The ramblings of a working, knitting, writing wife and mother.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In Which I Buy Yarn

Last year was a little intense. Lots of things happened. My mother fell, broke her hip, and landed herself in a nursing home. I delivered my third baby, my first little son. My family moved to a new house in a deliberately slow way. These actions and tugs on my time combined into a very clear picture. This one to be precise:

I have oodles of yarn, packed and pocketed into every crevice I can conceive and hardly any time to use it. While combining it to move to the new house, which took hours and hours because I punctuated my work with tending to my infant, I had pangs of nostalgia. I remember buying this sweater kit – wow, it’s so gorgeous. I was going to cast that on the moment it arrived in the mail. Oh, this bag has all the wool I set aside for a fingerless mitten extravaganza. I never knit a single pair. Rich bought me this silk for my birthday; it’s set to be a shawl. On and on, over and over with the yarn memories. The plans and the skeins tumbled over each other, and it actually started to get me down. And when I finally had it all in one spot, possibly for the first time since it was a tiny little stash that used to fit in one bitty box under my bed, and I was sitting on my couch nursing my son and staring at it, I had a little bit of a cry (that postpartum period is no joke – you’re always on the verge of breaking into tears). All that beautiful yarn, all those knitted things that I dreamed of having, all right there and completely overwhelming.

Then Rich came home and said the things he usually says, “Why are you crying again? Whoa, that’s a lot of yarn. Please tell me that’s all the yarn.” He looked at the yarn boxes and bins, then at me, and wisely bit his lip, choosing his next words with care. He gently asked if I still needed it all or if there was some I no longer loved and could give away. (I did give away a bag, but it was such a small amount that it doesn’t really count.) He noted, as tactfully as possible, that if I refrained from buying any more yarn I probably would not feel bereft for the rest of my life.

And then we had to physically lift it all up, put it in the back of the truck, and find a new home for it in my new house, coming to terms with the very real fact that I have more materials to make myself clothes than I do actual clothes. And I was filled with resolve. At one point or another, I genuinely loved all this yarn and was delighted at the idea of using it. At some point in my past I daydreamed of casting it on and pulling into existence that Dogwood Blossoms sweater or Sam the Ram.

(Photo courtesy of Knit Picks) (Knit kit a present to myself) So gorgeous.

(Photo courtesy of Knittingpark.blogspot.com. She did such a good job.) (Knit kit a present from my husband. My couch needs him desperately.)

And I decided, as I have in the past, to refrain from purchasing new yarn for a year. Nothing. Not one tiny ball. I have never in my life succeeded in this resolution. However, I set myself up for success this year by doing two things I’ve never done before.

1.     I made a knitting schedule. I put on paper every pattern I wanted to knit this year and the yarn I wanted to use for it. There are 66 things on that list, about a third more than I knit last year. There is no way I’m going to need more yarn from what’s on that list.
2.     I made a pinkie promise with my daughter that I would purchase a new toy for her and her sister should I fail in my no-new-yarn diet. Ezri’s keen on new toys – she checks in with me often. Accountability is everything.

And that’s how it happened. I placed my final yarn order shortly before New Year’s, before the pinkie promise thing, and settled in to my fantastic plan, knitting delicious patterns with my already purchased lovelies. The schedule and the big bins still sitting in my bedroom made me comfortable. I had no urges to buy anything. Having absolutely no space to put it helps. No new yarn for any reason. I’m already almost 1/6 through the year. No problem.

Enter my sister-in-law, Christa.

Christa, bless her heart, is one of the most knit-worthy people I know. She asks for very little, understands that when she does ask for something it might take me months to get around to it, and she treasures every piece I’ve ever given her including that awful, scratchy purple monstrosity of a sweater (with boa yarn at the cuffs) that I knit her for Christmas when I wasn’t very good at knitting. I don't know why I didn't take the actual open wounds the yarn created on my hands while I worked as some sort of clue that this sweater wasn't going to be the most comfortable, but I was young and stupid and get this - thought it would get softer after I washed it. She wore it proudly for years and actually asked me to fix it when she finally wore a hole in it. I dumped the whole thing in the trash unceremoniously and promised her something better as a reward for not stuffing the first one deep under her bed. Yes, it was that bad. I know it looks stylish and cozy in the pictures. Lies. I can’t believe she wore it so long. I also knit one for my sister (I knit this twice, oh my goodness) and she wisely thanked me and promptly hung it up in the darkness of the basement.

