The Stories Strangers Tell: Knitting Adventures at 39,000 Feet

As a habitual knitter there’s always a small project that lives in my bag or backpack to work on if there’s a bit of downtime. It’s much more appealing to craft something tangible if a couple of rows can be thrown into a project than sitting and poking at a smart phone screen.

While sitting on a flight I pulled out a pair of Knitted Knockers (hand knitted breast prosthesis) to work on since I was trapped in the dreaded middle seat and there was absolutely no chance of a nap. Once in a while I’ll get a question or two about what I’m working on, but largely the yarn fidgeting goes unnoticed, other times like several other knitting in public adventures, there will a conversation I won’t forget.

Being trapped, both passengers on either side saw what I was up to pretty quickly. The first was a man in his mid-twenties who had just pulled out a game system. He commented that if he wouldn’t be teased that he would love to learn how to knit. Our conversation fell along the lines, of why worry about what his friends think, if he wanted to he could just knit in private, and there were plenty of men who knit. He asked a few more questions about where and how to start, and he was pointed towards his local yarn shop in Pennsylvania.

Now on the other side, sat a woman, well into her retirement years with a thick Brooklyn accent. “I knit. Mom taught me. Nothing fancy. Mom could really knit.” Really?

Her mother would knit her and her siblings new sweaters every year, ripping apart the sweater from the year before, knitting it a little larger and adding more yarn when necessary. When the yarns were finally too worn to reuse for the next year, the kids would pick from a handful of colors for their next sweater. Nothing too bright, nothing to extreme, simple colors that could matched if more yarn had to be added to in following years. She missed her yearly sweaters.

She asked me how I learned, and I filled her in. She asked where I bought yarn in Georgia, since she was going to be staying for a few weeks and wanted to make a couple of scarves for her grandkids. Filled her in there too, and how I was always there on Saturdays, but since it would be a long drive for her, I told her about a few shops I knew about near the family members she would be staying with.

Then she asked the big question. “What are you making anyway?” Knitted Knockers were explained and her expression changed entirely. It’s hard to describe what I saw on her face. Pain, grief, a touch of happiness, surprise. It was hard to read. I froze, and didn’t really know what to say.

She spoke first. I can still hear her story in my head.

Mom died in the early 80s. She found a lump in her right breast, and went over a year before going to the doctor about it. You’re far to young to know how cancer of any type was treated then. It wasn’t talked about, like it is now. There wasn’t support groups. There wasn’t information out there. The treatments were brutal. Mom had her breast removed. It didn’t heal well. It was always painful, there was no reconstruction choices. She was told to stuff the empty place in her bra, and go on with life. She began isolating herself. She was a housewife, she only left the house for errands stuffing her bra and wearing the baggiest clothes she had.

Mom found another lump in her remaining breast two years later. She chose to let it take her and was gone within a year. If she had one of these knitted things and felt better about herself, maybe things would have been different for her.

The woman went silent. I didn’t know what to say other than I’m sorry.

She spoke again.

The woman who started this organization and the people who are knitting these things are doing a great good in this world.

She picked her book back up and began reading. I took that as a sign that I should pick my needles back up and not speak further.

Others around us had heard her story and began sharing their own stories about family members that had fought cancer in many forms. I sat, worked, and listened. My neighbors in the row sat and listened.

The woman next to me, put her book back down, sat and listened in silence. Knitting triggered her memories of both happiness and pain. There were no more words between us for the rest of the trip.

I hope that the happy memories of the childhood sweaters and the scarves that she will make for her grandchildren will bring her comfort.

It’s been a few weeks since our conversation on the plane, she never made it up to Yarn Rhapsody during the time she said she would be in Georgia. I wish her nothing but peace.

When Pets Grieve Pets

There was a change in the house this weekend. I can’t say that I was surprised with it happened, but the timing was unexpected, with all deaths we always think we would have more time. Sir Peanut Butter Fluffy Butt, my first and only guinea pig passed away this weekend. I had been noticing he had been eating less lately, moving slower, and sleeping more his age had caught up to him.

