Hats and heartbreak


One of my darling friends has hit a rough patch in life.  Maybe the last she will have to face, but you know how hard those things are to predict.  You may have detected this from the knitting in hospitals that I’ve mentioned a few times.  But now we’ve passed that stage.  Her family decided to move her to a nursing home nearer where they live, and far from where I live.  It’s one of those tough situations where my friend isn’t able to make big decisions for herself at present, and she has been fragile and struggling for too long.  It’s likely she will not be able to live independently again, and supporting her from far away has been very hard for her family, while many of her friends have struggles of their own that make it difficult for them to visit her.  Some of them are no longer very mobile themselves.  In this way she will be nearer three generations of her family and meet great grandchildren she has never been able to see.


I met her at handspinners’ guild, and when I first met her she was knitting a complex Aran sweater for one of her sons (her sons are about the age of my parents, some of them are older). In recent years she has knit the same distinctive hat over and over again, and then sometimes I’ve driven her to Guild and she has enjoyed the company and sat with her knitting in her hands.  She has been unable to spin for a few years now, and couldn’t face knitting in the recent times I’ve visited her in hospital wards and nursing homes.

2017-09-17 10.57.37

Finally one of her sons and one of her daughters-in-law came here to clear out her beloved and now empty home. They were overcome by the task of figuring out what to do with her fibre stash and it was something I could do to help, to figure out how to manage that.  I spoke with her a couple of times about what she would like to happen but she couldn’t bring herself to care much.  Those wishes that she expressed to me or to her family, were all honoured.  I met that part of her family, we shared a little of our mutual grief and some of our happy experiences of our shared human treasure, and then I took away fabric, spinning equipment, wool in every stage from raw fleece to rovings and batts to spun yarn, and so much more.  Like the inside of her home, everything was impeccably organised and meticulously stored.

2017-09-22 08.46.10

I’ve organised for equipment to go to people who can use it or to the Guild for resale.  Yarns have gone to knitters–the vibrant rainbow-dyed yarns she favoured creating in the last few years to people who love colour; the mohair collection to someone who delights in mohair; fleeces were sold at the Guild to people who will appreciate and spin them; and equipment for all manner of crafts she enjoyed over the decades has been passed on to people who will use and enjoy it.  Her sewing machine is in the shop for repair prior to rehoming.  The electric spinner she never really made friends with has gone to someone else who is finding treadling harder and more painful (just as she did) and who can return to loving spinning as I result, I hope.


In the meantime, I’ve found myself spinning all kinds of fibres from her stash, starting with small quantities of things that didn’t seem sensible to try to re-home. I’ve also been knitting hats from smaller quantities of her undyed handspun and some of the small balls of rainbow dyed yarn that didn’t fit into the packs that went to people who love to knit.  It has felt like a way to hold her in my mind in these times when she is suffering and yet hard to reach.  She has suffered a further injury and is back in hospital far away and in such difficulty she is hard to understand on the phone.  So, here’s to Joyce, her sense of humour, her enjoyment of wool and her love for a snug hat.



Filed under Knitting, Spinning

19 responses to “Hats and heartbreak

  1. Wonderful, and yet terrible. I am feeling that just as I pack up this my beloved house and garden. At times I don’t really care what happens. My feeling at the moment is get it all packed, then sort. Still no house to go to. You sound such a lovely caring friend.


    • Hello Penny, I think this is the kind of response that shows how overwhelmed you’re feeling. It is fine to sort after you move if that is what you’re able to do. And it would be fine to have some company and help as you sort, too! I hope you won’t do it on your own. I hope you will find a house soon so that there will be one big thing sorted out and you can begin to plan again.


  2. Baukje

    Thank you so much for this emotional post full with love for your friend. You did a very good thing to help her family to find places and people for her beloved things. I hope there is someone so sweet as you are to do those things for me when i cannot do this anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Baukje. I think we all hope to have friendship and love around us when we are unable to do things for ourselves anymore. I hope this will be a reality in your life, should this ever happen for you.


  3. Khendra

    Such beautiful hats! And such a sad and at the same time beautiful story behind them. I am glad your friend has people who care for them and a good friend like you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Khendra! It’s good to be able to be there in our friends’ hard times, even thought it’s hard to watch them suffer. I do think that companionship in suffering is deeply important. I’m glad to do what I can figure out.


  4. SubmarineBells

    Lets raise a glass to Joyce! She is much missed at the Wednesday night Guild gatherings, for sure. Thanks for reminding me that I was going to send her a letter with those photos I took for her at the Weekend Away a few weeks ago. I’ve now printed them up and will mail them off to her tomorrow. As I said to her in the letter: I think of her whenever I use her electric spinner now. I hope it pleases her to know that her fibrecrafting treasures are now bringing joy to others.

    She’s had such a rough run of things lately; I hope that she can find some comfort and ease soon. .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Rebecca

    An evocative tribute to a skilled friend. I can hear your grief but the way you honour her in thoughtful makings with her precious materials is so moving.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. jilloy

    Your post rings so true for me. My old spinning friend has met a similar fate. I will miss our conversations that connected us on so many levels. I too have some of her washed snowy fleece to spin and remember her. Her greatest joy was dyeing with fungi.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, Jilloy, I am sorry to hear that. It is good to have shared joys and connected with someone, and when that is no longer possible–the goodness of happy times, closeness and experiences shared does not change. But it’s hard that the context changes. I hope you’re finding her fleece some small comfort in the face of this loss. Something to touch and hold is a help to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. secretdiaryofajumper

    I will miss her dearly. I still remember her joyfully telling me that we are infact distantly related by marriage through Brenton’s family. I’m gald that she has had you there to help her through the move and sort out her beloved fibre stash.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A beautiful post, Rebecca. Small gestures adding up to endless love and goodwill for your friend who right now needs it more than ever. Bringing joy to grief is a tough job, but you’ve made it sound easy and practical.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. chrissy guzzi

    Lovely post about a friend you will miss so very much. I like to be practical in my help in ensuring a person’s belongings that they loved don’t end up at the tip but become part of someone else’s life. My mum is now in aged care and I know that I need to sort and redistribute but there is no hurry and it reminds me that I need to enjoy the fibres and fabrics and tools that I have accumulated now not save them for later. Well done.


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