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Dear Ann,

As a perpetually knitting person, there is little that will stop me from laying down a few rows. I can knit in heat and humidity, in a bus on a winding road or a subway car stuffed with puffy coats and Trader Joe’s bags, or on a 20-hour plane journey with two layovers and zero naps—I could always do a little knitting.

When I got a (blessedly mild) case of Covid over the holidays, though, it was like somebody had pulled the emergency cord: all knitting screeched to a halt. I just lay there, a pitiful non-knitter, staring out the window, or into the kitchen, at the land of the living, out where people Do Stuff.

When the knitting life force returned, I was at the very start of the charted pattern stripe on Dee Hardwicke’s Blossom Stripe Shawl. I still felt a little woozy, but I picked up my needles tentatively, and started to parse the chart. Was brain fog a thing? Did I still remember how this works?

With relief, I soon realized that Dee’s gorgeous blossom stripe is a very friendly little interval of stranded colorwork. It’s symmetrical at all times, with neat, rhythmic divisions. It makes sense, it goes 3-3-3 and 5-5-5 a lot—and the floats are short and easy to manage at all times. No hard decisions, no brain teasers, no need to phone a friend.

A very friendly little charted pattern.

I got through the chart in two days, and now I’m on the straightaway. Stockinette stripes for days—such is the healing power of a constantly reducing stitch count, it’s almost like medicine.

MDK Atlas in Pear, Navy, Natural and Cedar. The Blossom Stripe Shawl takes 1 skein of Pear and 2 skeins of the other 3 shades.

About That Stitch Count

The plain stockinette stripes are soothing knitting for sure, but you do have to keep your wits about you.

The stripe color sequence is written out, and is very straightforward: x rows of Color A, y rows of Color B, and so forth.

The 4-row decrease sequence is also very straightforward: decrease at both ends of rows 1, 2, and 3, and do not decrease at all in row 4.

What’s not straightforward—for me, or at least me on the rebound—is doing both of these things at the same time. The stripes do not break down neatly into multiples of 4 rows. You decrease on all right-side rows, but only on alternating wrong-side rows. It’s easy to lose your place, your reading glasses, the reason you came in this room.

The solution is simple, though: just go through the stripe sequence, and write out the row numbers for each row. For example: a 6-row stripe may consist of rows 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2. Or, if the stripe starts on a wrong-side row, it could be 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, or 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1. Whenever you see a 4, that’s a row with no decreasing.

If you sit down at the start of the stripes and annotate each stripe this way, it’s easy to keep it all straight.

What I don’t recommend is thinking that you can hold these two rhythms in your mind, unless you don’t plan on ever putting the project down and picking it back up again.

Here’s to lots of soothing stockinette in 2024. I think we’ll need it!




  • I feel your Covid pain. Got it at Christmas. Could not concentrate on my knitting. Lots of sleeping

    • Great to hear another knitter writing out pattern row numbers. This way you can find your way when you re start your knitting the next. It makes it so easy to continue.

      • I do that all the time especially when they to repeat a row. Glad to hear someone else has to do this

  • I got my very first case of Covid right before Xmas. Didn’t knit for a week!

  • So sorry you have been sick! You know you are sick when you can’t knit!!!!

    I love this pattern but I don’t like the shape. Looking at yours I wonder if this could be knitted as a crescent shape without too much change to the pattern…..

    • You could pretty easily put the striping on top of a plain crescent shawl pattern; the trickiest part would be placing the colorwork panel within the stitch count.

  • Looks wonderful. Any tips for doing colorwork flat for the purl rows? My default style is Continental & I’ve learned to hold the yarn in both hands to do colorwork in the round. Not sure how to manage it flat.

    • I’m a thrower, and I do colorwork with two hands in the round. Working flat, on the purl side, I revert to a more primitive style where I drop the yarn not-in-use and pick it back up again when I need it. For 24 rows this works fine and I actually got into a rhythm.

      • Thanks so much!

  • This pattern inspired me to make a striped skirt using leftover (?) Felted tweed from NellKnits new Temperature Sweater and her Shakerag Skirt as a guide. All stockinette all day. Great for Netflix knitting.

    Glad you are on the recovery road.

    • I’m so glad you are on the mend! I just finished this beautiful shawl! I had never done colorwork flat, but picked it up quickly–the motif is gorgeous. My tension was a wee bit tight, but thankfully blocked out. I had days of stress (though no covid, thankfully) and a limited supply of yarn (as I am determined to destash) and would pick this shawl up and viola, another 4, 8 ,12 rows complete. At some point I had memorized the pattern and just went with it in terms of colors. In between other more taxing projects, working on this shawl was my dose of serenity. Pure joy–feel better!

