The medicine blanket
Monday October 23rd 2006, 8:12 pm
Filed under: Knit

First, the boring (to my non-knitting friends; you guys just go skip to after the gap) technical stuff: someone posted on KnitTalk today with the question of, how could she use the 200 yards of cashmere she’d just splurged on to get a scarf out of it?

One of the good things about lace is that a goodly part of what you’re creating is air spaces, so that a little yarn can be stretched a long way. Obviously, that’s more true with some patterns than others. This one is simply knitted with right side rows alternating between k2tog, yo, across, and the next one, ssk, yo across. I cast on an odd number of stitches, and one of the right side rows started with a knit one stitch, the other one ended with a knit one stitch. For specifics, go check out Donna Druchunas’s blog when she posts this picture of one of my scarves. For beginners: k2tog is, of course, knit two stitches together; ssk means slip the next stitch as if to knit, repeat with the next one, then put the left side needle into the fronts of those two stitches and knit them that way.
These two different ways to decrease slant in opposite directions and create a balanced effect. If you just do one of them throughout the scarf, you create a biased fabric that won’t hang straight.

Now for the story part: the backdrop is a handwoven placemat in wool created by my friend Robert, a handweaver who lives near Santa Cruz. Robert later wove me a six-foot-long navy wool blanket in the tradition of the Native American medicine blanket: with each passing of the shuttle, he was wishing me good health and well-being, at a time my lupus and dysautonomia were flaring badly last spring. When he finished, we met halfway between our homes at Karen Brayton-McFall’s shop, The Rug and Yarn Hut in Campbell, which I believe is where he’d bought the yarn for it. All those hours and hours of work! It was a tremendously humbling experience for me, and I was absolutely thrilled. It was a beautiful piece of work. Such a generous offer of caring for a fellow being. Mindboggling. I found myself running my fingers over the bumps in the fabric where the weft yarn ran over and under the warp, again and again, so different from the way yarn feels as it comes off my needles. Sturdy. Solid. Strong. It was the perfect representation of the man who’d made it.

That night, I had a blood-pressure crash that woke me up and I couldn’t move or breathe. I had had experiences like this before, but this was one of the very worst ever, and I wasn’t sure I could live much longer if it didn’t let up. Very soon.

And I was immediately angry (if you think I’m a nice person, just don’t wake me up at 3 am, it’ll totally blow my cover): You stupid body! After all his hard work! How dare you give out on me now! How could you make it so he’ll feel like a failure, that the medicine of his caring wasn’t enough, after he put heart and soul and time into wishing me well, someone he didn’t even know well!

As if anybody who ever died passed because the people who desperately wanted them to live somehow had failed them? Yeah right. Gimme a great big break.

But that shot of adrenalin from that anger kicked my lungs back alive, and I suddenly devoured air. I could breathe again!

I didn’t immediately realize it. But when I did, it was so obvious: I went back to Robert and told him that his gift had been powerful medicine indeed. The timing! If he hadn’t given it to me that day… I don’t know…

And ever since, it has been my knitting companion. Even when we had a massive heat wave this past July, I kept it under my toes on the footrest as I knitted away and then, when the evening San Francisco fogbank rolled in, I would move it up and pull it over me. Still do. Always will. My medicine blanket; how could I not thrive, with all that it means to me?

Weaving, knitting, cooking, walking through a park together, being a doctor, being a nurse’s assistant: it doesn’t matter how we give of our time and our hearts. What matters is that we do.

18 Comments so far
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wow! what a powerful story.
i strongly believe in the power of intention while creating. i attempt to put thoughts in everything i do.

Comment by pippi 10.24.06 @ 4:55 am

Of all the knitting blogs that I read – and I was introduced to the genre by the YarnHarlot over a year ago – yours is one I check EVERY day. There is so much of yourself here, and I must say it’s a very nice “self”. Best wishes and prayers for your recovery.

