Learning to knit with wood, sticks and branches

Men Knitting Learning to knit with wood, sticks and branches by Knittingdoc

My fifth birthday was quickly approaching. He kept calling them "knitting needles." Some were brown and tan. Others, gray, black and very long. But the only needles I knew were the ones from the Dr.’s office which hurt.

Ah, Grandpap was my hero! What fond memories I have. My family called me a toe-head who was energetic, highly motivated and self-driven. For several years, I had watched Grandpap sit by the hour and move those hands so fast using roving and yarn from the sheep he raised on the farm. Being the eager little kid who always was curious and wanting to learn new things, I begged him to teach me to knit. It was one of those eye opening moments. He looked at me and just smiled in delight.

He grew up in Germany where all the boys and girls in elementary school were taught to knit as part of the normal curriculum. "Well," he said. "I learned to knit when I was a boy so there’s no reason you shouldn’t learn how to do it too. It’s something that’ll help you and that you can do for the rest of your life. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. So, let’s go do some whittling!"

At the time, I obviously didn’t get the full gist of what he was saying — five year olds aren’t fully aware of stereotypes. I just knew Grandpap could do no wrong in my eyes. If he taught me how to milk cows, ‘slop’ the pigs, herd sheep, gather eggs and pull weeds, then knitting was no different.

Whittling? It all started to make sense. Grandpap whittled a lot. But Grandma said I was too young to be playing with a knife. I have vague memories of watching him whittle but never paid too much attention to it. Wow! When he said, "Let’s go do some whittling," it all clicked!!!! All that time he was making his own wooden knitting needles. Not from dowels, but from wood, sticks, branches, etc. I still have that vivid image of us going to look for some wood to make me my own pair of knitting needles. He said he would have to make them bigger than his so that I could learn better. Since, I wanted to have the same ones which he had, I threw a little temper tantrum…..yuk! He was so loving and patient. "You’ll understand some day but it’ll be harder for you to wrap that sheep hair around the needle if it is too small." And right he was!

Initially, Grandpap taught me to knit using the "throw" or English technique with very large needles in order to learn the mechanics and physics of knitting. Shortly, thereafter, I switched to Continental knitting so I could go "as fast as he could." I remember the thrill of staying up late night after night practicing the long tail cast on for hours. I now laugh whenever I think of how frayed that precious yarn became after unraveling for the 10th time.

Funny. I could relate to "sheep hair" as a kid. Roving and wool as more abstract terms came later. I had watched Grandma clean, card and spin the ‘sheep hair’ many times but it wasn’t all that exciting to me as a kid. Now I long for those peaceful, loving moments spent with two wonderful people. Working with nature. Watching the lambs grow to adulthood. Shearing. Preparing the wool. Then using it to complete a garment to wear.

Whittle As I think about it right now, I was learning about life cycles. Biology, nature, mathematics, etc., all the while just thinking I was having fun with yarn and needles.

Fifty six years later I am still passionately knitting every day. I’ve weathered through some of those awkward years of being teased as a young man knitting. That stopped rather quickly after the bullies learned that I could do other "guy" things. Eventually, some of them asked me to teach them. Be true to yourself!

I’ve gone through the gamut of knitting throughout the years. Except for lace. Over the past several months, I’ve finally decided to go for it. Now I’m addicted to it. I didn’t know any better when I learned to knit and ended up cutting my own hair and trying to spin it. Guess I just figured that if it can be done with sheep hair then any hair will do! Sadly, though, I must say that after repeated attempts at learning to spin, I have never been able to do it. And it bugs me trying to figure out why! It looks so simple and smooth. Grandpap used to say, "Now just don’t worry about it. God will give you other gifts down the road." How right he was.

It feels like Elizabeth Zimmerman and I were brother and sister. Having said that, "Knit on!"



Videos of Men Knitting

Here are a couple of videos which I found and added them to the knitting page.




Hobbies and Delay of Memory — Woodwork Crochet Reading TV Computer Games Quilting Counted Cross Stitch Knitting Beading Art Collecting

Be careful with this one and please do not LAUGH

Standing guard at a NATO installation in South Korea, I saluted salutesalvarmyofficers from all around the world. But one officer, dressed in a regal-looking black uniform, always seemed embarrassed by it. One day as I was putting right hand to forehead, he stopped me.

“You really don’t have to salute me,” he said. “I’m in the Salvation Army.”

Stanley Pierkowski

Yesterday was one of those discouraging days. Not only did I feel foggy, but I had difficulty coping with the body, hand and neck tremors. The Dr. told me to lie? lay? down whenever I get tremulous. But it sure didn’t work yesterday. They wear me down and I get fatigued. It was a very frustrating day. I’m beginning to have more empathy to others with chronic tremors. I know it’s part of LBD, but part of me wants to get tested again to see if I have an an underlying thyroid problem. Maybe I’m just grasping at straws.

