The post-stroke rollercoaster continues. Shetland came at a great time, as I am currently having to deal with yet more life-changing gubbins, namely the fact that I will probably never be able to do an academic job again. I have spent sixteen months trying my hardest to get better, but I now have to deal with the likelihood that working in a University will always be too much for me. Having spent two thirds of my life training to be an academic, and the other third being one, this really feels rather strange. But it is something I have to face, just like I have to face that I am now a slow, slightly lame, easily confused, and constantly tired person. Soon, it will be my birthday. The prospect of this would usually turn me into a total loon, but for the first time in my life I find that I am completely uninterested in it. I intend to ignore this event, and am focusing my energies on things I actually can do. I shall get Warriston out by the end of the week. Mel’s version (which made me want to knit myself a deep blue sweater immediately) gives a very good sense of the fit of the final pattern (which I have made ever-so-slightly less baggy than my prototype).


The other elements are exactly the same, though:



Her sweater is ravelled here.

If all goes to plan, the Warriston pattern will also include a surprise. Watch this space, folks. . .

105 thoughts on “stay tuned. . .

  1. During the pits of a tragic event in my life, I found that even thinking about the future, hopes, dreams and all that just made me angry. To be Buddist about it: sometimes life sucks. That may sound facile, but I admire a person for being able to admit that things as they are stink and all the positive thinking in the world ain’t going to change. Our world is so caught up in inspiring stories of courage (and your is one of those too, by the way), but it takes a tough person to face down despair too. As I see it, you are living two stories right now, one of progress and repair. The other is the roller coaster of hope and disappointment, dreams and reality. I do have to say, I admire someone like you who can face the music (and not the hollywood soundtrack) and dance.

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  2. Dear Kate, for some time I have been reading your blog. I like your fotos and your patterns. Also I’m very thankful for it. Your courage always helps me, when I’m down. Brought down by a burnout at the very moment when I finally got a job as a Professor I’m feeling with you. Even if this is 4 years back in the past I’m still not well.
    And it is clear that I never will recover completely, what means: farewell to the academic plans.
    It’s like you said –a roller coaster. I hate it not being confident in my strength and healthyness. Often I loose whole days with fatigue and headaches; I’m only able to lie on a sofa then, waiting until it is over. Reading how you cope with your changed life and how well you are doing it helps me a lot. I enjoy especially your affectionate views of lanscape and nature around you. I do believe that nice things have a healing power. Thank you. Good luck for your new journal. Eva.

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  3. Warriston looks fabulous, I’ll definitely be knitting this. I’m so sorry to hear about your stroke, I didn’t know, it must be very hard for you, especially as you love going for long walks, from what I’ve seen in your previous blog posts. You are being very brave about your situation, and a good example to the rest of us who might sometimes think we have a hard lot, I admire your positivity. Vanessa xxx

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  4. Hi, Kate. What incredible readers you have! I’ve learned so much just from reading the comments (as someone having experienced both a derailed academic life and who currently has an illness that is work-challenging (not as serious as yours, but I am only a few years older than you are and so it has still been a blow). You have so many gifts and you are doing so brilliantly. I have every confidence that your future will unfold beautifully. I wish you continued healing and happiness.

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  5. Dear Kate, so much has been said already, but I’m going to throw my bit in as well. I thought I was on track for an academic career, after one degree it seemed only logical to go for another and head down the path to becoming a professor. I decided to do an extra year of classes to flesh out my transcripts after my bachelor’s. During that time I realized that any chance I got to do something creative I dove right in, ignoring everything else. I also realized that an academic career would be so structured, so political, that it would never satisfy my right brain and it certainly was not helping my panic disorder. Much to the disappointment of my family I left university for two years in art school, and while my art doesn’t make me very much money right now it more than pays for itself and I have been fortunate to find flexible employment to pay for everything else. Your blog combines the creative with the academic in such a complete way, I am continuously thankful for having found it. I have to agree with the other posts here that encourage you to continue writing on subjects that you want to write on. Things will work themselves out. And we will continue to buy your patterns and look forward to your lovely photos and posts.

    When one of my friends graduated I wrote in her card that ” no institution ever gives you more than a day pass”. Whether you continue to work directly in academia or not it has changed you and that cannot be undone. It has given you skills that you will continue to use for the rest of your life, sometimes in a most unexpected way.

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  6. I’ve been thinking about your post a lot. It’s just too soon to know yet whether you will return to work. My better half is the union rep for grievances at his university, and even with a contract and the protections of tenure, at any rank, the best they offer for medical leave is 160 working days. Everyone knows sometimes it’s just not enough. Of course, in more decent and humane times a short-term administrative post might have been devised… But I’m certain if you were to go on the dreaded job market in the future, your circumstances would be viewed sympathetically, and I’m not referring to the stroke—Newcastle management’s reputation is well known (even to us across the pond!) On the other hand, by the time these [expletive]ers finish with higher education…well, who knows if anyone will want to work there !!!

