterns, the yarn was acrylic, and I wasn’t sure I’d find time in my busy schedule to knit for charity. But the free yarn got me. I have a hard time passing up free yarn. So here were two skeins of squeaky acrylic languishing in my stash. It couldn’t be given away. It was yarn with a mission, strings firmly attached. It was also the perfect project to take to the hospital. They warned me not to bring anything valuable. What is more humble than Red Heart Acrylic yarn knit on cheap bamboo needles? I wanted something easy, something portable. Knitting a hat is the round in worsted-weight yarn. Check on both counts. I figured the good karma of knitting for charity could only be a bonus to the healing process. The yarn was a cheerful blend of autumn colors: reds, golds, and oranges. Cheerful colors I can’t wear. I knit a 2×2 rib in the round. Didn’t need to swatch. I had no idea who the hat was going to, as long as it was of human proportions, I was in business. I knit at 5am on the dark car ride over. I knit in the waiting room while they signed me into the hospital, watching the ubiquitous salt-water fish that every waiting room feels is necessary. I knit in the prep room, where they stripped me of clothes and inserted an IV. (I refused to give up my needles until I was sedated.) Because the hospital has a one patient, one gurney policy, my clothes (and knitting) were tucked into a chamber underneath my gurney and actually accompanied me into surgery and the recovery room. My knitting was one of the first things I pulled out when I was settled into my hospital room. With my iPod around my neck playing a new Terry Pratchett book on tape, my husband sleeping on the couch next to me, and my knitting wadded into a nest on my chest like a protective pet, I drifted off into post-operative sleep. The hat didn’t get finished until I was settled at home, propped by pillows and watching endless DVDs that a considerate husband had stockpiled for me. And there it was. The first finished object of my new life. And there was yarn left over in the skein. So I knit another hat. And another. I played with stripes, and rolled brims instead of ribbing. I found more acrylic yarn in my stash and vowed to knit it all up for charity. There was something endearing about these humble hats. They didn’t have to be perfect, or lovely, or made of high-falutin’ materials. And yet they could do good in the world. They were good enough, just as they were. After surgery, I was humble, and dehumanized. I was not lovely. I felt broken and made of imperfect materials. But like those acrylic-yarn hats, I could do good in the world. [img_assist|nid=10|title=|desc=|link=none|align=none|width=400|height=300] Each hat taught me something. As I healed, each one got a little more complex in terms of color work or pattern. The last hat (so far) I added a lace pattern to, and liked the results so much that I knit a copy for myself in wool. I’m wearing it as I write this. It is the first hat I’ve knit for myself that turned out perfectly: no swatching, no mistakes in the lace pattern, a perfect fit. It feels like a gift. When I finished the sixth hat and picked up a project I’d started before the surgery, my husband smiled, looking at the six-color mitered-diamond camisole in progress, and said, “You must be feeling better.” It amused me that he was judging my recovery by the complexity of my knitting. So very apt.

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