Although I’m politically and ideologically liberal, in other ways I’m conservative: I’ve never touched drugs (not even the wacky tobaccy); the last time I had a drink was, oh, 20 years ago (and probably had one sip and slept for the next 24 hours); I’m not a partier (granted, partly from lack of opportunity); I dress modestly; I’m careful with my money... This conventional approach also bleeds over into my knitting. I knit the standard stuff: Ribbed scarves, rolled-brim hats, baby sweaters, your basic top-down socks, simple stranded things—nothing bold or new in yarn or method. And, no surprise, I generally use middle-of-the-road colors (except, you know, for that one time). For over-the top excitement, I make things that are striped. Or I use self-striping yarn. On a really crazy day, I do slipped-stitch color-work. Wheeeeee!! The roller-coaster ride of thrills!
Which’all I had to put aside when I was asked to knit a shop sample for an in-shop fashion show, specifically, FoolProof in silvery grey and a dark plum. Grey? Dark plum? Together?! Moi?! Plus, the pattern itself combines four different angled stripe designs. It’s geometric, modern, vogue, very now. Very not me. And here are the results. I must say I’m chuffed.
I also say, whatever you have on your needles now, put it aside and knit this. It is a blast and the results are wonderful. Plus, it’s garter stitch. And there are no seams, just some live-stitch finagling. (It’s like knitting a Baby Surprise sweater or turning the heel of a sock—you never believe it’s going to work until it does). And, oh, the color possibilities!
Last time, I promised a secret confession, the revealing of a secret shame…at least as among experienced knitters. I wind my yarn by hand. So what?, you ask. What that means is that when I walked into Acorn Street for the first time as an employee, despite my 15 years of knitting experience, I had absolutely no idea how to use a swift. None. (I did use a friend’s swift once but I didn’t inhale. She arranged the yarn on the swift and got the whole contraption started for me so I remained oblivious to the set-up process. Then, because her winder was old and wibbly-wobbly, half-way through the winding, the cake flew off the winder and launched itself across the room, scaring me, my friends, and their dogs, so I gave up. Not the most enlightening of experiences. Funny, very funny, but not enlightening.)
Thank God for YouTube. The night before my first day, I spent a good 45 minutes frantically looking up every video I could find about how to use a swift and even mimed the steps along with one of the videos. And thank goodness I did because, given that there wasn’t much I could be relied on to do on Day One, sure enough, I was promptly handed a skein of yarn to wind. As a precaution, I blocked everyone’s view of what I was doing—shuffling to the left if they moved to the left; shuffling to the right if they moved to the right—as I whispered my way through what I had gleaned no more than 12 hours before: Open the skein. Snap it a little so all the strands align. Put the skein around the swift. Lift the base of the swift up so the “umbrella” moves up and out and lock it in place. Cut all the ties without cutting the actual yarn. Find the yarn end that is located on the outside. Make sure the other end is tucked on the inside. Spiral the end of the yarn through the little metal spring. Put the end of the yarn through the notch at the top of the yarn winder. Grab the handle and twirltwirltwirl. Take off the cake. Attach the label. Close the swift. (Remember, now, that my only experience was of a yarn cake that flew across the room so at any minute I expected the yarn cake to bean one of the customers. That might have fed into the anxiety a little.)
I laugh at this now because, oh, my God, the number of skeins I have wound since! Which means, however, I can’t blame inexperience for what happened with the CoBaSi. CoBaSi has some elastic in it which gives the yarn a certain intransigence. By the half-way point, the yarn was everywhere except on the winder. It looked more like Silly String than yarn. Eventually I gave up and just stood there flapping my hands at the swift (Big Sister will recognize this gesture from our youth). A co-worker came to the rescue and literally had to take the entire swift apart, pull the yarn out from inside, outside, top and bottom, gather some up from the floor, and get everything back in order.
I have learned my lesson since. CoBaSi is now my bitch. Because the alternative, yelling at the customers, “Don’t buy that yarn!,” and tackling them to the ground, is frowned upon.
So…it’s been three months since I started working at the yarn shop. Or, looking at it another way, 24 days, give or take, since I only work Mondays and Fridays and sub as needed.
Despite the little pay, no bennies, and the occasional ups and downs, overall I would say I have the world’s most perfect job. It’s part-time; it’s only three miles from my little cottage; my co-workers and boss are friendly, supportive, and patient; I’m frequently greeted with a warm hug and smooch on the cheek in the morning; we have lots of giggles; spontaneous dancing sometimes breaks out, especially at the end of a long day (last time it was something along the lines of the Jets and Sharks in West Side Story); there’s an independent, self-determining, strong-woman energy that I’m enjoying—although it absolutely makes my day when a male knitter comes in, which happens about once every couple of weeks—and I get to spend hours and hours playing with, talking about, and learning about yarn.
My feet, on the other hand, would disagree with my assessment. Holy frickin’-frackin’ Mother of God. The solution has been to take three or four pairs of shoes with me a day and swap them out frequently, depending on which part of my feet are giving up the ghost.
Occasionally you DO have moments like this one from last Friday: You’re helping a customer, the phone is ringing, there’s a dog barking in the store, and there’s a baby screaming in the store because there’s a dog barking in the store. But that sort of chaos happens only occasionally.
What I’m enjoying the most are the people and their stories, like the young woman who came in to find a project to work on during a stint on a fish-processing boat in Alaska (she took a crocodile-toy project for a friend’s baby); the family consisting of dad, mom, and two kids that came in because it was dad’s birthday and he wanted yarn (he left with some nice Malabrigo and a beautiful pottery yarn bowl); the two older, retired Dominican nuns (they were giggly; I could've talked to them all day); the professor of drama at Yale and Juilliard.… This, this I just eat up.
Next up, a secret confession, and my first shop sample!