Thursday, 19 August 2010

Knitting through adversity

I've kept this knitted vest for 20 years now.  I don't wear it any more, but I keep it safe and very occasionally I take it out and look at it, feel it, hold it next to my face and remember.

It was a project that started out with such excitement.  I'd created my own design using a Kaffe Fassett design as a starting point.  I still have, tucked into the back of the book, that original simple pencil drawn design.  We were living in Alberta, Canada at the time.  There for a year, husband in an exciting, challenging and time consuming job, and me in the tiny apartment with a toddler and a 3 year old and no friends.  I had a morning 'off', the car, my pencilled drawing and money to spend in the fantastic yarn shop across the city.  My inspiration for the yarns - the awesome, vast Alberta sky.

There I was in the yarn shop with my little pile of exciting yarns, some expensive silky ones, but I only needed one ball of each.  Escaping from a life that had its difficulties and totally absorbed in choosing my yarns, my paint palette for my sky-inspired vest.  The phone rang and one of the staff approached me.  It was my husband - could I come straight home, our son had hurt his leg and he needed to see a doctor.  My yarns were bundled up, the staff rushed them through the till and I drove home as quickly as I could.  There I discovered that my 3 yr old had fallen while playing in the apartment, trapping his knee as he fell, which twisted and fractured his femur.

Getting to the hospital is a blur.  Our daughter was left in the apartment with one of my husband's colleagues.  I remember my husband carrying our son into the hospital and then me being separated from them as I had to sort out the paperwork with our medical insurance.  This was a cruel shock to someone who had grown up with the NHS and no need to be kept from a screaming child.  There was initially some suspicion from the staff until the X-ray showed the unusual spiral fracture along the whole length of his femur that exactly matched the description of the accident.  Any other bone being fractured would have meant a plaster cast and taking him back home.  Fractured femur meant traction and a 4 week stay in hospital.

The first night was horrendous.  Husband had to go to work that night, daughter was in the apartment with one of husband's colleagues, I was in the hospital with our son who screamed for most of the night with pain from the fracture and muscle spasms.  I endured because I had to, but I don't know where I found the strength.  For the next few days there were some cultural difficulties and learning our way around a totally different health care system.  I lived in the hospital and our daughter joined me during the day while my husband was at work.  When I could I knitted.  I knitted up that sky coloured yarn that I'd been so joyously choosing while my son was breaking his leg.  I measured my day in rows, slow painstaking rows with 20 or more colours per row.

After a week our son was sleeping through the night so I started going home to sleep.  Every morning I bundled our daughter into the car and drove to the hospital, driving east across a bridge with the huge sky ahead of me, revealing to me my palette of colours to knit that day.  The morning skies and my knitting were my crutch through that month long ordeal.  As my son's bone knitted together so I knitted my vest.  At the end of the month the X-ray revealed that the traction which had chained him to his bed had done its job  After 4 weeks of knitting my vest was finished.  He couldn't walk, so he crawled.  He cried the first time we lowered him into a bath - after a month he was frightened of something that had been a nightly playtime of fun and laughter.  As we finally all drove home together he exclaimed at the bare trees.  When we had driven him to the hospital the trees had been covered with leaves.

A couple of days after we were all back home in the apartment, Kaffe Fassett came to the city to give a talk.  I'd booked my ticket weeks before, so off I went wearing my vest.  It was a good talk, wonderful images, inspiring and exciting.  I laughed when everyone else laughed.  I was normal again, a young mother with 2 children back at home, wearing a vest I had knitted, and in knitting had kept my strength and sanity.


  1. I think My other comment got lost.

    What a story! Great post. Beautiful Vest in so many ways.

    Loved reading your story. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Wonderful story. . . . Healing in so many ways. . . .

  3. What a beautiful vest! I like how memories are knitted into the things we make and one knows exactly what was going on at the time something was made.

  4. Beautiful Post...thank you for sharing your story. The vest is absolutely beautiful and carries with it much meaning.