A recent stroke rendered the crafty client craft-less. Not only was her hand not functioning like before, but her eyesight was dim at best. She was legally blind.
A former knitting teacher and a crafty girl by nature, I took this assignment with enthusiasm. Sure--we can get this client back into her creative mojo happy place! But after this first time knitting, I wasn't so sure.
We had dug out her old projects from the attic the week before, her calling from downstairs up to me with directions, while I moved boxes, peeked into bags and tried in vain to find the baby blanket she had wanted to finish as our first project together. She had some yarns up there too. I just hoped the moths hadn't gotten to them. After almost giving up I finally found the box with the baby blanket and the bag of yarns she wanted to use. I never found her needle case. It might have been misplaced she admitted, as we dug into our treasures I had brought down. No problem I assured her, I had plenty of extra needles we could use.
Her talking clock announced it was "time" for her med check. She impatiently put up with my alcohol swabbing, the prick of her baby finger, and she talked through the meter reading of her sugar levels. She had BIG plans to finish that baby blanket. She was trying to remember who she was making it for originally and chattered on and on about the design of it. When I had glanced at the complicated lace pattern on the blanket, I was encouraged that this woman knew her knitting! This would be a challenge for me, as I don't knit a lot of lacework myself. Maybe we could learn from EACH OTHER?! Maybe we could enter the craft fair for the blind next year? Oh, my dreams were big too!!!
After all the necessary meds were administered and recorded, we got back to our planning. The pattern wasn't as hard as I originally thought. A really cool twisted stitch pattern with lots of yarn overs and decreases. She would have count though. I'm thinking to myself ways I could help her do that, with the challenge of eyesight and one hand not working properly. Hmmm...may have to rethink this one.
My initial thought and plans were:
- #1- GOALS are good for clients recovering from strokes.
- #2- DISAPPOINTMENT is HUGE and I don't want to set back her recovery progress, nor her enthusiasm.
- #3- I had never helped a blind person knit before, so I would have to be really really creative in MY motivation.
We started with a simple cotton washcloth. Garter stitch bottom, just knitting each row after row for awhile and then I would get her ready to try purling.
She was stiff, her one hand still didn't work right after the stroke.
As I gently encouraged her and re-cast the loops of yarn onto the bright blue metal needles I realized this may take longer than I had thought.
It was taking a long time to get through one row of knitting. She decided purling was easier and her stroke hand got tired frequently, so she would pause for rests and to check in with my knitting. She asked me a lot of questions and I didn't mind sharing at all.
Christmas was coming, her stash of cotton yarns were more than enough to make cotton washcloths for her other caregivers. We could do Christmas presents!!! Now that excited her. What colors did we have? Who would like what kind of cloth? We needed to make a list. I got out paper and pen and we thought of everyone and put their names down. "Impressive list," I thought. We have 3 weeks.
But as we knit together a few more times, and as I re-cast on AGAIN, her "practice" cloth, I realized our GOAL was quite a lofty one. While her knitting before the stroke was so impressive, our dream of finishing that lacy baby blanket looked more unattainable as time went on. I realized with compassion that I would be knitting those cloths. We would plan them, and she would ENCOURAGE me as we went along. I better get busy...
Her fingers on the good hand nimbly reach by touch to count the stitches again, but her mind wanders and we talk too much to keep the count accurate for her. She asks again if I can count them for her, she thinks a stitch has dropped. Sure enough, there is the loop dangling off the needle. I carefully place it back into place, position her hands on the needles again and all is well. She is smiling, and she is knitting.
While I have finished 5 washcloths now to her 4" inch practice cloth, I realized that this client has shown me more than I have shown her. While I am the knitting teacher in this adventure, and she the knitting "student" trying to re-learn an ancient craft, I really didn't UNDERSTAND the importance of conversation, shared interests and just the simple act of holding needles and yarn in our hands. I make tea and serve her biscuits as we have a our knit sessions. I read knit patterns out loud to her and we browse her old knitting magazine collection. She describes her previous creations and sometimes I will bring my own finished projects to share with her.
My client still has not finished her practice cloth.
She works on a few rows at a time the shift I have scheduled with her once a week. She is happy to pick up the needles, hand them back to me for the dropped stitches, and feel with her hands my completed washcloths. We are working on more cloths for her caregivers for NEXT Christmas. She thinks we will need to make more this year, as her care team is 24 hr/7 days a week.
Oh, I don't mind. Our arrangement has worked out just fine!
We talk about stitch patterns and which ones we should include on future washcloths. We talk about soaps and scents of soaps, kinds of soaps, that we will wrap into these cloths and tie with a ribbon as gifts when we are done knitting them. Our details include ribbon bow wrapping techniques as well.
She beams brightly and her sightless eyes search to SEE the finished knitted cloths.
And I truly believe, with all of my heart, that she SEES them as clearly as I do. The smile on her face as she clutches her ball of yarn and her needles, tells me so.