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  7. As an OT, I know very well that returning to real life which unfortunately means “the same as things were before” can be a major challenge after stroke for my younger clients. Usually that involves getting back to work. You have been blessed with really excellent and ongoing medical and rehabilitative care, that I can vouch for. I have been so delighted to see you return to your knitting design and thoughtful melding of culture and fiber. I learned what “women’s material culture” is from you. You will always be an academic and be able to participate in your field. The rest of us are lucky beneficiaries of your continuing talent!

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  8. Hello Kate
    All I can say is that I love to read your blog – it is a breath of wild Scottish air blowing across the world weaving in and out and bringing with it intelligent, funny, heartrending and endearing episodes of a life, your life. What an achievement!

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  9. I hope the surprise is a Wee Wittle Warriston!! I haven’t gotten around to making my granddaughter the Mini Manu. But I think this would be easier/quicker. :)

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  10. I had been wondering about this. Academic life in the UK just now is so demanding, in contradictory ways, that you do not have to be all that slow and easily confused to struggle with it! But you are a scholar, Kate, and always will be, even if that is not (for the present, at least) within the REF obsessed, NSS driven, ‘consumer’ oriented environment of an English university. Your scholarship stands apart from all that. The archives of your blog alone would make a fabulous book.

    I do appreciate that as well as your sense of identity, there are matters of cold hard cash here, and the need to earn your living. I would find this terrifying, and I hope that things are OK for you.

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  11. It sounds glib, but a year and a half isn’t really so long, it’s taken me decades to recover from things much less serious than a stroke. It seems to me from reading your blog that you are still making plenty of progress (feeling like hell half the time -is- part of making progress, in rehab). So if you’re feeling so much fatigue now, perhaps you could think in terms of a leave of absence? It is possible that you still need so much energy to recover that you don’t have enough to also work as you should/want to otherwise. And that everything might go better if you could focus on recovery a bit longer.

    I’ve found myself in the same position though, and it can be very hard to imagine what else there can be in life besides academia. But you are a very resourceful person who obviously has a very full life, if it comes to that I have no doubt something will come up. I’m not saying that being a knit designer, a photographer or a mountain guide are your only options :-), but they exemplify the ways in which parts of yourself can come to life when there’s a vacuum to be filled. Try not to be afraid..

    I’m not much of a blue person, but that delicious sweater could change my mind :-).

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  12. I have thoroughly enjoyed your Shetland entries and photos. Several friends and I visited there in ’98 and again in 2000. We would go again in a heartbeat! Elizabeth Johnson who taught us Fair Isle & lace knitting at The Spider’s Web in Lerwick (I learned how to use her knitting belt instead!) has even been to Vermont to visit. Brought back such great memories. Thanks again. Shelagh Smith in the Green Mountains.

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  13. I am sure we always wondered at your ablity to live in Edinburgh and work in Newcastle, but it must be the hearing problem and the fatigue which are the issues for you now. You are certainly evidence of life after stroke – many of us would have difficulty walking ten miles without having had one. Your second life may be different, but there is no reason why it cannot be fulfilling.

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  14. Onward, ever onward! So much has been said; you will find the truth for yourself. You will continue to rise up. I wish you the best.

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  15. Thanks for sharing a post which a surprising number of people can relate to. It’s good to know we’re not alone. I have arthritis, which also gives me fatigue issues. Despite that, I have managed to reach the point of being half way through a PhD, only to get hit by a stress and anxiety condition which has totally derailed me. All I’ve been able to do this year is crochet :) And I’m not sure if I’ll be able to go back, or if I should go on down this new route. It’s a lot to leave behind, especially to give up half way (not good to a stubborn person like me!) but change happens. I am struggling to learn that it’s still too soon to know how I’ll be next year and it would be ridiculous to make any decisions at this point. Facing the possibility of not going back is hard to come to terms with, but brains are funny things and you never know for sure. But at least there are other options – there is life outside university! And it’s full of yarn… :)

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  16. On my thirtith birthday I was in the middle of a very messy break up with my partner of five years, and had just had surgery for melanoma. My birthday was spent alone. Every year now I gather at least a couple of the people dearest to me and do something however small. A birthday is a time to be with folk that you love, because you can’t do life alone.

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  17. Love the blue sweater, bit more fitted version, I want to knit it too.

    By writing what you wrote Kate, you are all the more stronger. You will never loose the academic skills you have aquired, and who knows what the future will bring.
    You are only young, your body will be striving for balance and healing in every way it can, truly, don’t despair. xo

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  18. These many eloquent comments say everything I would say and more, so I’m just adding my commiserations, admiration, respect and my good wishes for a fulfilling new life outside the confines of academia. Gaun yersel!

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  19. I spotted this on Ravelry this morning, and instantly faved it. Can’t wait to see the pattern published. I wonder what your surprise is too!

    Maybe your birthday will surprise you and you might enjoy it. I do hope so.

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  20. Hugs Kate. This type of change I can’t even imagine (being forced to not do what I’m trained to do because of my body). I know things will work out. Hang in there!

