Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stash Enhancement: Mission Accomplished

Well, my wallet is a good deal lighter than it was yesterday at this time, but the good news is that I shouldn't need to buy more yarn for *ahem* quite some time. I'll try to write a full report of yesterday morning's Knitters' Breakfast festivities in a future post, but in the meantime I'll make do with a few photos and a humorous story.

Here's what I bought:

9 skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool to make this sweater from Jo Sharp's Knit Issue 2:


Enough Classic Elite Wool Bamboo to make this sweater from the new Interweave Knits:

Plus 3 balls of Queensland Collection Llama Seta to make some comfy, slouchy around-the-house socks


This gorgeous embroidered silk to line my Doctor's Bag (along with thread and bamboo rods for support). They didn't have any purse handles that I liked, so I'll be ordering those online.
I also won a door prize:

This assortment of single skeins of pink yarns. Let's just say that at least some of this will be showing up at the Knitsmiths' next swap.

As I mentioned, I'll be providing some more details about the Knitters' Breakfast in a future post, probably after my upcoming trip (more about that tomorrow). In the meantime, though, I thought I'd post the following story, which I wrote after one of the first Knitters' Breakfasts I attended a couple of years ago. I submitted it to Knitty, but Amy sent it back for revisions because it wasn't long enough, and somehow I never got around to whipping it into shape for publication. So here it is for your reading pleasure.

The War Between the Knitters
When I first started knitting, I imagined knitting as this cozy sisterhood, a collection of women (and a few sympathetic men) with a shared passion for color, craft, and a good cup of tea. Little did I know that there are a few topics that can cause knitters to take up needles against one another, or that I was about to stumble into the middle of one of the fiercest controversies when I innocently registered for a knitters’ breakfast advertised by a nearby fabric store.

When I saw a cluster of women wearing Fair Isle sweaters and comfortable shoes and clutching bulging canvas bags, I figured either I had the right place or I’d stumbled upon a librarians’ convention. The smiling store staff greeted us at the door with nametags and (oh, joy) discount coupons. One burly store clerk, though, had the sole responsibility of corralling us bargain-happy knitters past the sale bins and up to the breakfast, chanting, “Breakfast first, shopping later.” Meek as sheep, we allowed ourselves to be herded up the stairs.

The breakfast spread was impressive, as was the turnout—there must have been at least a hundred knitters there. I staked out my spot at one of the crammed tables and shyly began eating. As I watched more knitters file in, I heard the unmistakable click of knitting needles. Glancing around, I saw with surprise that many women were successfully knitting and eating simultaneously. Having only recently mastered knitting and talking at the same time, I watched in awe as Inge, my breakfast companion, knitted on impossibly tiny needles while downing a pumpkin bar. In my inexpert hands, cream cheese frosting and merino wool would be a lethal combination, but Inge made it look easy.

Despite the early hour, most knitters seemed cheerful and excited to be in each other’s company. The only grumbles of discontent were inspired by the lack of coffee—the percolator kept blowing fuses. A few smug women flaunted the Dunkin’ Donuts brew they’d picked up on the way to the breakfast.

Half an hour later, Inge, a knitter for more than 55 years, had walked me through a row of her complicated lace pattern and complimented me on the choice of yarn for my sweater, even though she glanced with disdain at the large needles I was using. By this point, the percolator had shorted out, causing a small fire. As if to distract us from the lack of coffee, Dale, the store manager, came in to address the group. “Good morning, ladies!” he shouted with the hepped-up gusto of someone who had obviously had his cup of joe before he left the house that morning. “Who’s ready to win some door prizes?” A collective cheer rose from the group. Dale began drawing winners of surplus pattern books, yarn grab bags, and last season’s store sample garments, as he kept up a steady string of wisecracks and horrible knitting puns.

“Is Dale married, do you think?” I overheard one middle-aged woman near me muse. “I should give him my daughter’s phone number—he’s so cute and funny!” This woman was either naïve or seriously deluded, I thought, as Dale paraded up and down the front of the room, enthusiastically modeling a pink angora hat and scarf set.

After the door prizes were distributed, Dale, sporting the super-enthusiasm usually reserved for motivational speakers and camp counselors, introduced us to Sonja, “who will show off the new fall yarns!!” Sonja, a soft-spoken woman with silver hair and glasses, didn’t exactly seem like the type to ignite controversy, but that’s exactly what she did, almost as soon as she opens her mouth.

“I just have two words of advice for all you knitters,” Sonja addressed the crowd. “First, move beyond scarves. If you never make a sweater, or even a hat, you’re not challenging yourself!” A murmur of approval rose from the group, and I caught a couple of older knitters casting withering looks at the twenty-something women who were using giant needles to make scarves of eyelash and glitter yarns.

“My second piece of advice,” said Sonja, “is that you should always use beautiful yarn, natural yarn, the best you can afford. Life is too short to use cheap yarn.” And then, who knows why—perhaps it was the increasingly stuffy room or the continued lack of caffeine—all hell broke loose.
A couple of women, whose knitting bags overflowed with crochet hooks and yarns of colors not found in nature, jumped to their feet in indignation. “Not all of us can afford cashmere,” one of them said loudly, with a pointed glance at Sonja’s gorgeous charcoal sweater. Another woman, knitting furiously all the while, practically shouted in her outrage, “My whole family still wears acrylic socks that I knitted twenty years ago!”
“And I bet their feet stank the whole time,” a younger woman near me said, just loud enough so that everyone could hear her. Her friends, sporting wristbands handknit from designer yarns, laughed scornfully. I heard the words “craft store” muttered with contempt.

At that, the group was at each other’s throats. Women gestured menacingly with aluminum knitting needles (on one side) and birch needles (on the other). Dale ran around, frantically waving his hands, hopelessly trying to bring some order to the chaos. From my dangerous position in the middle of the two camps, I couldn’t help thinking: What happened to that knitting sisterhood I had imagined? I tuned out the hubbub and looked around. There was Inge, in her seventies, and a nine-year-old girl who had knitted her own dress. There were women who had knitted for forty years, and women who hadn’t yet learned how to bind off. Some women sported tattoos while others wore support stockings.

Didn’t they realize how wonderful it was that such a simple craft could bring such different women together in one place? Couldn’t they recognize that our common enthusiasm for knitting was so much more important than what divided us?
And then, I was snapped out of my reverie with one little word from Dale, one simple but powerful word that quieted the shouting and brought the knitters back from the brink of violence. For after all, if there’s one thing that knitters have in common besides our passion for craft, color, and caffeine, it’s this: shopping. Our differences momentarily forgotten, we smiled sheepishly at one another and headed downstairs to repair our friendships and replenish our stash.


Blogger Theresa said...

Too funny! Have a great trip!

7:01 PM  
Blogger Elinor said...

That is *so* true. The Great Divide. I'm in the wool and birch needle camp, myself!

9:49 PM  

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