theraineysisters knitting and so much more

April 1, 2008

From Sally — Instead of Snow, Delicate Japanese Beauty

Filed under: Japanese Ironwork — surly @ 3:59 pm

While my sister has snow it’s the beginning of spring in Washington, DC, and the flowers in my garden are just opening.

The Yoshino cherry blossoms are almost at peak along the Tidal Basin, but in my yard they are barely open:

Sometimes in my garden, I find surprises: early hellebores, the first buds of my peonies, or new tendrils of the wisteria. Today, though, there is another delicate Japanese beauty hiding among the cherry blossoms.

I’ll write more details, including instructions on how to make what I call the “Japanese flame stitch,” in a later post.

In the meantime, I’ve been diagnosed with de Quervain’s tenosynovitis and have been advised to refrain from knitting for two weeks. I’m not sure I can do that, but I am going to try.


  1. Both the sweater and the garden are beautiful!

    I’m sure another trip to NYC would keep your mind off knitting for a while…

    Comment by geekette — April 1, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  2. Yikes! Sounds serious! Hope it doesn’t take any longer than that to recover.

    The “Japanese beauty” is gorgeous.

    Comment by Marina — April 1, 2008 @ 4:38 pm

  3. Beautiful!! Sweater and flowers. Just spent a week around New Orleans, everything was blooming. Back here in Ohio everything is gray; the ground, sky, trees. Blehhh.

    Comment by Denise — April 1, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

  4. Such gorgeous pictures! Hopefully your needles won’t be idle any longer than absolutely necessary.

    Comment by Jewel — April 1, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

  5. Oh my goodness, that’s beautiful! Nice work. And nobody should ever diagnose a knitter with such a thing–I hope you’re all patched up quickly!

    Comment by Miss T — April 1, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  6. From Susan — I would have to kill myself!! The sweater is drop dead gorgeous and I think I must have one of my very own!

    Comment by lv2knit — April 1, 2008 @ 6:11 pm

  7. Your sweater and garden are absolutely stunning! I sure hope you recover quickly!

    Comment by Susan — April 1, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

  8. Absolutely gorgeous garden and sweater — it’s trying to snow here right now sigh…….(Milton, Ontario, Canada)

    Comment by Anne — April 1, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

  9. That sweater is truly a delicate beauty. What a lovely, lovely piece of work.

    Comment by Gale — April 1, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

  10. What an amazing picture. Glorious flowers touched off by an amazing delicate sweater. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful work!

    Comment by Liz — April 1, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

  11. Sally, your sweater is simply ethereal. Just lovely. And I’m totally jealous of your garden, as we are still blanketed with snow here. But melting soon.

    Comment by Kay — April 1, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

  12. My word, but that sweater is exquisite! Words fail me. It looks like lace without being lace. The garden too is beautiful.

    Comment by technikat — April 1, 2008 @ 9:44 pm

  13. Your sweater is beyond words. If only I could…!

    Comment by Pam — April 1, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

  14. so pretty – sweater and flowers!

    Comment by karen — April 2, 2008 @ 12:21 am

  15. First of all I love that sweater. Delicate and elegant at the same time. The flowers are great too. Spring bulbs and iris are my favorites.

    Comment by Gail R — April 2, 2008 @ 1:15 am

  16. Oh that sweater is so lovely. I can’t decide whether I like the main pattern, or the neck, best.

    And your walk is so pretty. I love the stones. My daffs are still trying to come up, and the tulips and bluebells are doing the best they can despite the ravages of deer.

    Comment by Shannon B — April 2, 2008 @ 2:50 am

  17. The sweater is dreamy and I love the neck too, it finishes it off perfectly. So sorry to hear your bad news. I hope you heal quickly.