Comment by Beverly/lurker 10.24.06 @ 9:24 am

we need a book from you. No, two books – one on knitting and one on gratitude or graciousness or whatever you want to call it.
I hope you are feeling a little better today.
mary anne

Comment by Mary Anne 10.24.06 @ 9:35 am

Pippi, thank you, and I do too. There was so much joy in the moment Robert handed me that blanket, and everybody who was in Karen’s shop just then took a piece of it home with them, it felt like. And that placemat? He’d bought some Cascade 220 in a colorway to match the Lisa Souza-yarn Pacific colorway shawl he’d seen me wearing at Stitches West, because that way he knew I would love it. I would have loved it no matter the color, but the fact that he drove an hour, round trip, to get just the right yarn and surprise me… He’s such a generous soul.

Thank you, Beverly, and thank you, Mary Anne, my publisher will be doing quite a happy dance if they read your comments. My first book is being published next July by Martingale Press, with a collection of patterns and a story to each. I’m working on a second book of stories, and we’ll see when/where that one ends up. And both of those are my husband’s fault: a couple of years ago he took me out to dinner specifically to spring the idea on me that I needed to write a book, to put my stories on paper for our kids and grandkids, and, even more, for myself. I thought he was nuts for about 24 hours–and then, it was, well duh, of course!

And then even this blog: he said I was an author now, I needed a blog. I retorted, I do not! Yes you do. Typity typity type. Tadaah, you have a blog. Now go write something.

I guess I did.

Comment by AlisonH 10.24.06 @ 4:19 pm

Oops, uh, make that future grandkids, just to be clear. I can just see my college-age kids guffawing.

Comment by AlisonH 10.24.06 @ 4:21 pm

“Typity typity type. Tadaah, you have a blog.”

And it sounds like you also have a very loving and attentive husband who knows you very well. 😉

I loved the story of the blanket.

Comment by Marlene 10.24.06 @ 7:28 pm

He’s absolutely the best.

Comment by AlisonH 10.24.06 @ 9:44 pm

Oh? Somehow lace knitting seems so clear in your explanations. SSK… so that’s why it’s there. Somehow it makes sense now when it didn’t seem to before. Thanks!

Comment by Robin 10.25.06 @ 12:01 pm

I believe it’s a great gift you’ve been given! The strength, compassion and care of another human imbued into the weave of a sturdy blanket. Who couldn’t benefit?

Comment by Adrian 05.25.07 @ 5:47 am

The best part, is, I’m not the only one: Robert has not only made other blankets, but he has been teaching a classroomful of kids to think about who might most need one, and then to work together to weave medicine blankets for others. The kids have been getting to see the impact of creating with love for the good of their fellow man. It is such a beautiful, powerful thing to do.

Comment by AlisonH 05.25.07 @ 11:54 am

[…] him to a few friends between signing books at Pam’s Pacific Meadows booth; I told Pam this story (skip down a few paragraphs to go past the knitting pattern details in the way.)  He showed me […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 02.22.08 @ 10:44 pm

[…] think it’s been two years since I gave Robert my angora roving. The (now gone) Robin and Russ Handweavers store once listed 70/30 Chinese […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 05.07.08 @ 11:13 am

[…] displaying it all on top of Robert’s handwoven Medicine Blanket, which has been the backdrop for many a blog photo by […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 12.27.08 @ 11:26 pm

[…] snug and warm in my shawl and under my Medicine Blanket (skip down to the third paragraph, and Robert, I hope to see you at Stitches) and another afghan […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 02.15.09 @ 4:59 pm

[…] to the left: Robert’s medicine blanket.  Here’s a shot that does a little more justice to the colors of my […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 04.05.09 @ 8:36 pm

[…] weeks in the past already.  That day will come. I’m holding my blankets close for comfort: Robert’s, (skip about halfway down the post), the one Elizabeth’s group made, the two Anniebee’s […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 07.17.09 @ 3:40 pm

[…] a kitten tackling it as an accessory) under my footrest, pulling on the edge of the fringe from Robert’s medicine blanket as if it were a child sucking its fingers, a missed Christmas tag wrapped around its wheel.  It […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 01.04.10 @ 11:08 am

[…] had been blogging about a month when I posted this (scroll down halfway.) Robert’s Medicine Blanket is very much treasured and used here, and […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 10.17.17 @ 10:46 pm

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