Postcards at Sea #3: Knitting When the Forecast is for Fog

I had thought knitting was like breathing for me, something I didn’t really think about and that didn’t require much effort. However, after the chronic fatigue was triggered, everything including knitting became arduous.  Even once I had the energy to knit stitches again, the brain part of knitting, the reading of patterns or thinking out my own project was immensely challenging. It felt like I was trying to work out a language that was not my own. It was exhausting and often impossible.

Chronic fatigue affects many cognitive functions including concentration, memory, ability to find words and to synthesise multiple pieces of information. It is called mental fog. This fog is the last thing to resolve itself when recovering from fatigue conditions. Sometimes the mist clears a little and sometimes it comes down in a thick blanket to squat on your mind.

I have discovered that you can’t knit through fog but you can knit with it. After abandoning a number of knitting projects that had become incomprehensible to me, I think I have developed some insights into knitting when the forecast is for fog.

  • Choose straight forward but interesting knits that have significant sections of garter or stockinette with minimal shaping or stitch patterns. Carol Feller’s hap shawl Montbretier from The Book of Haps (2016) has been perfect for me.

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  • Have multiple projects on the go. I am normally a monogamous knitter, pushing through the hard bits to completion. Now there is nothing left to push through with, I need to have a variety of options open to me. I save the simple knitting for when I am really tired and need to rest. Anything that requires reading instructions, I save for when I am feeling rested. With a few projects on the go, there is always something I can knit according to how thick that sea fog is.
  • Knit other folks designs. Knitting freestyle was my favourite thing but the calculations and multiple bits of information are too much for me at the moment so I am embracing the whipsmarts and clarity of other brains right now.
  • Choose clear, tech edited, step by step instructions, where the knitting doesn’t require holding multiple instructions in your head at once. I have been able to complete a pair of Whisky Bay WoollensLow Tide anklet socks which married clear steps with simple lace whilst I had to abandon a pair of Cat Bordhi socks with innovative shaping that moved at a different rate to the stitch pattern.

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  • Knit whatever the stash brings forth. The stash is so much closer than a shop and so much simpler that ordering online. Yarns I have been meaning to use for a long time are finally seeing the light of day.

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What I can manage improves slightly every week. Sea fog is tricksy and persistent but now I have a map to keep me knitting when the forecast is for fog.

 

14. September 2016 by Rebecca
Categories: knit | Tags: , , | 24 comments

Comments (24)

  1. Eloquent and perceptive blog. Acceptance of the way things are is an energy source I also discovered! Other designers have homage paid to them through the act of making their words tactile. This is therapeutic. Well done you for persistence and dedication to your healing. Thank you for this lovely post x

  2. So glad you are finding solutions and ways around the fog…I have a feeling that my knitting ability has always been foggy! Love the colours that you have chosen for your hap…especially those pops of pink! Sending hopefull wishes that things keep getting better xxx

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I wish you all the best on your journey to wellness.

  4. I can so relate to this Rebecca. I can only seem to manage to knit the Flax jumper by TinCanKnits and basic garter and stocking stitch. Everthing ive tried to knit for Shackleton i’ve just had to pull out. But there is so much beauty in simplicity. Thanks for sharing your map for the fog. Also ive remembered when i firstly started knitting how i would just sit and knit garter stitch slowly with no object in mind. Just for the lovely feel of it. So here i am again!! Glad to hear that what you can manage is improving each week!!! We all need a map for the fog!!!

    • How funny Isabel, I too have unravelled and unravelled, probably more stitches than I have actually knitted. There is probably a metaphor in there somewhere but it is mostly just dispiriting. Stick with Flax knitting I say…let us knit our way doggedly to vim and vigour!

  5. I must be in fog all the time, always have problems with patterns.Do not under sell yourself.Spin off arrived send me your postal details so I can forward next week when in town

  6. I am learning all the time about the process of knitting, and your post is an important addition. I thought I could knit under almost any circumstances, using the technique of always having a graded range of wips, but no. Recently a serious bereavement, expected, left my fingers feeling completely without muscle memory and my brain fog bound. It was an alarming situation, and I have picked up again, but only partially–stocking stitch is giving me unaccustomed trouble, so I have back tracked and cast on 255 stitches for a length of garter stitch knitting. I don’t know where this will take me. Patient gentleness with ourselves is a key lesson to learn, to show our children, and share with the world as you have done. Thank you for this reminder to give myself time.

    • Dear Carol, I am very sorry to hear about your loss and indeed the loss of the knitting solace that often takes us through such times. How wise to return to the womb of garter stitch…from that place good things come.

  7. Oh, the fog! I sat in bed and knitted endless pairs of Cookie A’s Monkey socks in those first few months after my bike accident. Sewing took much longer to emerge, and I still get quite bewildered by it sometimes; I can’t even contemplate sewing if I’m tired. I still get a little bit foggy around the edges, two years later.