    Comment by Mindie — April 2, 2008 @ 5:18 am

  18. Dear Sally, I was diagnosed with deQuervain’s 16 years ago. I had spent a year writing my doctoral dissertation, in which I was at the keyboard for many hours every day. And of course, when I wasn’t at the keyboard, I was knitting. Shortly after finishing my degree, I got married and moved to Australia. My wrist had been bothering me for a long time, but the knitting helped with the dissertation-induced stress, so I rarely gave my wrists a break. Shortly after we moved to Australia, I developed a large lump on the left wrist, a nodule, and was told that I had deQuervain’s. Doctors convinced me to undergo surgery. They removed the lump, and then hollowed out the passage in the bone that the nerve runs through. This was supposed to make more room for the nerve, thus ending the rubbing (of the nerve against bone)and relieving swelling. I was told that the surgery would instantaneously fix everything; that I would need a week or so of recovery and then would be back to normal. After the surgery, I couldn’t knit for years! I had a very difficult time recovering the pain free use of my wrist. For a very long time, I had trouble using my hands for any repetitive movement for more that 10 minutes or so. This included typing, writing, and chopping, stirring, etc, making many ordinary activities difficult. I gave up knitting altogether for 5 years or so. And then, I slowly started building up the use of my hand, knitting for 10 minutes a day, and eventually 20, and so on. I am now at the point where I can knit comfortably for a few hours a day as long as I am careful to rest and shake out my hands every 30 minutes or so. I am also very careful to stop immediately when I begin to have pain. Carrying on knitting through the pain, even for a few minutes, is guaranteed to mean a week without knitting for recovery. I now live in England where the winters are cold and wet, so I am very pleased to be able to curl up and knit once more. I would highly suggest you follow the advice to avoid knitting for two weeks, and be very careful when starting up again. Surgery techniques may have advanced since I had mine done, but as a knitter, I would recommend that you investigate all other options first. Heat can be helpful, and a wrist brace. Remember that typing is also bad, so you should try to avoid that as well while recovering. Good luck.

    Comment by Kelly — April 2, 2008 @ 7:16 am

  19. It was the best of times….it was the worst of times! The sweater is so lovely, but no knitting? this cannot be your swan song….

    Comment by suzanne — April 2, 2008 @ 7:35 am

  20. Sally, OMG! the sweater is gorgeous and it is so nice to see the pictures of the garden. Just wanted you to know that I also had DeQuervains T. and I did recover without surgury. The worst part was wearing the braces on both the wrists. I did try to knit with the braces but it just didn’t work. Now is the chance to try kumihimo.

    Comment by Michele with one "L" — April 2, 2008 @ 8:20 am

  21. That is absolutely the prettiest sweater I’ve seen in a long time. Exquisite.

    Comment by Tracy — April 2, 2008 @ 8:26 am

  22. I’ve been admiring that sweater for days now. It is gorgeous on its own, and lovely in the garden. I wasn’t going to comment, but after the surgery horror story, I just wanted to chime in and say that DeQquervains is not a death sentence for your knitting. I had it a couple of times in the first year I began knitting. I was knitting even when I felt pain, which is dumb. I was also engaging in other activities that were hard on my wrists and hands. I finally realized that the DeQuervains was worse when I knit with large needles. Anything over size 10 would cause me pain. I limit that now. But that’s prevention. The cure was wearing a brace specifically designed for the problem, one that immobilizes the thumb. I wore it at night while I slept, all night for a couple of weeks, then whenever I had pain at the base of my thumb during the day, I wore it for the next couple of nights.
    I haven’t had a problem with it for over a year now, but I still have my brace handy and I am careful with my hands.
    I hope you have a positive outcome from your injury. It would be a loss to your fans if you had to stop knitting for a long period, but we can spare you for a couple of weeks. 🙂

    Comment by Luni — April 2, 2008 @ 8:41 am

  23. What a lovely sweater, and an inspiration to show it in the garden. Take care of yourself and heal quickly. Thanks to all for sharing. Those stories will certainly make me slow down whenever I feel pains or tingles — I had been ignoring the occasional numbness when I knit for too long!

    Comment by Astrid — April 2, 2008 @ 9:01 am

  24. Sally- I don’t know what was more breathtaking, the garden or your sweater.

    Quite, quite lovely.

    Sounds more exotic than Carpal Tunnel- please take care of yourself.

    Comment by Lorraine — April 2, 2008 @ 9:42 am

  25. Sally — BRAVISSIMO on the stunning sweater, LOVE it and want to make one!! If you have a copy of my book, The Pleasures of Knitting: Timeless Feminine Sweaters in the alphabet of tips I give self-help hand care for knitters that could be helpful. I also teach Movement for Knitters and cover a lot of self-help hand care. I’ve had people come to that class who are no longer able to knit because of hand issues or they recognize that they could knit with greater ease and efficiency. Often it’s about having other areas of the body more comfortable while knitting as well, like shoulders for example. One woman hadn’t been able to knit for years because she couldn’t move her thumb. She referred to it as trigger thumb. After practicing the self-help hand care, she was jumping up and down screaming look, look I can move my thumb! That was in 2005 and occasionally I still get an email from her telling me she’s still knitting. If you come visit Susan the weekend of Yarn Over, I’ll be there teaching and would be happy to spend some time with you. I enjoy your posts way too much not to have you happily (and obsessively) knitting! If there is inflammation, you might also consider taking turmeric capsules which are available at almost any health food store. Please feel free to be in touch, if that’s helpful.