Speaking of tremors and the article below, it is interesting. I’ve done crafts all of my life. If it’s true, then I shouldn’t be having any problems. I’m working on a project now that involves counting in multiples of 12. I can’t believe I’m actually having trouble counting at this level. Appalling, just appalling.

Why hobbies such as knitting may delay memory loss

Engaging in a hobby like reading a book, making a patchwork quilt or even playing computer games can delay the onset of dementia, a US study suggests. Watching TV however does not count – and indeed spending significant periods of time in front of the box may speed up memory loss, researchers found.

Nearly 200 people aged 70 to 89 with mild memory problems were compared with a group who had no impairment.

The findings are to be presented to an American Academy of Neurology meeting. The researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota asked the volunteers about their daily activities within the past year and how mentally active they had been between the age of 50 to 65.

Those who had during middle age been busy reading, playing games or engaging in craft hobbies like patchworking or knitting were found to have a 40% reduced risk of memory impairment. In later life, those same activities reduced the risk by between 30 and 50%. Those who watched TV for less than 7 hours a day were also 50% less likely to develop memory loss than those who spent longer than that staring at the screen.

This study is exciting because it demonstrates that ageing does not need to be a passive process, said study author and neuroscientist Dr Yonas Geda.

By simply engaging in cognitive exercise, you can protect against future memory loss. Of course, the challenge with this type of research is that we are relying on past memories of the participants, therefore we need to confirm these findings with additional research.

Sarah Day, head of public health at the Alzheimer’s Society said: One million people will develop dementia in the next 10 years so there is a desperate need to find ways to prevent dementia. Exercising and challenging your brain – by learning new skills, doing puzzles such as crosswords, and even learning a new language – can be fun.

However, more research, where people are followed up over time, is needed to understand whether these sorts of activities can reduce the risk of dementia.

The poll on brain games will close on March 8th. If you haven’t voted yet, click here.


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Do You Want to Be a Guest Blogger?

 Would You Like to Be a Guest Blogger?


I would like to add some guest posts to my blog. Even though this is a personal diary, I also believe in teaching and educating others as you have already noticed. It is important to get fresh new voices and ideas. People love really useful information. I like the idea of having something posted on a daily basis, but I don’t want too much stress in order to do it.

It should be something original you have written and are holding the copyright for. The post must something you wrote uniquely for my blog. It will only be published on this blog and not on any other sites (that includes your blog). You will still hold the copyright for your post. Please avoid affiliate links in the blog. But consider adding a short biography of yourself at the end of your article. If you already have a blog or webpage, feel free to add links to one or two of your best posts at the end of your guest post.

It would be helpful to keep the post relevant to the topics of dementia and/or its prevention, brain training, knitting or crafts as it pertains to stimulating the brain, the elderly and elderly care.

I recommend that the post be somewhere between 250-1500 words. Of course, exceptions can be made.

I’ll add images when appropriate. But if you have already found a great image online that is ok to use copyright-wise then feel free to include that link in your email to me. 

I will reserve the right to edit your post in a way that I see fit before publishing. Or reject submissions that I feel aren’t appropriate for this website.

You can send your submissions or any questions you might have to knittingdoc@zoominternet.net.

Many thanks…



Thursday November 6, 2008



redbasketweaveDear Blog:


Feeling perky today!    


I’ve managed to conquer the Portuguese style of knitting. I’m making this very easy simple sharp looking winter scarf.  I need to get the concept ingrained into my brain. Practice, practice and more practice. 


Something new that I learned today:  Upper and lower case letters are named “upper” and “lower” because in the time when all original print had to be set in individual letters, the upper case letters were stored in the case on top of the case that stored the lower case letters.


Thanks to John H., I added this game link to the Brain Training section on the right. It’s from Prevention. I read their magazine every month and find it very helpful!


Pam and I talked last night about Lewy Body Dementia and the last couple of days and my being confused. I told her it was as if someone had suddenly turned off a light switch. I was aware that the switch had turned off and that I was trying to turn it back on but became more confused in the process until I couldn’t remember where the light switch was. Then suddenly last evening, the light magically turned on again. That’s the best that I can explain it. So very bizarre. And to lose that control. Maybe that’s the scary part to me. Pam said that the neighbor was burning leaves. I smelled the smoke and thought it was the end of the world and that a tornado was coming. I can smile about it now. But I don’t remember it.


The York Daily Record called me to verify my letter to them about November being National Caregivers Month. They are publishing it in their newspaper and have put it in their blog.


I’m going to mulch the grass and leaves this afternoon. It’ll probably be the last time for the year. We’re supposed to get rain and snow for the next 4 days after having our 4 lovely days of sun and high 60 degree temperatures.

Tomorrow we’re going out of town so maybe I won’t have a chance to blog. But then I’ll have lots to say on Saturday.



Wednesday October 29, 2008


Don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry.”