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  21. Kate, I’m so sorry, and I want to reiterate the other comments that you’re still an academic, a great writer, researcher and TEACHER whose thought makes massive contributions to a wide learning community. By way of example – you’ve been an inspiration to me in my not-even-fledgling academic career. I’m in the third year of my PhD, and I started reading your blog towards the beginning of my first year. I’ve had a couple of articles published, and one forthcoming – on feminism, sprituality and women’s craft – was greatly inspired by your writing; I quote you (on unpicking someone else’s stitches) at some length. So thank you so much – and I’m sure you remember how important these first few publications feel. I can send you a pdf once it’s published (in the journal Feminist Theology). I don’t know how my career will go – if indeed it will even get off the ground – but, even though the institutional aspect has been cut short, I aspire to one like yours. xxx

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  22. As a junior academic I understand what you mean about academia having been your life. However, the one thing I have learnt in my area of academia (biology) is that often working hard is not always enough-sometimes fortune, timing and life-events end up being more in control. This lack of control over the future is often what can be so hard about academia and it can become all-consuming of ones life. It does not help that there is almost no facility unlike a lot of jobs to work part-time. In this sense the system is deeply flawed in my opinion and in my field at least there are few women past post-doc stage because it is still so difficult to take a break or reduce working hours.

    However, although it is not your choice to leave, I think you have much to be positive about-firstly as others have pointed out-you are still an academic-it should be a mindset not a job and your blog posts are an inspiration-I wish I could write in such an accessible yet scholarly manner! Money can always be lost but an education never so.

    Secondly, you should be proud of your achievements in recovery itself. My father a psychologist, when asked what he is most proud of in his life, will often answer, not his education or his career where he made a difference to many people but the fact that when faced with early retirement and an extremely rare muscular disease, he managed to change from a “type A”, fast, ambitious person, to a “type B” slow and steady person. He is now very ill but I am immensely proud of how he has learnt to enjoy even small things and keep a positive mindset (especially with much family history of depression). He could easily be bitter about how he lost a marriage, a house, a lot of money, and all his retirement dreams, but instead he bought a campervan and realised at least he was now free to be ill on his terms. Of course I still wish he was not so ill, but

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  23. Every birthday since my life threatening breast cancer is another year that I am alive but I no longer have the same enthusiasm that I once had for birthdays. I can completely relate to what you are feeling.
    I’m looking forward to the new pattern. These things measure our life more than dates on a calendar.

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  24. Like many others fellow academics here, I understand how hard that realization is for you, but second or third all their reflexions on how you can still use what time you do have to do your own research and writing. Your texts in The Knitter and on this blog are at least as good now as they were before the stroke, and you should feel free to enjoy the different freedom you have now. Given the directions academia seems to be taking in most countries, I wouldn’t be surprised if as time goes by you come to find that you can actually do more of what you like than if you had been able to continue in your track.

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  25. Like many others have said, you still have that amazing brain of yours and I’ve no doubt that you will go on to bigger and better things. A new direction is not a bad thing. Don’t know about you, but I still hate it when people say “it’s only been 16 months” (we had our strokes around the same date). It feels longer than that to me and I want to be “back to normal”…! Loving the sweater :)

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  26. I too had to finish work in less than ideal circumstances and it is a difficult adjustment to make. Knitting and crochet have really helped me – you have such a talent for designing and awesome practical skills and I wish you all the very best. I am sure you know of stitchlinks – I find their approach helpful too.

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  27. I second miekje and pbmum’s comments. This may be an opportunity to work at the things you particularly liked about academia – perhaps publishing and guest lectures without the burden of teaching and all it entails. I too trained and worked as an academic and left it behind with babies at my feet. Deciding that I personally couldn’t be both an academic and a mother was a horrendous decision after working so hard for all those degrees, but I don’t regret it now. I know your situation is different from mine, but I know that, like me, you will always be an academic, whether you work at a University or not.
    Also, I love you new jersey and I hope you continue developing your ideas re designing your own hiking pieces that would rival those produced by the likes of Icebreaker (though I can’t be too hard on them being a Kiwi and a wannabe sheep farmer!). I’ve wanted to do the same myself, and decided that spinning my own yarn could be the best step in that direction. Best of Luck.

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  28. So much love, and so much wise advice. Isn’t it wonderful how the world of knitting can unite so many? I don’t have much to add except that there seems to be bright red flashing sign over your knitting and writing that says “This way Kate”. I have no doubt that you can carve an amazing and satisfying future for yourself in this area. As so many have said, even if you are never formally associated with a university again (and this I doubt) you will always be an academic.

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  29. I thought I’d let you know that after my mother’s stroke (a much more damaging one than yours, physically and cognitively), she was still making gains 6 years later. She was older than you are and not in very good health, and she died 6 years after the stroke of something entirely unrelated. I have no doubt that had she lived longer her brain would have continued to adapt and repair itself and she would have continued to make progress in her recovery. Also, she did not pursue recovery or rehab with anything like the zeal you describe in your posts. If she had, I don’t know what she might have accomplished.