    Comment by Ann McCauley — April 2, 2008 @ 10:47 am

  26. It’s a beautiful sweater. Very graceful and some how restful.

    I’m sorry to hear about your hand though. I hope the rest cures it for you.

    Comment by LaurieM — April 2, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

  27. Such gorgeous pictures. Such a gorgeous sweater.

    Please take care of yourself. I am only somewhat familiar with deQuervain’s, but I have repetitive motion injury issues. Pacing yourself is key, as said above. Don’t push through pain.

    Best wishes.

    Comment by AuntieAnn — April 2, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

  28. Beautiful sweater. Maybe just fondling and admiring can get you through the next few weeks. Heal fast!

    Comment by Denise~ — April 2, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

  29. I had de Quervain’s as well. I went almost 9 months before being properly diagnosed by a specialist. They gave me a shot of cortisone and a brace to wear. I wore the brace constantly for 2-4 weeks and then wore it at night for quite some time. In addition to that I also went to physical therapy three times a week for a month or two. I had special exercises I had to do at home but it all paid off. I recovered completely (without any surgery) and don’t have any lingering effects at all. It doesn’t interfere with my knitting at all. I do notice that I’m a bit more careful about how I hold heavy grocery bags and don’t try to over-exert it (like trying to open a tight lid, etc). I also tend to sleep with my hand under my pillow and lay on top of it to immobilize it when I sleep. I noticed that I was doing that before I was officially diagnosed. I must have subconsciously noticed that it felt better the next day when I slept that way and it became a habit.

    Anyway, sorry for the long, rambling note. Just wanted to let you know what worked for me and that it is a completely treatable thing. I know it’s going to be difficult to not knit for a while for you though! Maybe you can find some great novels to help pass the time until you’re back with needles in your hands 🙂

    Comment by Amy — April 2, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

  30. Okay, I had the surgery with GREAT SUCCESS! I knit every day, I’ve been knitting since I was 5 years old and I graduated from high school in 1976 – you do the math. I did have physical therapy and did wear a brace at night and suffered with the cortisone shots for a couple years, but when it got to the point of 4 of year I opted for the surgery and never regreted it.

    My advice, find yourself the absolute best hand surgeon (find out who the surgeons and pro baseball pichers go to) and ask all the questions. See how bad yours is. Wear the brace even though it sucks to wear it at night. Try the knitting on the pillow thing (pillow on your chest, no weight on your wrist and hands – I thought it sucked gave it up), GIVE UP STRAIGHT NEEDLES FOREVER, go to physical therapy and if they have the heated corn husk tumbler (It’s like sticking your hand in a dryer that’s moving and it’s so warm and boy does it ease the pain. Also, watch the pain meds the NSAIDS, they can tear up your stomach lining. ANy questions, I’m happy to talk. I was 40 when I had the surgery.

    Comment by Kathy — April 2, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  31. Wow. All so beautiful!

    May you feel much much better very very soon! Healing vibes coming your way.

    Comment by Romi — April 3, 2008 @ 1:45 am

  32. Beautiful flowers and beautiful sweater!!!

    Comment by Aija — April 3, 2008 @ 6:14 am

  33. Beautiful pictures! I hope that you will be feeling better soon and be able to knit again even sooner!

    Comment by Viktoria — April 3, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

  34. Hi Sally,

    I’m looking for the titles of some of the Japanese stitch dictionaries. I thought that I’d seen them here on your blog, but I’m at a loss as I haven’t been able to find much info. Can you email me a few good titles so I can see if I can track them down here in the still Great White North?

    Many thanks in advance.
    PS, I hope the wrist is better soon.

    Comment by Jennifer in Ottawa — April 3, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

  35. Beautiful flowers and your sweater is stunning as always. Hope you rest and get better.

    Comment by lucette — April 3, 2008 @ 4:12 pm

  36. Sally the sweater is just breathtaking, so are the photos! I’ve always wanted to go to DC for cherry blossom time.

    Comment by Marie — April 3, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

  37. I had deQuervain’s, too, in my left wrist, about 12 yrs ago, caused by shoveling a big DC snowfall with the wrong shovel. I wore a splint for 23 hrs a day for a few weeks, and had one cortisone shot. The shot didn’t give me relief for too long, but it did help release the tendon so my “snuff box” (the dip at the base of the thumb between the 2 tendons) came back. I did PT to regain range of motion. I can’t take NSAIDs, so ice is my best friend and helped with the pain management. I think knitting actually helped with mobility, though I had to hold my left needle pencil-style for a while, until I could bend the wrist more. I still use straight needles, btw, because circs put more strain on my wrists–I’m a thrower.

    Good luck with the recovery, just take it slowly.

