The healing powers of knitting.

It’s been an interesting time. It feels like ages and ages since I went to my Oxford Bluestockings weekly knit group and was presented with this incredibly beautiful blanket that the knitters had made, but in fact it was only just over a week and a half ago.

Perhaps that’s because the time between falling under anaesthetic with one pair of feet and waking up with what feels like an entirely different pair feels like a very long time. And the time of mending is also slow. But the mending time can be a lovely time.

One of the best things about the healing time is Friends and the amazing role Friends play. Abby took some amazing photos of the joyous presentation of the blanket including the ones above my feet! Additionally, Liz presented me with the most gorgeous, soft, well-constructed and perfectly-fitting pair of knitted socks I have ever beheld and a lovely, fresh, apple soap. The idea is for said socks to be something to look forward to for when my feet come out of bandages. My photo here is quite bad, but you’ll appreciate that I am not able right now to hike around the house to find a good spot for taking a picture!

It’s hard to express exactly how much the blanket helped me while I was in hospital, or how much I’m looking forward to taking my feet out of bandages and putting them into the lovely socks. I am very intrigued by the wonderful construction of them with the decreases on the sole of the foot rather than at the sides of the ankles and with a new style of ribbing I’ve not seen before on the cuff and the heel.

I wonder if these are techniques in the esteemed ‘New Pathways for sock knitters’ by Cat Bordhi that I keep hearing about? Liz invented the stitch pattern and the entire pattern for the socks, so Bordhi’s book certainly can’t take much of the credit! I am very impressed by the ease with which Liz improvises gorgeous socks. They are really soft and were apparently made from wool obtained by Liz from three dog knits’ destash back in February. The colourway is blue moonstone and the yarn is comfortingly soft. Liz even put beads on the cuff! *Beads!*

I love the socks so much. When I look at them I feel very cared for, knowing the effort and time that goes into making such things.

It is very good for self-esteem to feel valued and celebrated, to feel cared for and held in people’s thoughts, and positive feelings definitely make it easier to cope with the realities of pain and restricted mobility. My blanket has been a constant source of pleasure to me. In hospital it brightened the bed where I lay and made a a sunny talking point with all the nurses:

I was in a great deal of pain during the first night and had to demand repeated doses of morphine to deal with the shocking pain as the local anaesthetic in my toes wore off. I was too hot in the hospital for the stuffy hospital blankets, but lying there in my pyjamas with the Bluestockings blanket over me gave me just the right amount of warmth and protection without making me overheat, and its soft colourful surfaces were really rich and distracting. When I couldn’t really concentrate on very much else, I could marvel at all the colours and wonder about which of my friends had knit which squares. I was delighted to identify a square from Katie’s Tatami, another from Ellen’s Kiri Shawl, and a striped square and intarsia wonderwoman star with the last remnants of Kirsty’s infamous Wonderwoman Jumper yarn. Kirsty said that as with the original jumper she managed to run out of red yarn part way through one of the squares! There are too many squares to mention them all – Sarah’s beautiful blue squares, Ellen’s amazing intarsia fairy buns, battenburg and aubergine, Liz and Aliki’s gorgeous stitch pattern squares, the combined crochet edging done by Lara and Aliki, squares also from Ruth, from Abby, from Kate, a square Lara made while teaching knitting to someone… more squares from Katie – but I love the collection as one object, bound up with time, love and friendship. I was deeply touched as the Bluestockings laughed with tales of organisational emails sent privately and titled ‘Shhh…don’t tell Felix!’ and explained how, on the day when they sewed up the sqares, there was a collective sense of ‘Felix would love this.’ I enjoyed how I recognised the yarn from various projects, and how I could see loads of Katie’s yarn knit up by other knitters in the group. All these thoughts as I lay in the hospital, freaking out slightly on that first night, helped me to find a way out of the post-operative shock and when I woke up I realised I was right by a huge window with bright blue skies outside. I dozed in and out of sleep, calming to the knowledge that from this point things could only improve. As always in times of pain or fear, Monkl came to the rescue with his amusing antics. Monkl has always been a powerful resource for me in times of stress or pain. He comes to the fore as a character full of life, mischief and rebellion. He represents an irrepressable part of my nature and I was impressed that even though I’m nearly 30, none of the Hospital staff made a demeaning reference to his constant presence with me. My blanket was a brilliant place for Monkl to play. He was also a constant source of delight on the ward. He came into surgery with me to comfort me, and made himself known to the nurses as the chief messmaker in ‘Felix’ craft corner’ as my area in the hospital came to be known on the ward. For my recupperation I bought fimo, knitting projects, felt-tip pens and a beautiful sketch-pad into hospital with me. I find knitting an excellent distraction from pain and the fimo was great for making stitch-markers. I made stitch markers that look like tablets and capsules which I will post here when I get around to photographing them! With the felt tip pens and the sketchpad I was able to keep a constant journal of my feelings.

