I have knit socks in the past. My first pair of socks were tube socks which don’t have a heel but are knit in the round until they are deemed long enough to start the toe decreases. The kirchner stitch is used to join the stitches at the toe. This was over forty years ago. I was working as a nurse’s aide on the night shift in an extended care facility with another aide, Lila and a registered nurse, Sarah. Lila and Sarah would sit and knit in between bed checks and Lila made tube socks by the dozens. She taught me using four double pointed needles and she wrote out the directions for the kirchner stitch.
I came across Lila’s handwritten instructions in an old knitting bag recently. I remember knitting through the January nights during my semester breaks from college. The three of us sat in the dimly lit nurse’s station, our heads bent over our knitting, the wards quiet and still our needles clicking away. We didn’t talk much but one of us would mention that Mr. Lewis didn’t seem to be doing well. We would nod, and then knit for a while. Sarah would say, maybe we could try elastic stockings on his legs to make him more comfortable and Lila would write a note in his chart and we would all go back to knitting.
Knitting was our prayer for those in our care. We didn’t need to say much. We were all in the same space, focused on the person we had decided to bring up to the group. Knitting was the context of our conversation, the calming medium that allowed us to figure out new ways of caring for our patients.
It was an exciting night when I had finally decreased to the point where I was ready to join the remaining stitches and make a toe. Lila lined up an equal number of stitches on two doubled pointed needles. She threaded a needle and started going in and out purlwise and knitwise. This is how you join the two sides together, she told me. You do it with patience and love. I still feel her breath on my cheek, her face close to mine, and I hear her calm soft voice coaching me how to close the gap. It was that same calm voice that would whisper soothing words to the patients that were in hospice care. Many nights she would station herself next to the bed of someone who was close to dying. I would join her in her vigil, and we would knit silently, getting up to make sure the person was comfortable, changing sheets, adjusting blankets, and simply being present. Our knitting kept us present.
Lila and Sarah had been working at the Extended Care Facility for years. They had adapted to working the 11pm to 7am shift. Their knitting was their prayer, their way of being present, and their way of helping me become aware of how I could close the gaps of loneliness for others by being that calm quiet presence.
Project update: 4 rows of seed stitch and 2 set up rows and Pattern rows 1-2 of pattern #56 Japanese stitch bible.