    I can’t wait to see what your glorious green knitting turns out to be. Plain knitting may not be exciting intellectually, but the rhythm of the stitches feels like it’s doing good. x

    • Oh Penelope, that sounds like it was probably a very serious bike accident and a very arduous recovery. There must be something quite protective in the brain that it just shuts down the peripheral functioning when faced with significant injury, illness or grief. We are so used to functioning at a particularly level, it feels like an irritating and useless condition but I guess it is actually a rather marvellous response on the part of our brain. Perhaps Monkey should be my next cast on.

  8. Rebecca, thank you so much for sharing your feelings about your work and your life. Lots of us face problems that force us to rethink our approach to different things. I imagine that we all go through a fog of some kind during our lives and do the best we can to emerge on the other side in much better shape.

  9. Your observations of working “under the fog” are very good and I would think very helpful to others who may have had or are having similar symptoms. So, thank you for sharing. I can relate somewhat. I used to knit quite complicated knitting patterns but since I have been working in the legal field composing detailed documents and correspondence, I prefer simpler thought-free knitting such as garter stitch or 2 to 4-row patterned lace, because I think my brain has been taxed enough. Also, typing nearly all day, my hands don’t feel much like working again in the evenings. I hope that will remedy in time too.

    • Thank you Marilyn, and here again, it seems our brain is doing us favour, cutting out the clutter and creating space and balance. Well done you for just going with this and seeing as a moment in time rather than something to fight against.

  10. I’m still impressed that you can get a blog post done. Power on with your well-considered knitting – what you have learned will surely help others who struggle with concentration issues. I can imagine whole fields of research dedicated to helping people with challenges enjoy creative activities tailored to them. I took a class taught by a blind knitter, on the techniques he used to be able to make hats, sweaters, shawls etc. It was fascinating how people can adapt their techniques and output to make it possible to enjoy activities that they love. I hope you get out of the fog soon.

    • Dear Frith, how fascinating to be taught by teacher with such a different perspective and experience of knitting. It is a good sign that I am posting more regularly, it was one of the things I needed to work towards. The magic of internet cleverly conceals the four weeks it actually took me to get it together and the fist batch of photographs I deleted forever through confusion of what used to be a routine task. Small steps!

  11. When I am ill (as now – I have a dreadful migraine, thanks to the tropical storm drenching us all this week), I find simple stripes in stockinette, whether with a self-striping yarn or several colors, an easy effort. A hap like the one you’re knitting would be something I could tackle, right now. The socks – no, even a simple lace, especially at a heel turn, would be a Bad Idea. I have a Bloom by Georgie Nicholson baby tunic to finish for our church missionary team to take to an earthquake victim in Nepal, so no rest there. Combing a few nests of fiber, listening to a recorded book that doesn’t require too much thought or attention, is helpful. Oh, and the absolute best (imho) music in the world if you want to r-e-s-t, is the Adagio from Mozart’s Violin Concerto #3 in G, K216.

    I hope you continue to recuperate. Give yourself permission to go slow. Sympathies for your bereavement. We just lost a dear sweet old uncle, and went to his memorial service last Sunday.

    • Dear Sophy, how well you tailor your knitting and restful activities to your capacity at any one time. Thank you for the recommendation of Mozart, I will certainly try it. I have never been someone who actually stopped to listen to music before but I am now. Arvo Part has been my chosen companion but I am sure he wouldn’t mind sharing with Mozart!

  12. I’m happy to hear you found the ways to knit with the fog, and so good of you to share your ways for others to navigate too.

  13. Brilliant! You always find a way don’t you? Those were very clear ideas and
    plans and will be helpful to all, fog or not!! That shawl is my fave also!!

  14. Fog is a serious trickster, isn’t it? Coming and going, giving just enough clarity to feel it’s lifted, then BAM! it’s back.

    I’m so pleased the Low Tide anklets provided you with something that was manageable, and that the pattern didn’t cause any mental contention. That makes me very happy to hear, for you. I hope the finished socks are keeping your toes warm too, now the weather has once again turned (a bit of a trickster itself, this Melbourne weather!)

    • Dear Kylie, You are certainly right about the trickster of Melbourne weather, we are plunged into full winter again. I confess, I have not worn my Low Tide socks yet, I am still at the looking-at-them and too-precious-to-wear stage, still quite amazing and grateful to have actually managed socks.

  15. How wise and sensible and instructive to work with your available energy rather than against it. The creativity of limits. So glad you’ve found a way to keep knitting and wishing you increasingly clearer, less foggy days!

  16. I am so glad you can knit at all – may the fog clear soon!

  17. Aha! We see your brilliant strategic thinking has returned. You clever, (sometimes tuckered out) person. It appears from this post that your needles were never far away.

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