This section is from the book "Feeling Better? Amusements and Occupations for Convalescents", by Cornelia R. Trowbridge. Also available from Amazon: Feeling Better.
All life is a struggle against limitations. The in-avability to use one's eyes is another challenge to one's courage and resourcefulness.
Whether you can look through the pages of this book for yourself or must have someone do it for you, you will find in it things that can fill your time without taxing your eyes. Most of the puzzles and mathematical problems can be solved without pencil and paper and will afford good mental gymnastics. If you have the gift of music in your soul, you can try the suggestions in the chapter on Music and develop further the ideas briefly presented there. Of the occupations for the hands, the knot-tying, the braiding, the knitting and weaving can all be practiced without the use of the eyes. In fact, no one has fully mastered these crafts until he has caught the rhythm of their movements so that he is not dependent on sight in doing them.
If you learn to knit without watching your stitches -and it is surprisingly easy-it will be an asset all your life. When you can read again, you can prop up a book on a book-rest, knit and read together and get double profit from your time. You can talk with others as you knit with far greater freedom and enjoyment, if you train yourself to keep your eyes off your work. It will give you, too, a quickened sense of the pleasant rhythm of knitting. Altogether it is well worth while to tie a bandage over your eyes and set to work to master the art of knitting without looking. You will probably want to begin with large needles and a very simple piece of work, perhaps even so simple as a washcloth of knitting cotton, of which someone has done a half dozen rows to start you off. And why rip out rows that go wrong? Your aim is primarily to acquire a new skill, not to add to your stock of washcloths. Will it not be easier to concentrate on that and just to go ahead with as many stitches as you have left yourself on the needle? Ask anyone who comes to the rescue not to mind dropped stitches but to knit across one even row. Then go ahead again yourself. When you have done ten or a dozen rows evenly, promote yourself to knitting a scarf or a hug-me-tight bed jacket, described in the chapter on Knitting.
When you try tying knots, get somebody, perhaps a Boy Scout, to make you patterns of clothes line or very heavy cord and for your practice use good-sized rope. For braiding, too, begin with coarse strands. You will soon gain sufficient skill to try braiding a curtain pull or a dog leash of waxed cord or a leather belt. If someone can supply strips of cloth from a ragbag an inch wide, wound in balls, such as are used for rag carpets, you can make braids that can be sewed into floor mats. The edges of the strips should be folded in as you work to make a smooth braid. You may even develop the skill to sew them into rugs with a coarse needle and heavy thread, without watching stitches.
Weaving requires a minimum of eyesight from anyone. Read the chapter on it, for you may find in it the craft that will give you the greatest happiness and the most profitable use of all those possible for the days when you must spare your eyes.
Have you always been meaning to master the touch system of typewriting and never had time before? Your opportunity may have come at last. Have your typewriter set on your bed-table and get a set of instructions, such as is furnished with every typewriter. Mastery depends, the directions say, on just two things: "Familiarity with the keyboard and practice." Be content to go slowly at first. Memorize and master the rows one at a time. Except when they are lifted to strike, keep the little fingers on the two guide keys, a and the semi-colon (;). Strike the space bar with the thumbs and the shift keys with the little fingers. Be properly stern with yourself, even to working blindfold. Strive for rhythm. Typewriting classes often work to the accompaniment of a victrola record to catch the proper rhythm and speed. Ask your friends who are skilled typists for suggestions. There are many useful tricks to learn and everyone has a different set of them.
For writing with a pencil without using the eyes there is a light, grooved writing card which can be secured from the Howe Memorial Press at Watertown, Massachusetts. The left hand follows the ridges as the right hand guides the pencil. On this board you can write letters with ease and freedom. It is made in both fiber and aluminum. On a fiber board a thumb tack or pin can be used to mark the place at which you stop and you will know where to begin when you take up again an interrupted piece of writing. From the Howe Press such equipment for games can also be obtained as interlocking dominoes, playing cards with perforated numbers and pegged checkerboards.
In all that you do with your hands independently of your eyes you are training your sense of touch. Or rather, you are training your perceptive faculties. Recent scientific studies show that blind persons have not a more sensitive touch, as most people think, but a power of perception developed by training in concentration. The seeing feel with equal acuteness but are not equally conscious of their sensations. This seems to suggest new possibilities of enriching our lives. It sets one to wondering how clearly he can interpret the sensations from his fingertips. Test your own powers. You know that you should pass your fingers very lightly over surfaces you are feeling. The sense of feeling develops in proportion to the lightness of touch. Can you get by touch alone the beauty and vigor of outline of a bowl or vase of goodworkmanship or of a carved or modeled figure? Can you follow the pattern on a raised tile and feel the symmetry of the design and the grace of its lines? Can you distinguish the branches of oak, maple, elm and beech by the feel of their leaves or by the leaf scars and buds on bare branches? Can you put together by touch alone a square of heavy cardboard cut up jigsaw fashion or recognize and even put in their relative positions the different states in one of those maps of the United States in which each state is cut out separately? Can you even distinguish the low reliefs on coins? The Chinese carry small pieces of jade about with them for the enjoyment they find in touching the smooth, cool surface of jade with their exquisitely sensitive fingertips. When we rely so much on sight that we neglect to cultivate the sense of touch, we miss many quiet pleasures that it can give. Seek out those pleasures while you must spare your eyes.