The Knitting Intern

This may be the weirdest post I’ve ever written. A while ago I was on admissions-duty for obstetrics. If you’ve spent time on an obstetrics service, you know that there are short bursts of action followed by long periods of waiting. Less so in admissions, but the intern and I still had a lot of time that we were waiting for something new to happen. I took out my iPad to read study and he… took out a ball of yarn and continued knitting something that seriously resembled a sweater.


For all my ranting about stereotyping, I still struggled to keep my reaction in check. Now, I know THIS DOESN’T MAKE A DIFFERENCE but… This intern was pretty awesome. He was about a year older than me, a pretty fit kid of Asian origin, with really good hair and smallish ear-gauges. He was also really cool and nice: he had taught me a lot that day and let me do all the internal examinations (I needed them for my log), AND he didn’t make me do all his scutwork.

And so, yeah, I definitely did NOT expect him to pull out a ball of yarn and some knitting needles!

But I recovered very well and started asking him about it. He taught himself to knit because there are times when he doesn’t have anything to do at hospital (hard to believe but apparently true), or during an overnight call with accompanying insomnia, or when suffering post-call insomnia.

Long story short: he likes it, he has finished a few items already, it keeps him awake during boring meetings, and if he gets called away he can put it down immediately. Oh, and also, he can talk at the same time, which I cannot do while practicing my go-to hobby (reading).

We did knitting at school. I was ten and the biggest mistake I made was to choose the most difficult pattern the teacher had available. So while my friends knitted simple teddy bears, I attempted an owl plushie (I’ve always loved owls). Given that my hand-eye coordination was pretty crappy (I still refused to wear my specs at the time) my knitting was appalling. I never finished the project as it was not a graded class, and by the next year our syllabus had dropped knitting/woodwork/etc.

Needless to say, I walked away with the belief that I was no good at knitting. Okay, I mean, I REALLY WASN’T, but I have to learn that I don’t have to be NATURALLY good at everything I try. It’s okay to have to work at it.

Recently I’ve had the urge to learn to sew. My suturing is pretty bad (so bad that I am considering using a week of holiday just hanging out in the skills lab), but also I’m really jealous of my friends who sew their own reversible hoodies and scrub caps, and tailor their own scrubs. I have been thinking about taking some sewing classes next year but the truth is that any free time I have outside of hospital I will want to spend on exercise, my family, and reading.

I am reaching a point now, I swear: I wonder if knitting might be my answer. I really enjoy reading during those quiet moments, but it takes a while to get back into reading and then if you have to put it down to rush off to a code you will probably forget what you last read. Reading is not the most social activity and I don’t want people at my new job to avoid talking to me because my nose is in a book and they don’t want to bother me. (Yeah, I’d much rather read than do small-talk but I am old enough to understand that I need real-life friends too.) And people are probably less likely to steal some unfinished knitting than to steal my tablet (then again, this is South Africa, so you never know…).

I just… I mean… KNITTING?! I have so many bad preconceived notions about it. The teenager in my brain still wants to paste an L to my forehead just thinking of it. Which is mean because people I love have made me some really awesome knitwear. Will I enjoy it? What if I suck at it? Is it an expensive hobby? Will I really be able to put it down and pick it back up without difficulty? WHAT WILL I MAKE?!

And don’t hate me, but I’m kind of scared people will laugh at me. I have a lot of bluster about being true to oneself and doing what makes you happy but nobody likes being laughed at.

Anyways. Knitting doctors? What do you think? What else can one do in hospital to pass the time?


  1. I had a colleague who used to knit while invigilating exams. I was rather jealous of her, as reading also isn’t something you can do while playing exam-policeman.

    If knitting doesn’t do it for you, you can always try crocheting (it’s apparently making a comeback, so doing it will make you a hipster, not weird) or cross-stitch embroidery (which should definitely help with your suturing). I could actually do the latter at one point – one holiday at my dad’s my stepmom taught my sister and step-sister to do it and I promptly demanded to also be taught the skill. Haven’t done it since, though.

    1. Crochet looks even more difficult than knitting though :/ but who doesn’t want to be hipster!
      My mom does cross-stitch and I always wanted to learn and then life kind of happened. Hah.

  2. Knitting (and other repetitive work like crochet) is also fantastic for managing stress and anxiety, if you suffer from that. I make things for everyone for xmas and birthdays, so I dont feel so selfish about the cost of the yarn 🙂

  3. Start with things like scarves and cowls, they don’t take heaps of wool and they’re usually a repeating pattern so you don’t need to carry instructions with you everywhere after you get the hang of the pattern.

  4. Crochet! All the way. It’s faster and instead of two stabby needles, it’s a friendly curved hook.
    On a side note, I’m curious. In South Africa does asian mean chinese/japanese/korean origin or indian/bangaldeshi/pakistani origin?

    1. Crochet looks so difficult though! Or am I just being silly?
      Well actually I was being inappropriate, mostly because I never asked him where he originated from. But I was referring to Chinese/Japanese/Korean origin. In South African census Indian/Bangladeshi/Pakistani are all grouped as “Indian”. I prefer to stay away from the classifications of course but I guess I wanted to impress how unusual the knitting seemed to me, given certain stereotypes of knitting as an elderly white hobby.

      1. Perhaps it’s just the generation, because where I live knitting and crocheting is associated more with 20-somethings from all backgrounds than the elderly. My friend (also a second year med student, and a burly male whom one wouldn’t stereo-typically associate with a crocheter at that) is a huge crocheter! He made us all shark hats for Halloween, in fact. There are also some fantastic Japanese amigurimi animals that are terribly popular among the kids around here.
        It takes 2 or 3 tries to pick it up crocheting. It’s a bit like friendship bracelets: it takes lots of work to progress past simple crochet, but once you do, it feels like flying!

      2. 20-somethings from all backgrounds by which of course I mean hispters. But also medical students.

  5. 😍😍😍😍omg I love love your intern. He is a super star.
    I too decided to adopt sewing as a hoppy, but I am too lazy to concentrate.
    Go for it, I heared it helps in relaxing. And of course you will end up having more neurons connections😁

  6. Hahaha the knitting intern. Amazing. Knitting is awesome! I’m only capable of knitting scarves, but it really is a great way to pass the time, and you can definitely multi-task while doing it. Start with an easy pattern and see how you like it!

  7. Oh I just want to give you a big hug Mariechen! Knitting, crochet, cross stitch, needlepoint…all are awesome. The more basic the stitch the more zen it can be and you end up with something (usually) at the end!!! I think your friends here have the right idea, youtube, pinterest, etc. have great tutorials and you really don’t need much to start with. Good luck!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s