Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Weight of Yarn

For those of you stitch strumpets and yarn hustlers, I'm actually not talking technical about the worsted, superfine or superbulky weight of the strings I enjoy fiddling with when the temperature drops.

I'm talking about the anchoring heftiness of a recent knitting project.

Instead of clicking my Logitech keyboard, I have been clicking a pair of Takumi Clover size 6 needles against one other. I started a rather tedious and ambitious project at the beginning of October. Tedious because if you have ever straight stitched for more than two months, well then you know there is no grand excitement or clever mystery to this monotonous handiwork. I guess I consider the project to be ambitious because I have a couple of young kids, a busy job, and addiction to Showtime programming that often requires my full attention and forces my needles to pause so I can grab Kleenex or hide under the puffy pastel pink Cinderella sleeping bag my daughter constantly keeps on the couch. All of these wonderful things tend to wrestle with the productivity of my hand-spun fun.

The other slight challenge of this business was that I had started this project as a gift for the significant someone. Each weekend the project was carefully forced into witness protection about an hour before his arrival and would resurface when things were safe and he was back in his car commuting home.

Pardon me while I stop here a moment. I am aware there are approximately eleven or so generous, patient people who read and encourage my rambles. Thank you for doing so. I actually know #11 personally and while he is a very talented lad, I do not believe he knits. Of this lovely small group, I am certain at least three of you knit. And I pause here because I know exactly what you are thinking right now. I picture your mouths all agog and your thought bubbles exclaiming in bold Calibri Oh my GOD she broke THE cardinal rule of knitting! Holy Shit! NO! You NEVER break The Rule!

For those of you non-knitters, I am speaking of the 'Labor of Love' Rule, also known as 'The Sweater Curse'. There are slightly different versions of this rule/curse, but let's just say that the curse suggests that if one knits a sweater or special project (like a VERY awesome, slightly nerdy Dr. Who-inspired stripey and endless scarf) for their love before there is a legal and binding commitment, within days or weeks of delivering the said labor of love to said sweet, he will drop you like it's hot (hot) and waltz off looking all Snoop-D-O-double-G and very handsome in that fucking awesome thing you just knit for him. Which he will quite likely wear in an upcoming Facebook photo. That shows up in your news feed and leaves you wanting you to stab said knitting needles into your eyes.

Well. Something like that....

Now that all of you are up to speed on the curse, let's continue.

Here is another little interesting tidbit about yarn. Yarn has an insane memory. Even when you slide it from needles and pull it straight, it will put up a fight to hang onto its former shape. The purlish bumps and bends, though no longer supported by their partnering stitches, will beg to stay as they were. Once you rip a project apart, the yarn often becomes too difficult to knit with again. Certainly feel free to try if you enjoy that sort of a struggle. But I digress. Often.

Back to this lovely winding scarf. I mean story.

If any of you are fellow Virgos, or should you believe that shit about the sixth sign of the astrological year having an obsessive attention to detail, well you can certainly appreciate the horror of starting an important project and discovering mid-project the dreaded (pardon the mommy-ism) "boo boo". An imperfection so small no one else may ever notice, certainly not your bespectacled recipient, but a tiny mistake that you can't seem to keep your obsessive eyes and hands off. Here's the thing. Part way through this tedious project I noticed something was off. Maybe a small twisted stitch? I really couldn't be certain, as I am not an expert knitter. But there was a tiny flaw. I could tell.

So what's a girl so ruled by Mercury to do?

In projects past, I would have been pissed. I would not have considered it, like some might, to 'add character'. Oh, hell no. This? Well this is a perfect opportunity to flog myself like Agent Nelson Van Alden (sorry if you don't watch Boardwalk Empire. Your bad. You are really missing out). Instead of appreciating the good, I would have painfully perseverated on the crooked bit, stitched several more anxious rows, and then I would have ripped the shit apart. Simply yanked it back and then started over (possibly from scratch if I couldn't get my stitches back in a regimental row).

But this project was different. I simply couldn't rip it back. I really didn't even have any sort of desire to. At the point when I noticed the little odd twist of yarn, I was already deeply in love with this thing. The stretch of days between seeing my guy sometimes felt as endless as the straight-stitching. This growing autumnal wave of soft vintage Berroco was already long enough to warm my legs and I imagine I must have looked like Linus each time I pulled it from the bag and snuggled in to knit for the night. I loved the feel of this yarn. I also loved that this was the first project that allowed me to look at its larger beauty and appreciate its unique origin and heartfelt intentions. I was very proud of the purpose behind it, designed to wrap JP in his favorite colors and keep him warm this winter mid-week while we were apart from the other. I think it is safe to say that I was a smidge smug. I imagined my humble acceptance speech for the 'Girlfriend of the Year' award I was sure I would earn.

A few weeks ago JP and I broke things off.

Of course this is gut wrenching and personal and a rather big swim though painful waves that pound at the heart. At this age, I don't think that two people choose to spend such a pretty fabulous year together without believing that they might get a piece of the happily ever after. And no, I do not believe I was smacked with 'The Sweater Curse' or punished by breaking the 'Labor of Love Rule'. If I let that kind of foolishness come between me and embarking on knitting something made with creative, sincere love, well then (please! please! please!) hang me like David Carradine from the very project I've feverishly and thoughtfully labored.

The bottom line? We had a very near miss. Maybe that's why this feels extra difficult in the early days.

It was hard to pick up the knitting again. The first time I pulled the scarf out I was in a pathetic panic. I felt an anxious and immediate need to finish it, put it in a box and to send it off to Somerville. As soon as possible. I was completely overwhelmed; sobbing sad tears and snotting all over it. I'm hoping that bit of charming news will make the intended recipient(and everyone else on my gift-giving list) happy to know that I have recently decided to keep the scarf. I'm keeping it for myself.

This scarf has become quite a lovely, lengthy metaphor. I am happy to report it is almost complete and I can now click my needles together each night without focusing on the slight imperfections woven into the relationship that inspired it and without wanting to completely rip myself or the past apart like an old knitting project. I have begun to appreciate how the heavy, long tangle of geeky stripes warm me at night in lieu of the guy it was intended for. I'm also thinking of super-nerding it out with some tassels when it's finally complete.

So, yes. I'm keeping the scarf. And while I'm at it, I'm keeping hope that both JP and I find someone warm and cozy to share our happily ever after with. But until then, I am really looking forward to giving old man winter the finger while wrapping myself up in this slightly imperfect but rather profound gift to myself.