affirming


I have to confess that I was rather nervous about my Dublin trip beforehand. It was the first time I’ve been away on my own since my stroke and, though I feel embarrassed to admit it, this was the source of some trepidation. While I am perfectly happy pottering about alone in my locale, every time I am in an unfamiliar public space, I am produced all over again as a person with a brain injury. In public spaces, one becomes hyper-conscious of the annoying slowness and awkwardness of one’s body, and the difficulty of one’s brain in coping with a confusing range of stimuli. There is an awful lot to do (manage bags, negotiate doorways, steps, and other people’s bodies) and there is an awful lot to take in (lighting, background noise, different voices, spoken and written information). Before my stroke I was a person with an able body and brain, and, though I didn’t think of myself as such, I was intrepid, fearless, energetic. Now I am a person whose brain is quickly exhausted by auditory/ visual stimuli, and who also has a few minor disabilities. All these things accrue into a feeling of intense vulnerability in public spaces. One of the worst things about a stroke, it seems to me, is the way in which it can undermine one’s confidence and sense of independence. But I value my independence immensely, and, 18 months after my stroke, it was time to give things a go in Dublin. Was I going to be OK?

Of course I was. I travelled on planes, trams, buses, and taxis. I got myself to and from a hotel. I walked about the streets of an unfamiliar city. I pottered around the sights and shops just like I used to.


(I am still becoming accustomed to this camera, which is lighter and much easier to carry than my heavy canon).

I am not saying it was all a breeze, because it wasn’t. But things were made infinitely more breezy because of the lovely folk at This is Knit. I immediately felt not just welcome, but completely at home.

After you walk through the door and meet Jacqui and Lisa, it doesn’t take very long to spot that This is Knit is the very best kind of yarn store – one that acts as the supportive focus of a whole knitterly community. I got to meet that community at a special event – their annual yarn tasting!

This is the loft before:

and after:

Everyone settled down to enjoy some tasty yarn

I had a great evening, and even managed to say a few words to the assembled throng (this was another significant first for me, since I’ve not spoken in public since my stroke). It felt important that I was able to thank the knitters who made my blanket. It was amazing to spend time with them – they really are a lovely bunch of women.

Another highlight of the evening was getting to meet Carol Feller, whose designs I’ve long admired. Carol was launching her new book — Contemporary Irish Knits (of which more another time).


(With a little help from Eimar, Carol demonstrates Kilorglin’s neat and ingenious construction)

I am sure everyone who was at the yarn tasting enjoyed themselves in their own way, but for me it was an incredibly affirming occasion. Not only was I taking a significant step towards regaining my independence, but it was the first time I’d attended an ‘event’ of any kind as the designing, writing, post-stroke me. It felt quite momentous and was, at times very moving to meet people who read my words and knit my sweaters. It also means a lot that I was able to do this among a group of people that I really like, and know that I will see again. So a massive, affirming THANKYOU to Lisa, Jacqui, Siobhán, Elana, Roseanne, Karen, Keiko, Eimar . . .


. . . and, of course, José.

51 responses

  1. So glad to hear that your Dublin trip went well and was so affirming. I do empathise with your apprehension beforehand as I often have similar reactions related to epilepsy and brain-fog in new situations – there’s only so much one’s brain can deal with at once, I find but generally muddle through alright :)

  2. Oh my goodness what a wonderful chapter in your amazing story this trip turned out to be. I am thrilled to hear this news and to read of your special moments. Congratulations.

  3. Kate, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you this week (and to touch up some of your patterns in person). Somehow I didn’t realise what a big step this trip was for you in your recovery & I’m delighted it was a positive experience for you. Oh, and I got my own petticoat in a vintage store today so can flash you my undergarments next time you visit ;)

  4. That’s wonderful news that you managed all that alone. Well done, I am impressed. What a lot of lovely ladies you met. Did you take your blanket with you as you said you would or was it to much to carry?

  5. It is so weird to hear you talk about how it is for you after your stroke.
    It is such a de ja vu for me. I have never heard anyone else talk about all these difficulties, worries and feelings in such detailes before. It is so supporting.
    At the same time I feel like crying and laughing.
    I feel so proud on your behalf.
    You are so tough!

  6. Just wanted to say I love the self-portrait with the flowers in your hair…I think it is absolutely lovely, girly, grown-up, mysterious, crazy, romantic, daring…everything at the same time.
    griseldis (who is always surrounded by serious people, who do not even wear hats, let alone flowers…)

  7. Aw, we liked you tons too! And I’m still sorry about the CanCan. One day, I hope you’ll forgive me :D.

    Come back anytime. We’ll keep your seat warm for you. <3

  8. Good for you!
    I am glad that trip worked out so well!
    I had to organize a lecture series on neuroscience and philosophy a couple of years ago, and being a Humanities person myself, what impressed me most was the incredible plasticity of the brain – what it can do. What it does. In every microsecond. And how little we know about it, and appreciate it, until one part of it suddenly “fails”. And then, again, how much the brain can readjust – yet again. It is, truly, miraculous. Immediately I began to wonder why I had studied art history and not neuroscience – but then again: everything is interesting. So I chose the right subject after all.
    what I wanted to say before I started rambling:
    I admire you very much. All the best to you!