    Comment by Anne C — April 3, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  38. Sally – Love the sweater and your garden. I hope the 2 week lack of knitting helps your hands. I’m also starting to feel the effects in my hands and have decided to stop knitting for 2 weeks. Hopefully, the time will fly and we can get back to knitting.

    Comment by Tanya — April 4, 2008 @ 11:34 am

  39. Yes, breathtaking! The sweater, the garden, you are simply masterful! Healing thoughts being sent your way.

    Comment by karen — April 4, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

  40. The garden pictures are beautiful and the sweater is simply stunning. So lace-like without being lace — it
    reminds me of the top of a wedding gown. Good luck with a speedy recovery.

    Comment by Sue — April 4, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

  41. Stunning! A work of art. I sure hope you get through this, no fair!

    Comment by Carol — April 4, 2008 @ 11:13 pm

  42. I am just getting caught up on my reading- what a beautiful, beautiful garden you have (including that lovely japanese blossom that cropped up!). My sister has just moved from DC (she lived right down in Old(e) Town) to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada-and boy does she feel the difference in climate! (her gardens are still snow covered). I very much enjoy your blog- keep up the good work, both of you!

    Comment by Deb — April 6, 2008 @ 9:57 am

  43. I have been enjoying your site but your mention of de Quervain’s has nudged me to comment. I had deQuervain’s in 1980. I was breastfeeding at the time and the doctors thought I had tendonitis and I could not take the medicine. By the time my son stopped breastfeeding, I was quite crippled. (It was 6 months later) I ran to the doctor for the drugs, which did nothing. I spent some time in the library and diagnosed myself. I got my niece to help with the baby and had the surgery. I was in less pain as soon as I woke up. Completely successful. I have not had any problems since. The week following the surgery, I could not get my bandages wet so I did have to have my husband wash me in the shower; but that wasn’t such a hardship. lol. Good Luck to you. You can contact me is you wish to. Donna

    Comment by Donna Savoy — April 19, 2008 @ 8:58 pm

  44. Hi–

    I would like to offer you some advice to see a chiropractor who is experienced in treating DQ &/or CT. You can get relief without surgery.

    I was diagnosed with DeQuervain’s in early 2007 when I was living in San Diego. At the time I was playing a lot of piano, as well as knitting and working out frequently with weights. It became so serious I could not move either thumb without excruciating pain. After 6 mos. & trips to several doctors who either injected cortisone (to no avail) or recommended surgery, an acquaintance told me that a chiropractor had helped with a similar problem. I visited a chiropractor and I swear to you, after only 1 visit, I left his office with complete, pain-free mobility in both thumbs. I have been pain-free for over a year until just recently . . .

    I have recently stepped up the weight training as well as begun to knit continental-style instead of throwing–this has caused a flare-up of the DQ. Ironically, I had thought it would be easier on my hands to knit continental, so that’s why I learned it. While I love the technique, and see that it is so much more efficient, I think that perhaps the clumsiness of a new method put undue stress on the thumbs again. UGH! Unfortunately, I no longer live in San Diego, so I had to find a new DC. I will tell you the first one I went to could not help me, but fortunately I have found another one who really helped me about 2 weeks ago. Sadly, the DQ had gotten pretty bad before I found him, and of course I kept knitting (dumb!!) through the pain.

    Basically, your chiropractor (DC) needs to find a trigger point within the antagonist muscle to the Opponens/Flexor pollicis. If she releases the TP and adjust the carpals, you can get immediate relief. Also, you will learn stretching exercises, and you can bring along a SO with you so the DC can show him/her how to massage your arms (extensor muscles) for you to relieve the pain. You do need to take a break from knitting for a while, but if you can get chiropractic help, you will be able to knit again much sooner. The real key is to maintain your DC visits and your stretching after you get the flare-up under control. This is where I made a mistake. When I moved last August, I did not find a new chiropractor. I waited until I started having problems again, and that is not smart. Oh well.

    I am having to take a temporary break from knitting these past 2 weeks, and it is about killing me. I took a 9-day vacation without my knitting bag, and I was very bummed–I had to *gasp* READ on the flights!!!!! Who wants to read when you could be knitting!!!!!!!!! Of course as soon as I got home yesterday I picked the knitting right up. Sadly, I couldn’t knit very long before I felt the cramping. I have another appt. with the DC today, and I know I have to take it easy a bit longer.

    Anyway, I just wanted to encourage anyone out there with DQ or CT to find a chiropractor so you can get relief without surgery, and while you may experience flare-ups now and then, with regular maintenance, they should be kept to a minimum.

    BTW, the sweater is just beautiful.

    Best of luck!

    Comment by Laurel — July 7, 2008 @ 11:35 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress