Knitting with Love

This post first aired in August 2011. Since then, my dear friend Jay Lake passed on June 1, 2014. My beloved relative still continues her fight against the demon cancer with grace and chemo caps. Now I have another friend battling cancer. I made her a bright purple and a lovely teal cap.

Sometimes all we can do is knit, pushing love and healing energy into each stitch. As the gift giving and insane shopping season  descends upon us once again, I need to contemplate the gifts we give and receive all through the year. The gifts of love, and help, and support in times of desperation.

By Phyllis Irene Radford

Sometimes I have to knit to maintain a certain level of insanity, as in complex cable knits or lace patterns. Sometimes I have to knit for sanity.  This past year I’ve had a dear friend and a beloved relative diagnosed with cancer.  I am not in a position to drive them to appointments, hold their hands, or cook enticing dishes for them as they battle their treatments as well as their disease.

hatsWhat I can do is knit interesting caps for them to help cover the ravages of chemotherapy.

A friend from my knitting club gave me a pattern I love from “Twig Lace Cap.”  The symbolism of the Tree of Life for health and long life, and the Lobster Claw for prosperity seem most appropriate for cancer patients.

The first ones I made in worsted weight acrylic.  The yarn is stretchy and bulky so I got away with using one size smaller than the pattern required.  Those were the sizes I had on hand.  The bulk suited the man I knit them for.  For my beloved relative, female, I wanted something a little more delicate.  A friend cleared out her stash and found multiple skeins of yarn from Ivoro in a sport weight and not nearly as stretchy.  I had to up my needle size to the pattern requirements.  It is 40% silk, 30% cashmere, 20% lambswool, and 10% nylon and works up wonderfully, though the lambswool and cashmere might not be appropriate for people with sensitive skin or allergies. 

There is something miraculous about silk in the way it “wants” to become the pattern.  I love working with it.  My first professional sale of a nonfiction article examined a lace veil in a historical museum made in black silk.  I described the texture as soothing as cool water flowing over a tired hand.

Yeah, silk is like that.

Brenda Clough sent me the following links for more ideas and yarns for chemo caps. There are websites that actually rate the yarn for chemo caps, so it would be worth scouting around. Here’s one: offers a number of reasonably priced blends–have a look at their bamboo-silk combo:

The important part of these caps is not the silk or the acrylic, or matching the colors to the personality of the recipient.  For me, the sanity saving part of this exercise is working each stitch with love and prayers for healing.

Phyllis Irene Radford is a founding member of the Book View Café.  Though raised in the seaports of America, she was born in Portland, Oregon and has lived in and around the city since her junior year in high school.  She thrives in the damp and loves the tall trees.

For more about her and her fiction please visit her bookshelf here on BVC

Or her personal web page


About Phyllis Irene Radford

Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species—a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon—she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck. A museum trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family she grew up all over the US and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history, to spiritual meditations, to space stations, and a whole lot in between. Mostly Irene writes fantasy and historical fantasy including the best-selling Dragon Nimbus Series and the masterwork Merlin’s Descendants series. In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P.R. Frost or Phyllis Ames, and space opera as C.F. Bentley. Later this year she ventures into Steampunk as someone else. If you wish information on the latest releases from Ms Radford, under any of her pen names, you can subscribe to her newsletter: Promises of no spam, merely occasional updates and news of personal appearances.


Knitting with Love — 4 Comments

  1. I am told that there are ins and outs to chemo caps that only the patients know — like if their scalps are tender or itchy. All this affects stitch choice and yarn selection. Elann sells a cotton/spandex sport-weight that is highly rated, reasonably priced and comes in a rainbow of colors.

  2. Since the last time this post appeared, the lady I was knitting chemo caps for has passed away. Her husband kept the caps all this time, until he passed away this past month. His daughter found them while going through all the stuff in the house, and gave them back to me. I passed them to another friend who is going for a bone marrow transplant in the new year. So these things do last!

  3. I’m sure the love pressed softly yet firmly against one’s skin is a sensory blessing, as well as the knowledge of time and skill that went into its making.