 (what can I say? The yarn was a dollar a ball. I know better now.)

So anyway, Christa doesn’t ask for much, but when she turned up pregnant with my first little niece (on my husband’s side of the family), I cranked out the knits for her. I had no children of my own then (2007), so I had tons of time. Not the skills I do now, but definitely time. I made a wonky little sweater and a beautiful crocheted baby blanket (I was better at crochet back then) – the one on the cover of this cute little booklet I own.

It really was a lovely thing, that blanket. All those ends I wove in on that bit of auntie love. I gave it to Christa to wrap her little darling in, but apparently I’d made the blanket a bit too nice. Christa looked at the blanket and saw what a lot of people don’t – the time and energy I had stitched into it, and she decided that she absolutely could not allow it to be dragged on the ground when the baby kicked it out of the stroller or set it on the floor at church so the precious moppet could roll around on it. Despite my assurances that I had crocheted it with a very sturdy washable yarn, she just could not see it spoiled with spit up. She tried – I know she did, but in the end, she washed it, folded it, and wrapped it in tissue paper, tucking it in the upper parts of a closet, never to return.

I do not truck with this idea of things being too nice to use, but I also believe deeply that once I have given something away, no matter how much time I put into it, it’s not mine anymore. And if someone wants to use their sweater to line their dog’s bed – that’s cool with me. Likewise, hiding it from the light of day is ok too.

I will repeat these things to myself often, with clenched teeth, until I believe them.

Now after the rainbow blanket was set aside for some future, mysterious use, it left Christa without a blanket. Well, I’m sure she had plenty of blankets, but since she is who she is, knowing that handmade blankets are superior in every way, she took herself to a store and picked out two skeins of Bernat Baby Coordinates Sweet Stripes yarn. She drove it up to Rexburg and left it in her trunk while she visited with me and let me hold her little daughter. She waited until I was all cozy with the baby, putty in her hands, and then asked if I would mind making her another baby blanket – if she bought me the yarn.

Well of course I will! No problem. I’ll make whatever you want. And just like that – the yarn was in my hands, the baby was gone, and I had a new project. The instructions were to just knit the blanket from the pattern on the ball band. That’s the blanket she wanted; no substitutions allowed.

(This stuff. Except there were two of them. And it was purple and white. Yarn in the picture is not mine, but it is on sale on ebay and I kind of wish I could buy it. If there were two of them available, all bets would be off.)

After recovering from that bait-and-switch, I looked at the yarn and laughed that it was pretty much the exact same yarn I’d made the rainbow blanket from. Except this one striped on its own instead of being a solid color. I looked at the pattern and recoiled slightly. The way it was done would make the stripes smaller and smaller since you start at one corner and increase at each edge, making a triangle until you use half the yarn, then you decrease one stitch at each edge until you have made a second triangle – creating a square blanket where the stripes are beautiful and wide at two of the corners but all mushed up and weird in the middle. All in garter stitch – the most boring (some people say soothing, I say boring. Tomato. Tomahto. whatever) BORING of all the knitting stitches in the entire world.

But what could I do? I broke into the first skein and started knitting. I’m not sure how long it took, but I remember thinking that I’d never finish many times during those intensely long middle rows. How much yarn is in this skein? How does it not use any to knit a huge row like this? Will I ever knit anything else?

By the time I’d hit the second skein I was daydreaming of socks, sweaters, anything that wasn’t soul-sucking miles of garter stitch. But I was working on it when my mother-in-law stopped by one late afternoon, carrying the tiny blanket recipient in her arms for a visit. I’m not sure why she was baby-sitting that day, but I do remember very clearly that little baby Danyelle took one look at her Uncle Ducky, who sported a beard in those days, and burst into tears. Just all out howling, completely undone and inconsolable. My mother-in-law kissed her and bounced her with no effect. When she’d hit her limit, she deposited the wee peachling onto my lap to let me have a go, which wasn’t a great idea since I didn’t have kids and had no clue what to do with this miniature ball of misery.

