Saturday, October 17, 2009
How Breast Cancer Taught me to Knit
This started as an attempt to write a very academic how-to in series about felting it’s history and techniques. Maybe because it’s October and breast cancer awareness month, this kind of turned into my own story.
I think I first fell in love with felt when I was a child. My godmother was Austrian (thus the weird spelling of my name) and my parents regularly traveled to Austria and Germany. My dad obtained a boiled wool jacket in the black forest of Germany. I had never seen such a thing. It was obviously made of fiber but was thicker than leather. Water beaded on it and the wind just could not penetrate it. It had hand hewn silver buttons and I totally coveted that jacket through my teen aged years. I mourned the loss of that jacket but did not give it much thought until my 30’s.
At age 33 two weeks after taking the California Bar I was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer. With Chemo and hairloss impending I did what all crazy people do. I had a party and had my friends dye my hair blue. (my mom even bought the dye). At the party, my friend Eleanor presented me with a hat that she had knit. Since it was looking like I was going to have a lot of stressful time on my hands I asked her to teach me to knit.
Eleanor was a free-form knitter. There were no mistakes only cat toys. I had so little to do and so little energy, I began to pass time in rows, feeling proud that I had at least something to show for my time. Then I discovered my local yarn store Dharma Trading. This was my salvation. They offered free drop in knitting classes every day. The woman who ran the classes was known (behind her back) as the knitting nazi. She was very proper and I think I sent her into heart failure when I presented my half knit socks which were knit inside out. But who can be too angry with someone so obviously going through cancer so I got a pass. I did not go out much but I pretty much went to Dharma every day.
That Christmas my I presented my husband with the most god-awful misshapen sweater that I had to pry out of his hands this year to see if it would felt as I couldn’t stand looking at it.
Later, I saw an article in interweave knits for a felted purse. My skills (which weren’t much at that time) were up to the task. I tried it and I was hooked. I practically shivered in anticipation by the washing machine as my ludicrously large sack of cloth was magically transformed a la shrinky dink into a dense beautiful bowl.
Well that’s how it started and next post will be the actual how felt works and techniques post.
So if you know someone going through this. For sure knit them a cap, then ask them if they want to learn how to make one.