    The professionals told us that after the first year post-stroke she would be finished making improvements. Her gains did slow down after the initial year or so – but she made continual, noticeable progress for the rest of her life. I am not in any way presuming to know what you will be able or willing to do, but I hope this bit of anecdotal information is encouraging, whatever path you want to pursue from here.

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  30. I am so sorry that you cannot continue your academic life. I had to give up my academic life, in biophysics, because I did not get tenure (U.S). Now, I administer research grants in my former area. It is hard to give up the career for which you worked so hard. It took me 10 years to reconcile myself to my fate, and I still feel like a failure.

    I wish I had brilliant words of encouragement. I don’t. All I can think of is that you have recovered from your stroke in so many ways already that I feel confident that you will continue to find rewarding work to do and ways to express your creativity. I enjoy your blog as do so many other people.

    I think I like the looser Warriston better than the more fitted one, but then I am older and not very stylish.

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  31. I love working in academia, and I can imagine that leaving must be a big wrench.These steps and adjustments are all hard, but I think that when you’ve made them there can be a kind of release. “OK, can’t do that any more. So what can I do?” And you will continue to improve and develop, maybe in ways that will surprise you.

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  32. You have come back so well and can do so much Kate-I’m sure it is a n adjustment but one I know you can make. Someone who knits and writes and takes photos like you is very far from slow, my girl! Happy Birthday when? May I ask how old you’ll be?

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  33. Mel looks fabulous, cannot wait to see the pattern. Your blog is extrodinarily good – intereting topics, well researched, well written and I so glad you are there writing it and posting those beautiful photos. It must be really tough to face more changes that are not your choice.

    But I sure hope you keep blogging, knitting, designing, writing, taking pictures, showing us Bruce, showing us Scotland.

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  34. I am so very sorry (in the empathetic, not pitying sense) about your not being able to continue your career. As a lone lawyer who inadvertently happened to surround herself socially with academics, I understand that it is really very much more than a job, and may very well be a significant chunk of one’s identity. You have my best wishes (for what that’s worth, but I can’t quite find any other appropriate sentiment) as you try and work out what to do next.

    I would really strongly encourage you to muster up at least a little enthusiasm for your birthday, though. It’s a good day, and it usually involves cake.

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  35. While the burdens of teaching at the University may yet feel too taxing, you might consider being a guest lecturer or writing a textbook. You have such a lot of knowledge I’m sure your absence will be felt and whatever capacity you can share will be appreciated.

    In any event, this will allow you more time for your creative side. Your patterns are so beautiful, practical, and original and, selfishly, I’m sure this will be a good thing for knitting.

    Have a pint to celebrate your birthday and let tomorrow take care of itself!

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  36. Kate, when you look back on this time, I reckon you’ll see that this “end” marks the beginning of something. Knowing you, it will be something wonderful, inspirational, and creative. Take care.

    Also, tell Mel that she has a great arse!

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  37. That really sucks. I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like. But to recognise it, and write it down – that must have taken such enormous courage. And Dr-Ann’s comment maybe shows that timescale might is the biggest change. I wish I knew you well enough to write a comment such as Felix’s. I don’t, so I’ll merely echo what she says, you’re having touched my life from afar.

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  38. I’m not sure there is anything I could or would say to make you feel better. So instead I will compliment you on your lovely knitting patterns that I love, and say that I cannot wait for the release of your next one.

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  39. I’m a new reader of your blog and love it. I feel swept away to Scotland by each post and hope to visit the country soon. It must be quite an interesting and difficult time for you as you come to terms with your limitations and opportunities. There is certainly a sense of loss that accompanies major life changes like you are experiencing and you seem to be open to the learnings that come as well. I am waiting with bated breath for your upcoming pattern….I’ve been checking every day just in case it’s THE day of release. Can’t wait!

    Sharon in Vermont

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  40. Dear Kate,
    Thank you so much for sharing your ups and downs of life with us all. Your posts bring a smile, a tear, a warm feeling, intense travel desire to go to the Shetlands, and intense desire to knit your latest design!! Much love :)

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  41. I think your latest pattern is great. I too have been coping with a life changing illness. Although it is not as severe as yours I understand how hard it is to struggle through everyday life with pain and constant fatigue. I have been able to keep working (I also work in academia) with the help and support of my colleagues and my employer, but that may not always be the case. None of us know what the future holds. You are immensely talented and have a great strength of character, I am sure that you will excell whatever path you take. Enjoy your Birthday. I know that they can be a bit depressing sometimes but just take the time to really appreciate what you have already acheived against very severe odds, and be proud of yourself.