PB wasn’t just my furry companion but interacted on a regular basis with my eldest cat, Severus. Sev introduced himself to PB by jumping on top of his cage within 5 minutes of walking into my home and meowing at him like he was a litter mate. I know it sounds a bit crazy, a cat befriending a rodent and vice versa but they got a long well. When PB was out of his cage, Sev would follow him around when PB would go exploring, it wasn’t unusual to have both cat and guinea pig snuggled into my lap when we would watch TV in the evening. They just got along, they didn’t seem to understand how predators and prey worked. As PB aged and seemed to want to spend more time in his cage than out exploring the house, Sev would often check in on him. PB would toss a treat his way once in a while. I don’t know if he was intentionally sharing or asking to be left alone, but he never hid from Sev.

Sev seems to be missing his friend. After discovering PB’s demise, I buried him, and cleaned out his cage. The empty cage sits in the corner of the living room until it is sent to it’s next owner (hopefully a child and their first pet) Sev looks at it and knows something is missing. At one point last night, I found him asleep on top of it. Today, Sev is wandering around the house occasionally meowing, this isn’t normal behavior for him. I think he’s calling out for his companion, but I could be wrong.

Lucius, the younger cat, seems baffled by Sev’s behavior, but otherwise doesn’t seem impacted. He’s trying to get Severus to play, and keeps getting smacked in the head. If anything Lu is a persistent little bugger.

So if you are an animal person like I am, send a happy thought Sev’s way, and if you have any tips to help him adjust to life without PB please send them my way.

WIPed: Norah’s Vintage Afghan

Has anyone noticed, I’m not a single project type of woman yet?  This one is a bit of a beast, consisting of 20 different cabled squares, and it will take a while to complete.  It’s not on a list to rush and finish,  because it holds a special place in time.

My younger brother passed in November of 2014 not long before his 30th birthday.  It was sudden, and traumatic for the family.  After receiving the worst phone call in my life at 5:15 am the morning he died, I packed up and drove the six hours home to be with my family.  The bulk of the funeral arrangements fell into my lap with the assistance of a good friend that worked in the funeral industry, we managed to get everything put together, hitting several road blocks from the funeral director in my hometown.  To put it bluntly this funeral director took the hit to his pocket book personally, since I was advised by my friend in the industry on how to make the funeral affordable for the family, and decided to take his frustrations out first on my mother, and then on me after he was told to never speak to my mother again.  I wasn’t allowed to grieve with my family that week at home, I felt the need to be the strong one, the protector, and if need be the warrior to keep as much off my parents as I could.  There was no restful sleep, little food, and a great deal of coffee keeping me going.

After a week, I told my family it was time to go back home, so I could have my own space to grieve.  Not  only was I mourning the death of a brother, I was also remembering my grandmother’s struggling last breaths just two months before. 

After making it home, I left the house to pick up a few items to get through the week, and in the hour I was gone, my neighbor put a bag full of yarn, on my door with a note saying, “you’ll know what to do with this.”  I broke down when I walked into the door, the exhaustion, the trauma, the grief, hit like a tidal wave.  My neighbor was right, she knew I needed to make something.

I tried a few different patterns, tried to create a few of my own, nothing seemed right.  I put the yarn aside, and would look at it now and then.  I wasn’t really dealing with loosing my brother, it was easier to pick back into day-to-day life and not process it.

Late this past summer, the kind neighbor passed due to several complications associated with lupus.  Another death, not as painful as loosing a brother and grandmother, bit painful none the less.  She was an amazing woman. This fall the bag of yarn came out of the stash box again, and a new pattern hunt began, and then I saw Norah’s Vintage Afghan, and it seemed to fit.  The pattern sat on my desk for a full two weeks before I knitted the first square.  Thoughts of the people I’ve lost in my life kept coming to mind.  I began to start dealing with the losses while working those needles.

The second square has been started, but this project can only be worked on a bit of a time.  Once again, memories came to mind, and there are times it hurts, and times it makes me smile.  So a bit at a time, a bit at a time, a bit at a time, and one day it’ll be finished.


Norah’s Vintage Afghan by Berroco.


Lion Brand Heartland
Since acrylics don’t block well I found gauge and then went up two needle sizes.  There is more than enough of this yarn to accommodate the increase in size, and the knit piece that’s completed is laying fairly flat.  There will be a little hot steam blocking at the end to flatten out any rolled spots but there is little anticipation of a problem.

Cast on Date: 

October 2016

Projected Completion Date:

A honest, who knows?