    • I’d love to see what you’ve created, as I’m intrigued by all of your sources of inspiration!

  • By washing your knitting project and potentially sanitizing the needles, you can minimize the risk of spreading any germs or viruses that might have been present while you were sick. This practice is especially important if the knitting project will be handled by others or if it’s a gift for someone else. Just saying

  • So glad you are on the mend. Be well!

  • If you could figure out that solution to the striping decreases (decreasing stripes?) you’re clearly over the brain fog! Glad to hear you’re on the mend, Kay!

  • I also had Covid before Christmas and have learned not to knit any complicated patterns when I’m fatigued .
    I had also been quite ill this past spring with gallbladder and hospitalized .
    To start knitting again after illness I kept my projects simple and paced myself slowly back . My vision was also affected.
    My local knitting circle groups were helpful to attend .
    Knitting taught me patience not to push and things will return. A life lesson.

  • When I got a really bad case of mononucleosis a few years ago (do not recommend getting it for the first time ever in your 60s!), my husband told me he knew how lousy I felt because I wasn’t knitting. For 2 weeks I couldn’t pick up needles! But things will get better slowly. Rest up longer than you think you need to!

  • I’m glad you’re knitting! And boldly carrying on with that gorgeous pattern. It sounds like your well-trained knitter’s mind is doing better at tracking pattern changes during covid recovery, than I do on a good day – index cards, a pencil, and a big jar of stitch markers are my friends, even when knitting a simple pattern I’ve made before. Knit on 🙂

  • Dear Kay, sorry to hear you were ill. Hope you are well on your way to full recovery. Your second sentence had me anticipating a Seussian (is that a word?) narrative. So here’s my take:
    A perpetual knitter can knit in the heat or knit on a bus; winding roads and humidity may not be a plus. A knitter can knit on a subway with coats, and Trader Joe’s bags for a welcoming host. A knitter can knit on a long plane flight, maybe they won’t or maybe they might?

    That’s all I’ve come up with for now!

    • Love this! And if Seussian wasn’t a word yet, it is now!

    • Brava, Nancy!

    • A classic of the genre!

      • Love that Nancy, don’t stop! Glad you’re feeling better Kay and thanks for the tips on that beautiful shawl.

  • The shawl is coming along nicely! Glad you’re feeling better…Nurse Olive needed a break…

  • I love this pattern. Do you think it would work as a rectangular shawl? Triangles don’t wear well on me.

    • Rectangular would be even easier that this one, because you wouldn’t have to worry about the shaping decreases.

      Just make sure the cast-on number works for the charted stripe in terms of multiples of the repeat; you may have to adjust it a bit.

      • Modifying it to a rectangular would also allow for knitting it in the round with a steek, maybe?

        • @Ginny great idea!

  • Kay feel better!
    This has been the Holiday of viruses! Stay home and knit!

  • I was glad to hear that you are feeling better. Covid takes a lot out of you.
    The shawl is beautiful and I see how the pattern needs concentration but I tell you, I would still be working on the colorwork row at this point. I enjoy colorwork but not so much in straight knitting. It’s a bit easier knitting in the round, in my opinion.
    Looks like it’s worth it.

    • I definitely agree. I did get comfortable with knitting it flat, but it’s not my preferred method.

  • Love the Seussian poem! Knitting as nurse, knitting as healthcare. I have a friend who has had hand tremors for quite awhile, recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s 🙁 However, when she knits, which she loves to do, her hands don’t shake. Knitting is a marvelous wonder. Stay healthy & upright!

  • I’m in the midst of my first-ever case of COVID right now, so encouraged to hear good news of your recovery and return to knitting! Yesterday I had actual chicken soup and am incredulous that I am sleeping/laying around all this time instead of all the knitting I could be doing. That said, I think it’s time for a nap. . .

    • It really just brings you to a crashing halt, with no choice but to submit to it. It didn’t last long for me and I hope your experience is the same!

  • Glad to hear that you are better, Kay. My husband and I caught Covid the week before Christmas. I did start a scarf about a week ago but it’s an easy pattern in Noro Silk Garden sock yarn. We were blessed that our Covid seems to be gone. I’m also finishing some UFOs. I found that I had a harder time trying to read. I couldn’t focus enough on the material.
    May we all be on the road to recovery and better health in the New Year!!

  • Recovered fairly quickly but COVID fog does impede knitting challenges. I keep a mood blanket at hand. I have yard that I love but don’t have enough to use in any one project. I enjoy watching the colors evolve in simple garter stitch and knit the color that best corresponds to my mood. Some day I will have a cozy blanket to curl up under when the next flu/COVID season hits.