I also bought a tin of comedy plasters into the ward with me. I felt it necessary tyo accessorise my foot bandages in some way.

Rachael also came to visit me, bringing some soft angora, some delicious cake and some postcards. Lara had already visited me, bringing Rachael’s amazing knitted square that awaits an exciting surprise destiny and so will not be knitted into the blanket!

I was especially happy about the postcards as it meant I could leave messages for all the other lovely ladies on the ward when I left. After three nights together on the ward, talking through pain through the night, comforting each other and sharing our stories of health, family, love and politics, it was a wrench to leave them. Rachael was a star and the cakes definitely sped up my recovery! You’ll notice in this photo that I’m wearing a T-shirt with The Man’s face on it. It says ‘hero’ abover a photo of him and the words ‘superfantasticwonderman.’ He has also been a hero. So much so that I even shared the cake with him.

I got out of the hospital much earlier than I thought I would and have gained mobility and confidence ever since. I am spending a huge portion of time with my legs up on a giant pillow, and am dosed up to the nines on Tramadol, but it appears that I’ve been able to accomplish a lot from my bed office and I feel less like resting than continuing to work on the commission I recently got, along with Mundane Appreciation to create The Fantastical Reality Radio Show! It’s amazing to be developing a new radio show and to be collaborating with one of the contemporary art projects I esteem most highly. I am pleasantly surprised by how happy I feel – but as I itemise all the love and joy that has been heaped up on me over the last fortnight, it’s unsurprising that I am doing so well. It makes an enormous difference to be surrounded by colour, to have fun things to focus on and do, and to feel really loved. These were key themes for The Missability Radio Show; to dress situations that are sometimes bleak and miserable in bright, radiant ribbons. To be, like Frida Kahlo, ‘a bomb wrapped in a ribbon.’ I made this simple rose-pin to cheer myself up during a bad moment and the realisation that I wouldn’t be able to wash my hair for a few days. Also because large floral hair decorations always remind me of Frida Kahlo and my aspiration to adopt some of her most useful approaches to life with a disability.

Beside my bed I had a large basket of knitting, in which I’m working on leg-warmers, socks, walking-stick cosies and pom-poms to go on my new, orthopaedic shoes. None of this stops me being in pain, but it does give me something happier to focus on. I’m so grateful for all the help I’ve had from friends with this difficult operation – for visits and conversations and company, for wool-winding, for pattern-photocopying, for cake-making and for telephone calls. It means a lot.

Today was especially fun; I went out on a mobility scooter and it was the first outing I’ve had since coming home from the hospital on Monday. It was great to have a change of scene and I’m happy to be feeling more confident out and about.

A man approached me today on the scooter and asked me – very politely – about my views on the scooter. I always find it amusing how somehow, as a visibly disabled person you are assumed to be some kind of spokesperson for all of disabledkind. But this man didn’t mean any harm and so I heard him talking about his brother in law with Multiple Sclerosis and the whole issue of scooter/wheelchair/manual/electronically powered. I said it is a big deal to come to terms with one’s altered body image when a major piece of equipment becomes ‘part’ of you and that everyone’s experience of that is personal – and unique. He nodded and listened, but then his face broke into a grin and said ‘yes but… you look GREAT with all that wool you’re sporting!’ I smiled and said my goodbyes, wondering if he had even an inkling of the depth of wool, of its power to heal and its power to soothe, to clothe, to comfort, to bandage and to console. Obviously that isn’t true for people with wool allergies but for myself, yes, I am a believer in the healing powers of knitting and that’s why the knitted walking stick cosy competition just wouldn’t be the same without wool.

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