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  42. As someone who has suffered from ME/Chronic fatigue for many years, I can really relate to the feelings of loss for the life you had planned for yourself. While your symptoms stem from a different ailment, the way you describe your fatigue, the confusion (with ME we call it Brain Fog) sounds so familiar. At one point I was unable to work and have steadily built up to working 4 days a week, it has been slow progress, but I am now able to hold down a challenging and busy job.
    So what I would say is hang on in there, It has only been 16 months, your are still in transition and I am sure you will find your niche. I doubt very much that your years of training have gone to waste. Just reading your blog is such an inspiration, I have learnt so much from you and your patterns are beautiful. Both are achievements to be proud of.

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  43. I had wondered if you would be going back to the academic life… and I know your decision must be a hard one to make. You spend so much time working towards this life and then to have everything change so abruptly…. I am an academic, in a traditional job (at a small American University) and many of my friends have left the academy– in their cases most of them because they could not find work, and were tired of part-timing it for no benefits and lower pay than what they would get flipping burgers. It is hard when you are “forced out” in a sense because you could not find work, or became ill. It is okay to mourn that loss, because it was a significant part of you. I have to say, ever since I started reading your blog I had thought to myself “I wish she was my colleague. I bet we would get along great.” I am also sure that your colleagues (despite how fraught academic politics can be) are also going to miss you. And your students. But everyone I know who has left is happier now. For some it took time to adjust but everyone found meaningful lives outside the academy.

    But on the flip side, you can write books (and I would love to see someone with your training take on the creation of a “History of Fiber Arts” tome) at your own pace and your own speed. You can publish patterns, and even pattern collections. You can travel (as your health permits) to knitting conferences. And you have a loving family and a whole host of “invisible” internet friends. And an awesome dog, cat, partner, and a camper-van :)

    Also, I love the blue sweater. Just LOVE the way it came out on Mel. I wish I would have use for such a gorgeous sweater… keep posting those cool photos of your misty homeland. It is 100 + here in South Texas and everything is dry and cracked. We have had no rain since fall,and are under severe water restrictions so I love escaping to the pictures on your blog…

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    1. I am seconding that wish to see you write a History of Fiber Arts book. Pretty please :0) Your writing is beautiful and your research interesting. I would buy it on publication day.

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  44. Like pbmum and legions of other women, I found myself unable to reconcile my ambitious, driven academic self with the mother I became when my daughter was born. That was almost four years ago, and I’m still not quite over the shock. But the bitter disappoinrment I felt initially in myself has since subsided, and I now find that I haven’t completely abandoned my career as a scholar of Translation Studies after all: I’ve moved it to a space which allows for a kinder, gentler pace and allows me to be a mother first and foremost. Like you, I’m still thinking, researching and writing. And like you, I’m also putting some of my efforts into a practical form (well, if you can call translating a novel a practical exercise!). As I sit here rocking my daughter while she naps, and feel my second child gently kicking inside her temporary home, my heart goes out to you. What you’re going through may feel like a fall right now, but I know a lot of us are very grateful for the form your work has taken these past month. Thank you for sharing your incredible talents with us.

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  45. I think birthdays are great things (and I’ve had quite a lot more than you!).We always make a fuss for our birthdays – after all, we are celebrating that we have completed another year of life, and are ready to tackle the next one!!

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  46. independent scholarship means much more time to write and publish. if you feel like it. don’t let your publishing contacts go, if at all possible. think about attending conferences and giving papers independently. i’ve done it and it’s easy. you can pursue as much or as little of a scholarly career as you like, minus the students and the money. (one professor in my family who is really an art historian as opposed to a teacher said all her best ideas came to her in the actual process of teaching, so that’s something to think about.)
    you are doing so marvelously well that i have every faith every minute of your live will be enjoyed by you and a blessing to everyone with whom you come into contact.
    xxx

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    1. ….”life”…. is what i mean.
      additionally, and this is a huge secret, i know a significantly handicapped PhD whose boyfriend of 25 years writes all her academic papers for her. she does all the research, but her mental health (MPD) prevents her from committing it to paper. ergo.

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  47. Oh, Kate…. I’m so sorry. This is a hard change, and must be disheartening.

    I think, however, that once you’ve been an academic, you will always be an academic. The thought patterns and skills you have developed do not go away because your employment changes. But who says that you can’t be an academic outside the academy? Just as there were gentleman scientists, why can’t there be a gentlewoman academic named Kate? I am absolutely CERTAIN that Gentlewoman Kate can write brilliant books.

    Take care and happiest of happy birthdays! Though I have never met you, I am terrifically glad that you walk this earth!

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  48. So sorry Kate. Sometimes life is shit (please pardon my language!) but out of the shittiness will come something new and exciting and although you will mourn the loss of one life, another life will emerge. You are strong and bold and gutsy and you will find your way through this eventually. Hang on in there.

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  49. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to deal with the aftermath of a stroke, but I do know about life throwing it’s zingers at you. After I had my son, I was sure I would jump back into career life. When he showed signs of big development delays, I knew I had to change gears and spend my energies on helping him. Today he’s a happy, artistic, academically successful and delightful teenager. And I’m a glass artist. I don’t think I would ever have found what my true passions in life were if I had not been knocked off my center.