  9. i have only found your blog recently so i didn`t know about your stroke. i am very sorry to heat that. at the same time i think your are very brave for taking the first step to travel AND public speak on your own. i am 39, never had a stroke, but i would be terrified to do both. l look up to you : )

  10. It really was sure a complete pleasure to have you visit Kate. And we really, seriously meant it when we said we wanted to “keep” you! You have such a wonderful, friendly, open personality and you warmed to (and embraced) our general craziness with such natural grace and enthusiasm :) Please come back any time (and many times)! :D

  11. It looked like a wonderful event. Tea and knitting and great company. I glad you had a wonderful and affirming time. It was great to read about it. What kind of camera do you have? My digital SLR is rather cumbersome as well, and I would like a smaller one that takes just as good pictures.

  12. Huzzah! Entirely chuffed for you. I’m on my own post brain injury journey, I know how hard this stuff is, May your recent Dublin trip be the first of many :D

  13. Well done you! Yay! You did it! I visited This is Knit before they moved into the centre of Dublin. I think I’m overdue a visit to Dublin and a chance to squish some yarn in lovely, friendly surroundings.

  14. I just wanted to say well done! It must have been a daunting prospect, but it sounds like a great personal success and meeting so many lovely people must have been a great reward. I really like your knitting patterns and intend to make your Manu cardigan my winter knitting project.

  15. Kate I was one of the many knitters who were delighted to see your lovely knits and you of course. I didn’t know you’d had a stroke and just want to say I thought you were great with people. You spoke so kindly to all the fangirls and I enjoyed hearing you speak to the group too. Its a bit like your tortoise and hare jumper, you probably feel a bit tortoisy compared to the way you approached life previously, but you need both animals for the story, and the pattern.

  16. Argh – I can’t believe I didn’t manage to locate This is Knit when I was in Dublin back in 2007. Yet another reason to try and make a return visit.

    Glad you had an enjoyable and affirming trip.

  17. Great writing again Kate. Glad that you enjoyed your trip and visiting.
    I suffer from severe allergy to all chemical perfume fragrances/artificial fragrances, and I feel overwhelmed when I try to go to, anywhere for that matter. I would love to join in and be able to partake in events like you describe, but the toxic fragrances which circulate everywhere, mostly, make it impossible.

  18. I LOVE José! Do you have any information on where to find directions for making him? I always find that when I face fear and am successful, my self esteem is great. Congratulations on your maiden solo trip despite the early trepidation!

  19. Kate, That was beautiful! I’m so happy for you. Although it’s not a stroke, I’ve had a problem with vertigo and distorted vision for almost a year now that the doctors can’t seem to figure out. Even going to the store is stressful, because I can’t see normally and people are brushing by me and can’t tell that I can’t navigate them very easily. In a small way, then, I can imagine what you were fearing when venturing out in public. You’re fantastic!

  20. Doesn’t it feel good when you cope – on our first trip to Indonesia, Malcolm’s work plans were changed and I had to come home on my own …… coping with flying long haul and changing terminals at Heathrow gave me such a boost to my confidence that some years later I literally flew round the world! I love my Lumix – even more so since I got the big zoom lens recently. It’s light enough to use one-handed, and even a technophobe like me can get to grips with it.

  21. I’m so glad you had such a good trip and I just wanted to say thank you for so openly sharing about your stroke and the way it has affected you and how you are getting on with life now. Life happens, and we can’t control it, and when something happens one has to adjust and I appreciate hearing how you have.

  22. HEY KATE – yea for you !– chock one more on the board for you ,on the recovery road – you must feel such a sense of accomplishment , and so pleased at being able to enjoy the company of fellow knitters and designers – glad it went well

    best pat

  23. I’m so pleased to see you progressing and being so brave. Nice one letting us get a glimpse of that blanket (again)–I missed it the first go around, and I am knocked out by it–those ladies are artists.

  24. I am so happy that you had such a great trip to Ireland – everyone looks so friendly and the cups of tea seemed to be flowing nicely. In fact, your post is a joy to read.

  25. Kate,
    It was a huge pleasure to meet you, and to see and fondle some of your works. Same as Eimear, I didn’t realise this trip had such a significance and meaning to you, and it’s a great honour that we could make a wee bit of contribution to it. You brought us a positive and friendly vibes, your presence brightened up already the cozy place even more, and I’m sure you left here with more fans of you and your works behind. Thank you again for coming over, and looking forward to your next visit!

  26. Chances are that someone has already covered this, but I think you are as intrepid and fearless after your stroke as you were before. At times, you may not be as energetic, but you are always an inspiration for your strength, honesty, creativity, and knitterly prowess. Gosh.

  27. I’m so pleased your visit went well. Wish I could have been there. It’s a year now since we moved from Dublin to Seattle. There are lots of good things I miss about Dublin and the This Is Knit shop is one of them. I knew those ladies long before they were in Powerscourt Townhouse. I’m so pleased that their business is flourishing.

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