  • Happy you’re on the mend, Kay! We also had Covid for the first time during the holidays – my husband barely noticed he had it while I had all of the typical symptoms for 12 days. Thank goodness for the vaccines! Fortunately, I was able to do some light reading and was happy to have a small stack of craft books that had been waiting in the bookcase for a while…my project queue just got longer. 🙂

  • Happy New Year, all! I haven’t had a knitting needle in my hands for a month (except when I helped a friend start an 18-stitch scarf – knitted less than two rows). I’ve discovered that knitting and doing crossword puzzles use the same muscles! I’m looking forward to knitting something wonderful when I get my arm back. And enjoy your knitting prowess.

  • I tie loops of light cotton yarn and use them for stitch markers generally. When I have decreases that are on some but not all rows, I link together a series of those loops using one color for decrease rows and a different color for straight knitting rows. When I’m done there is a short chain of interlocked loops in two colors that matches the decrease pattern. I put it on the needle where the first decreases will occur. Each time I get to the chain I insert the needle tip into the next link and follow the color instructions for that row. There is a little charm at the end of the chain so I know to always move toward that end, and to go back to the beginning of the chain when I get there. Sounds much more complicated than it is, and allows for nearly mindless knitting.

    • Brilliant!

  • Always a good idea to write things down, and yes, we’re going to need alot of comforting knitting this year. Keep calm and Knit on.

  • I feel your pain. I was the same way when I had covid. Brain fog and all I wanted to do was sleep. Not enough ambition to pick up my needles.
    Thank heavens it passed and I am back at it.

  • I understand your feeling.. I had a seizure in November which was caused by a brain cancer and surgery. I came home from the hospital not knowing I could knit. Oh the joy being able to finish a sock and make the match… on to a fairisle hat, and then a sweater for my husband, which is almost finished. Oh the joy to be able to put knitting together again.

    • Best wishes for better health Mary!

  • Way to complicated for this ole brain.. but I love it.. beautiful work.. keep up the good work… my knitting is like others reading books.. always gotta have it near by…keeps my mind busy… almost 80 and still knitting up a storm for all 7 of the great grand kids!!!!

  • I find I write all over my pattern copy – ticking off rows, etc. so I don’t loose my place.

    My case of the plague was blessedly mild – I knit thru it grateful for vaccines and science and drinking ginger ale to try to rid myself of Paxlovid mouth.
    My friend got a pair of mitts for her birthday to wear to the dog run.

    I must remember I have some Atlas for that shawl …

  • Can I just knit this with one color yarn?

  • Glad you’re on the mend; Covid is such a shocking re-introduction to illness if you haven’t had so much as a cold since 2019! But knitting is such a soothing balm. Here’s to a happy and healthy 2024!

  • So glad that you’re feeling better, Kay, and rocking the needles again! Knit on! ❤

  • So glad you feel better, Kay. I love the navy and white color work.

  • Glad you are feeling better. I had Covid again in December. Not fun.
    I haven’t knit much lately. I miss it. I carry a sock around which waits hopefully.

  • Glad you are on the mend! I totally understand the lethargy that comes with that…for me knitting was out of the question as eating a bowl of soup was cause for a nap. Continue to recover and good luck with the stripes.

  • I hope you are feeling better. Amen to the need for soothing knitting in 2024.

  • I’m helping a younger woman to learn knitting…so many things to learn, but we all do by just doing it. I learned at a store but then discovered Elizabeth Zimmerman so that’s my style what will be my friends style?

  • I remember having Covid (thankfully mild) and knitting ceased for me too. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes it’s wise to write notes to guide you through the process. Glad you are feeling better.

  • How do I get a copy of your stripe scaff pattern

  • I feel like I could have written this! Got COVID right after Christmas, and the fog is real! My garter edged stockinette cardigan and my intarsia scarf were my go-to projects, after the hard days of the virus. Let’s lift our needles to soothing stockinette in between the varied challenges of our lives!

  • So sorry you were sick. I came down with CoVid on Christmas evening – totally drained me and my son (he came down w it Christmas Eve). Just now recovering after after secondary infections. Got nothing done for 2 weeks. Ready to knit now, tho’.

  • With Cedar fever allergy the worst I’ve ever experienced, I had to lay aside a more complicated pattern and return to knitting caps for the NICU. Thanks for this article on knitting, I enjoyed it.

  • I just love knowing there is another knitty nurse out there. I definitely cannot knit that fast though.

  • I really loved reading the narrative and felt sooo warm and fuzzy picturing the absolute joy of knitting…..none of my friends knit or even appreciate the positive feelings that come from the experience. Thankyou for your lovely thoughts……regards Jane

  • I had the same experience except it still makes me dizzy to knit. I know I was not in the mood to knit while I was sick and I looked at it often but not interested even though I knit every chance I get. I hope the dizzy feeling leaves soon

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