    For what it’s worth, I wish you the very best birthday. I have a feeling that you will continue to surprise yourself — and everyone else — by what you choose to do in life.

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  50. OOh, a surprise! I shall be at Woolfest and working hard, so can’t wait until Sunday when I can reach Ravelry again.

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  51. What if I like the baggier sweater version? I guess I can always make a bigger size. I really admire your beautiful knitwear designs. It’s been amazing watching your progress and healing from Utah. I think about your blog posts a lot. Strange how people can feel so connected through a few words on a computer screen.

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  52. But life dreams, much like sleep dreams, are fluid and can morph into the unexpected. Unfortunately, we accept the fluidity much more readily in our sleep dreams. In our waking life we often hold on to dreams that are fading or have become hazy. Sometimes because they are still dreams we desire to become real, or sometimes because we think we should want to realize them still. These have been my thoughts as of late, at least.

    Like the less baggy version quite a lot.

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  53. I’ve been reading a wonderful book called How to Be Sick. One of the areas author Toni Bernard (www.howtobesick.com) discusses is mourning the loss of your career when you come to the realization that you can no longer do what you’ve been so successful at doing. Your work/career will always continue to exist. No one can take that away from you, neither the creativity you showed, the innovation and knowledge you produced, nor the wonderful “good” that you did. You are transitioning to another experience where you can apply that same creativity and innovation to generating new knowledge and doing more “good” things.

    These words have given me great comfort since my illness has left me sometimes feeling like “what’s the point” if everything you work for can be so suddenly taken away. I pray you will find that comfort as well!

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  54. So many fabulous comments here….I have nothing to add really….except to say you have come so far, you are accomplishing so much, it really hasn’t been that long…so congratulate yourself on your birthday for everything you have accomplished…and wish for yourself when you blow out the candles (there must be candles) for the future you are destined for…..

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  55. I have not returned to gainful employment since I survived my stroke in 2006. Knitting saved me and encouraged me to engage my otherwise limited left upper extremity. My stroke really has been “a new beginning”

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  56. I have followed your blog at a distance for a very long time – since before your stroke.
    Today, I have to make a comment.
    I got an infection of my brain some years ago. In the first years, I was very ill. I recognize so many of your symptoms and problems.
    I couldn’t work (I am a doctor), but after some years it began to be a little tiny bit better every month and after 7 years without working, I started to work again. In the beginning 3 hours a week, but gradually I increased hours and reached 12 hours a week after some months. Its been 6 years now and I now work 18-20 hours a week, and I am so happy.
    I need a secretary who can help me with my special needs because of problems with my memory and other cognitive functions, but all I learned before my infection is still there. I sleep and rest a lot of the time, I don’t work, but I love so much to work, that I gladly make that priority.
    Maybe you can work a little in a few years – if you wish to do so.
    Keep up the optimism!

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  57. Sorry to hear that. I hope your efforts to continue to re-adjust go as well as possible. Not that it is any compensation, but I love Warriston, and am eagerly awaiting its release. And I hope you still have a lovely birthday; everyone deserves that.

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  58. I won’t repeat what has already been said (my efforts wouldn’t be as eloquent!)
    So Happy Birthday wishes, and I am looking forward to the publication of Warriston!

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  59. Kate, at FortyNine I began the most exciting, and totally unexpected work of my life . Composing ! Twenty odd something years of performing other’s music, (with a decade in the middle where I thought I would never play again), and by some twist of fate, some odd little door opened I never noticed before, and now less than a year later I have as more original compositions I’m playing as I have fingers and toes, and performng them, and my life is totally transformed. I am awestruck at how a sense of self image can totally flip-flop. I was so depressed, felt like a nobody going nowhere, at near fifty years of age. I do not write this but to let you know that one thing perhaps you’re not wanting to hear ~ that change and new and different things are golden paths to new awesome doors opening. I have to say, for all that it’s worth, for a nice example ~ the knits you’ve designed since your stroke are the BEST of all of your work in my opinion, and you might give yourself a nice firm pat on the back about that. Good things are happening, but perhaps your vision is fixed only on what you believe you can no longer do ( and certainly depression nips at your heels like wolves) , but dear young Kate, if only you could see what new things you *are able* to do so amazingly well and radically above average, that might make you smile inside. Guide your attention to apreciate your talents which are blooming fragrant and beautiful, now, while they are, and I can nearly bet you’ll be caught off guard finding yourself able not only to do again what you use to, but with a good break, you will be surpassing your wildest expectations.

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  60. I also agree with Jillian, above. I have loved all of your articles that I’ve been able get my hands on here, in the states. Re-defining yourself is always difficult, no matter what.

    I’m also looking forward to your new pattern- I think it is my favorite yet.
    J.

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  61. i just want to say you’re an inspiration no matter what you do. it’s too bad that you won’t be able to work in academics now, but that doesn’t mean you’re no longer an academic. your work is interesting, both in a knitting and a historical perspective. i believe that you’ll do great work no matter what.

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  62. Sorry to hear your news. Hope it doesn’t sound flippant when I say that academia’s loss is the knitting world’s gain. Perhaps you could put together a book from your blog – it is beautifully written and very inspiring.
    Love the pattern by the way!

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  63. Hard as being an academic without an academy is (and there’s no glossing over that sinking feeling), what I see in many of these comments reassures you that you’re still contributing to a community of learning–which is surely one of the chief joys of being an academic. And who knows where independent scholarship will lead? Perhaps another book? Heaven knows there’s always a need for more solid and stylishly written scholarship. And you’re an artist.

    with great affection and admiration….

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  64. The start of your career as pattern writer and freelance writer as the main gig perhaps! Just because you are moving on it doesn’t take away any of your achievements in academia. I know this must be very hard, and sad, but I wish for you to also see it as a little liberation. You have so many talents, time to follow another one for awhile. Your brilliance is needed elsewhere dear Kate!

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  65. Getting to the point where you relinquish your past dreams and move on to doing the things you CAN do is a really important step. I have had to do the same, and although it is initially heart-breaking to let go, you can move forward and do new and exciting things. I had to relinquish doing letter and stonecarving, and have been doing photography, writing, knitting, felting instead, and I’m having so much more fun now I’m not thinking about what I can’t do. I really hope this step will make you as happy and settled as it’s made me.

    P.S. Mel’s bum looks great in those photos!

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  66. I love Philip Larkin’s work. I think you could direct yourself right now to his poem ‘First Sight’. It may make you feel a little better.

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  67. Fully agree with Shawn’s comments and would add that it’s ok to feel like sh*te when you’ve worked so long and hard to achieve something ….. Seems to me your razor sharp intellect , boundless talents and sheer bloody mindedness won’t suddenly stop should academia not provide a place to use them. You’ve already proven that I reckon, over and over again.

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  68. I do remember reading here about work-related stresses you were facing around the time of your stroke. You may be losing membership of one academic community but I believe you will always be at heart “an academic”, with the considerable advantage that you won’t have to cope with: timetables, marking, departmental meetings, grant applications, teaching people with an over-developed sense of their own importance in this world… I am sure you can think of plenty more! Academic freedom – you have it! Woo hoo!

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  69. I am so sorry that you cannot contiue to live your dream, your sweaters though are really great, and you are still very creative, and talented, It was nice that you had 2 special talents to use in your life.
    Many hugs Cheryl J

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  70. I love how the final version of Warriston looks. Not being a pullover girl myself, I still feel like I would love it. Might have to make it for the very cold days, or as an outer layer.

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  71. You will always be an academic. Your PhD and your research mindset have not been taken away from you. You don’t need to work in a university to be an academic. You can do research and publish independently, especially since you have already built up your academic reputation and credentials. You may wish to negotiate with your university for an honorary lectureship or at least life-long access to their resources such as their library, in recognition of your previous contributions to said university. It might also still be possible to be at least a co-supervisor for postgraduate students, or to contribute to summer schools and conferences, if you can handle or avoid the politics. Universities are not easy places to work, and I remember that your stroke occurred at a time of a high-stress situation at work. I myself am leaving academic (postdoc) research because the university funding crisis has made it very difficult for me to carve out a career in academia. I will miss it, but I have done my bit. On to the next chapter. I wish you all the best for your next chapter as well.

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  72. although academia helped you find the skills you’re comfortable with (i’ve also been in and out of academia all my life), there is such freedom backing away from it. you can allow your mind to go wherever you want. no second guessing. no needing to defend. i think you are going to continue to come out with some amazing research and writing and i look forward to it…

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  73. Mel’s sweater looks amazing; I love the snugly-fitting blueness and the outdoorsy warmth that WARRISTON exudes.

    I apologise/confess that I am *entirely incapable of ignoring your birthday.* For all that has been lost or changed because of the stroke, you remain COMPLETELY MAGNIFICENT in all of your ways; peerless in your writings; breathtaking in your photography; impressive in your labours toward recovery; and deserving of more hypberbolic appreciation than can possibly be crammed into a blog-post comment.

    I for one shall be squeezing the bellows of my accordion on your birthday and singing in my wonky heathen voice how glad I am that you are here on this Earth, being amazing, keeping going, working, making, knitting and writing THINGS OF UNRIVALLED BRILLIANCE.

    As a *very wise man* once said: WAZZ IS STRONG LIKE THE OX, NIMBLE LIKE THE WEASEL AND WISE LIKE THE OWL.

    Kippers and fudge are bound your way and I share everyone else’s excitement here about forthcoming WARRISTON!

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  74. Kate, thank you for your wonderful writing and photography, for your brilliant patterns and for your great honesty. I am pretty sure that when you ‘focus your energies’ on anything the results will be formidable, and I’d particularly echo what Jillian has written above.

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  75. If you could see a film of your progress since the stroke you would see how very much you have achieved, progress is not always even, sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back, you are still progressing and recovering so be kind to yourself. and of course keep coming up with those terrific patterns, I am keenly awaiting Warriston, not that I’m impatient either!