I still had the blanket on my knees, still on the needles, but Danyelle didn’t care. She grabbed it with her chubby little hands, both hands, big fistfuls, and shoved that blanket on her face, obscuring her scary uncle. She sobbed into the unfinished blanket for a second or two, then calmed down. As long as her nose was covered in sparkly garter stitch, she was good. We had a cuddle and a visit, which ended in more tears when Danyelle was separated from her purple stripey blanket to go home.

There’s nothing quite like an episode like that to spur you toward a finished project. That darling needs a blanket! I poured on the burn and knit through 115 rows that day, finishing at long last late that night. I was not going to stand in the way of a girl and her blankie.

What wouldn't you knit for that precious little poppet?

Danyelle continued to be obsessed with her blanket for years, to the point that Christa brought me another two skeins, pink and white this time, and asked me to knit a second one for those horrible moments when the first one had to be washed. That plan didn’t really work, though, because Danyelle just started carrying them BOTH around with her where ever she went.

She also got a hand crocheted 10-piece nativity set that year. Not sure why I killed myself making that when all she wanted was the stripe blanket, but that's love, isn't it?

Sweet Stripes was discontinued by Bernat (Why?! Bernat!?) shortly after I sort of fell in love with the stripey blankets, but I snagged four skeins (two purple, two pink) on the yarn black market (Yes, there is such a thing, shush) for Danyelle, just in case I ever need to replace either of her blankies. So far, so good. It’s been nine years of constant snuggling and washing, but they are still holding up well. They have been camping and on road trips, to the zoo, to grandma’s, to Disneyland, and most recently, Danyelle has been taking one to school.

And here we have it.

When you are nine years old and struggling with bullies and all the nastiness of being a smart girl in fourth grade, sometimes you need your comfort object. Unfortunately, the comfort object is a little too large to fit discreetly into a desk and allow access to the favorite rubbing corner. So Christa asked me to make a mini blanket, 8 x 8 inches, a potholder really, out of the same yarn, so Danyelle could have a school blanket that wouldn’t draw so much attention or take up so much desk real estate.

There is no way I could break into those sacred four skeins to make a potholder, it would mean I couldn’t make a duplicate blanket. So I asked what color Danyelle would like, noting very strongly that I had solid white and solid pink in that yarn. She chose Soft Turquoise.

I don't know why I bothered with the pictures at night - that is not even close to its real color.

That’s a ton of yarn to knit a square, just so you know (140g). Also, when I went to order the soft turquoise, I made another discovery! Not only is the Sweet Stripes yarn discontinued, but now the solid colors in the 180g skeins that I have been pulling from my stash for more baby blankets have been discontinued as well. And just when I found the magic stitch count number to use them up exactly. This has created the urge to hit Ravelry, Etsy, and Ebay to procure every skein of it I possibly can, just so I can always make these blankets, but I am resisting. I already broke my no new yarn rule to get the turquoise. I still have some of the old stuff stashed – I’ll just have to be more discerning about who gets one of these suddenly a lot more special than I originally realized baby blankets. Perhaps I’ll start bidding wars among the pregnant people I know.

The knitting of the square took about fifteen seconds. I sneezed and it fell off the needles, bang, done. I had the thought of knitting a second one, then using the rest of the yarn to make a scarf with two mini blanket square ends, but changed my mind. For the moment, this will be enough. I hope. We’ll see what Danyelle says after she gets it in a few days.

But wait! A broken rule is a broken rule, no matter how good the cause, right? It would have been so easy to pretend this yarn had come from one of the bins and bags in my closet. It’s not like my daughter has a checklist of all my stuff (oh, what a good idea. I should totally get myself a checklist!). She would never have known that I had to buy the yarn for this. The whole project came together quickly and quietly; Ezri never even saw it since I opened the bag the yarn came in, cast it on, and cast it off all while she was snoozing in her bedroom. But what’s integrity if you’re going to do stuff like that? Besides, we made a pinkie promise.

So I bought the girls a new toy approximately the same cost as my yarn.

Worth it. One hundred percent.

But SERIOUSLY, no more yarn!!