Yes! It’s our first day of snow! Big snow flakes whorling through the air. Looks like there’s 1″ out there so far and possibly getting 3″ today. Not too bad for this time of year. I remember it snowing at the beginning of October.


I thought I’d write some thoughts about caregivers today. I’m sure most of them already know these things but I’ll jot them down anyhow.


  1. Don’t worry about whether or not something makes sense. I have emotions which are still powerful and valid — I just may not be able to piece everything together. I actually get a little more distressed and anxious when I feel I’m not understood. I would prefer that my emotions are accepted instead of the reasons or logic behind something which leads up to the emotions.
  2. I’m good at still reading body language. Try to keep a warm and gentle facial expression for me when you are trying to correct me or to help me. It would help to keep my anxiety down.
  3. Let me save face. I probably already know something is wrong but I still have an ego!
  4. Sometimes it’s a little more difficult for me to be able to abstract. Keep it easy. Just use simple concrete language and questions.
  5. Ask me how I feel about things but don’t try to talk me out of something (unless it’s dangerous for me). Just let me know you’re trying to help me.

I keep talking about how our brain continues to grow whenever we learn new things. So, today I’m learning a new knitting technique called Portuguese knitting. I read the review about it on Carole Wulster’s Knitter’s Blog. I’m excited about it like a kid at Christmas. It doesn’t take much to make my happy! From her review it may help me to knit more smoothly with the tremors. It might even help to cut down on my right rotator cuff problem if I knit to much.


Oh, yea. Finally pleasant dreams last night. Hurrah!


Now to lunch and then on to learn Portuguese knitting.



Sunday October 26, 2008



Now you can understand my email address!

Check out the new category at the top of the page. It describes another side of me other than just being a physician — The Knitting Doctor.

I think knitting is one of those things I’ve always done which may have helped me more than I’ll ever know. Maybe it actually prevented me from developing Lewy Body Disease early on! It’s one of those visuospatial crafts which stimulates a certain part of the brain. And each and every craft works on a different part of the brain! So, get out the needles, the hooks, some thread, some yarn or some rope! Yes, rope. Making knots for all those boats and ships……..yes, they help to keep the brain active!

The little picture here is from Beth Brown-Reinsel’s book calledKnitting Ganseysshown on her Knittingtraditions website. I made this about 3 years ago for my nephew in New Hampshire. Ironically, his looks are very similar. I remember well having tremors at the time but I kept plugging along with the sweater just thinking that I needed to relax more. Little did I know Lewy was snaking his way in and I didn’t even know it. That is the time that I was the moderator for the Gansey List on Yahoo. 

For years, I knit on a daily basis. It was good for me. But………knowing what I know now………..I should have also been doing other hobbies and crafts along the way. Since each activity stimulates a unique portion of the brain, I had only been working on one of them. But this part of my brain is probably over developed since knitting is second nature to me. For the past 1-2 years, though, I lost some interest in knitting. Guess what? Yes, I just thought it was stress since I didn’t feel any depression. Looking back, I blamed every one of my symptoms of LBD to ‘stress.’ How pathetic that I didn’t know any better. But then no one around me did either. I now realize that I was suffering from apathy, a common symptom of dementia.

Since I’ve been on the Aricept and the Namenda, the apathetic days are fewer and fewer. I’ve been able to resume knitting but not as intensely as in the past. I am currently working on a pastel green reversible cable baby blanket. Big deal! Well, actually it is. I’m very happy that I can now knit again and look forward to continuing to do it for many years to come.

However, David, don’t get to complacent. There are other crafts and 120 other ways to increase my brain power. Let me think now. I’m able to resume the computer again…..another ingrained activity. I should probably review my Spanish which I learned during the 4 years living in Guadalajara, Mexico. But there isn’t anyone around here who speaks Spanish. I could review it on the web but it just isn’t the same as speaking another language in real life. Think now. You’ve added various puzzles to your list of new activities, thinking out loud with this blog. Guess I’ll take a look at that 120 list and see what might interest me. But, be careful. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. You have a tendency to want to do so much but then you get tired and feel guilty whenever you don’t immediately follow through with your own expectations.

Margo and Stein………….you guys were a breath of fresh air yesterday! Thanks for visiting us. We love you guys. You and your family have been a Rock of Gibraltar to me over the years. Margo, I remember so clearly the first time we met. I wanted to interview you to be my administrative assistant when I opened up my private practice right out of residency training. It seems like this past week but it really was in 1982. That’s why you still seem so young to me. Happy Birthday this week. You are still in your 40s to me. You hold your age of 70 uncommonly well!! You’re so energetic, vibrant and full of life! I used to think that 70 was ‘old.’ Now I know better.

It’s been a quiet low key day today. atching football, knitting and playing with the dogs. Pam is tired. We just found out that both her potassium and iron are both low. I’m worried about her. I remember when the joke was just to give someone some “Geritol.” I don’t know if they even sell that stuff anymore. Those were the days~~

Enough for today.


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