    Jan xx

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  76. Stay tuned we will, and watch your space bloom. We have been doing just that with increasing reverence and thankfulness, and will go on being there in silent support. Might even try the pattern when it’s out, even if though a bit in awe of your talent. xxx

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  77. My father was a professor and head of a department at a small university here in the states. He loved the teaching and writing, but as the head of the department, he loathed the politics he had to deal with, and his family wasn’t happy with the stress it caused him. (Just a side statement here!)
    I have a magnet on my refrigerator with a quote from Helen Keller: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
    What I admire about you, Kate, is that you haven’t been waiting for the other doors to open. You’ve gone on doing what you’ve loved and done before: researching, writing, educating, designing. The core of who you are has not changed. Perhaps it’s just the location of your work and a different population of students who surround you, eager for what you teach us, that is changing.

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  78. Well, maybe knowing that it will Not Be will lighten your mental load, at least from not having to wonder or worry about it. Perhaps that is small comfort… But that sweater is lovely, and so are the sea and the wind and the green grass!

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  79. Oh I don’t know what to say, I don’t want to come out with any facile but irritating platitudes when you are so disappointed, and this must have been so tough to write; but (see! you knew there’d be a but) you are here, this is now, and you are one hell of a woman. I look forward to your feminism/textile related writings here, I have learned so much..
    I have noticed, as I have got older, that birthdays matter less. Keep bugg*ring on, my dear.

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  80. Happy Midsummer Kate!
    Ellen MacArthur tells the story of having to give up A-levels and vet school due to prolonged illness, and then taking years to recover and organise her second career, sailing. I’m sure she would have made a great vet, but I think she’s happy with the outcome, despite it being catastrophic at the time. I hope you’ll enjoy a cosy Birthday with a ball of yarn or two on the sofa creating the next fab surprise for your committed pattern groupies. The career – academic or other – will be there when you’re ready, I’m sure.
    x

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  81. I just had a birthday and wasn’t excited about it at all – they do make one a little instrospective, don’t they? I was disappointed to realise that, upon reflection, it’s been a pretty crap year. But we always live in hope that the next will be better, right?

    You are a brilliant writer, and you are still being published, which I am hugely inspired by. I am truly sorry that you are going to have to say goodbye to your chosen career, but I have learned from my parents that there is no such thing as a career for life, and that sometimes you are forced in one direction or another against your will. Sometimes it works out for the better, sometimes not, but I’m sure I speak for all your readers when I say that we think you’re marvellous, and we love what you do. If you do nothing else but create fantastic knitting patterns, I for one shall be pleased as punch!

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  82. Sounds like a great plan, to focus on what you can achieve right now (and not birthdays!) And perhaps, sometime, you’ll turn around and catch yourself doing something you never thought you’d be capable of again…. Who knows what is possible?!

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  83. I want to echo Jillian’s ‘reply’ above. Without wishing to ignore what you are feeling about your loss, (you know there is a ‘but’ coming!) You Are Here. You are alive, and kicking quite well! You will get to a point where you will embrace the new you. Your previous life will serve you well in your new endeavours, I’m sure, and I wish you lots of love and luck. xx

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  84. I believe that life is already mapped out for you and you have reached a turning point. It must be bitterly dissappointing to say the least, when you have worked so hard and obviously enjoy what you do. You will cope though, you have shown your tenacity in so many ways over the last 16 months and you will find another way to channel your talents in a way that will be fulfilling for you and benificial to others.

    I understand about the birthday thing – sometimes they are just too heavy – however you can celebrate it any time you feel like it – it’s your life so you make up the rules.

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  85. Mel’s sweater looks great and I look forward to the release of the pattern soon. I also look forward to reading your future textile related research and thoughts, both here and in the numerous other publications I have found you in. Regardless of whether you are affiliated with a specific university, I-as well as your other readers- will continue to be inspired and learn from your contribution to a body of knowledge we are all passionate about. Hang in there! You just never know what future career paths may be waiting for you.

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  86. Your story is very inspiring for me as a policy maker who tries to deal with how can we offer people the best chances to participate in our society, if possible on the labour market. It is clear that a stroke can be so life-changing that we have no certainties such as degree, etc.

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  87. Kate, I’m sure you’ve heard all the platitudes you can possibly stomach. So instead, let me just say that I look forward to seeing Warriston in print.

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  88. As someone like you who trained for an academic career and then left it in my mid 30s when I decided that for me babies and academia were not going to mix (never been that good at multi-tasking) I understand something of how difficult this must be to come to terms with. And, of course, in my case it was a choice (albeit not a completely free one). I don’t have any easy words of comfort but I would say that, of course, you’ll still be using all those analytical skills that your training has endowed you with, just in a different context. I for example had to explain nihilism to my 11 year old son at the weekend! The weird thing is that it took me years before I thought in a calendar other than an academic one. Now I’m sometimes surprised to think it’s freshers week or finals time. Thinking of you, Joan

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