Oh gods, I dread to think what almost came to be,
Surrounded by such sorcery!Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,
(English version by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman)
A funny thing happened on the way from the fair.
I was seduced. Induced. Reduced. Traduced.
I was delayed. Betrayed. Dismayed.
It all started innocently enough. Remember this picture from Saturday afternoon?
Nice and pastoral, right? A little harmless knitterly relaxation, right?
Juno recumbent in the sunshine; nice gentleman whose name I didn’t catch peacefully knitting on a pair of fine-looking kilt hose.
Lovely. Bucolic. Serene.
Yeah, well. Let me show you what was going on off to the left, just a little out of frame.
If I hadn’t marked it up with all those pink things, you might think this was a nice picture of a fine stalwart chiel in a kilt. But it is nothing so innocuous. Standing there in the left side of the frame is Cassiana, AKA Ms. Too Much Wool herself. Depending from her hand by a virtually invisible thread - the thread being spun from the soft and fantastically gorgeous red-orange roving in the bag on the right - is one of her many drop spindles. And I want you to pay special close attention to the relaxed posture of what you can see of Jennifer.
This, my friends, is a portrait of treachery.
After a very few moments Cassie stops spinning, breaks off her thread, performs a magical maneuver that instantly transforms it into a length of perfect superfine 2-ply laceweight,
and demurely hands it to me, saying, “You see? This is what you can make. You can make yarn. You like yarn. I know you do.”
Now. Scroll up and look again at Jennifer’s relaxed posture.
Let me explain something.
I don’t spin.
Oh, it isn’t that I don’t want to spin. It isn’t that I fail to see the attraction of spinning, the fascination, the craftsmanship, the beauty, the tactile satisfaction, the meditative quality. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the deeper understanding it gives you of fiber and structure. I see all these things and I marvel at them, I admire them, I love them. I don’t for a moment doubt that I would love spinning, deeply and purely and devotedly.
But I am not allowed to spin. This is a restriction I imposed on myself when I began to be aware of two things: the allure of spinning itself, and the increasing demands of tsockiness. I barely, if at all, have time for all the knitting and writing-up. My back burner runneth over. I can’t have it both ways. I already have more obsession on my hands than I know what to do with, and as I have said in this space from the very beginning, I Know How I Get.
I don’t dare start learning to spin.
Most of my friends know this. Jennifer has realized it so fully that she is even more adamant about it than I. She is fully cognizant of the danger, and for the past couple of years she has been vigilant against it; she won’t let me get cozy with a spindle or a wheel, and she protects me like a mother hen with one chick, like a father with one pubescent daughter - resolutely fending off all predators. Any spinner tries to approach me with impure intentions, that spinner will have to reckon with the wrath of Jennifer! They’d have to go THROUGH her to get to me.
And yet. And yet. Just look at her.
Now cut to the next afternoon. It’s Sunday, about an hour before closing time. Traffic is slowing because shoppers are gradually running out of steam. I’m sitting quietly in the back corner of the booth, knitting on my sweater superstructure mockup. A certain knot of bloggers reappears at our booth and settles into its usual frequent-flyer places, and then… it begins. Cass unobtrusively takes out a spindle and another little bundle of fiber, and begins nonchalantly doing her spider thing again. And then… see this?
Looks like a picture of a bunch of feet, right?
Four spinners. Four deadly spindle spinners, a veritable twirl of spindlers, all closing in on me, converging on one helpless cornered knitter, all cackling diabolically the while. Like it’s some kind of joke.
Now mind you, I don’t actually blame Cate or Marcy. They had only just met me, and they had no way of knowing. And please note that Juno and Kellee are nowhere to be seen - they are wisely and discreetly staying well out of the way. (Kellee, another new acquaintance, has no horse in this race, but JUNO… admirable restraint. Admirable.)
But Cass knows better. Cass knows much, much better. We have had this discussion, Cass and I. She knows. She knows all about it. She knows, and she is undeterred.
And as for Jennifer…! Jennifer my bodyguard, Jennifer my protector! Jennifer who until now could be relied upon to intervene between me and the seductions of spinning, intoning sternly, “Step. Away. From. The. Designer. NOW. Or. The. Yarn. Gets. It.” Jennifer who plans to give me for Christmas a learn-to-spin kit with the spindle unbalanced and the directions blacked out…!
Look at her. Just look at her. Look at the unholy glee on her face. She has totally thrown me to the wolves - nay she is one of the wolves herself. She’s drafting and spindling away with the best of them, or the worst of them, and she ISN’T EVEN SORRY.
Jennifer is enjoying herself.
I cower in my corner with my knitting, clinging to my needles for dear life. I’m really starting to think I’m a goner, when - whew! a customer turns up in the nick of time, and the coven is temporarily dispersed.
They all reappear about closing time to pick up the loot they’ve stashed with us, and as they’re about to leave they casually invite us to stop by Cate’s for a glass of wine before heading home. Directions scribbled. Hugs all round, and they’re gone.
The fair ends at 4:00, and by the time we’ve organized it all and packed up both booths and all three vehicles it’s somewhere near 6:00 PM. Patrick has already left. Jen and I each have about four hours of driving (in opposite directions) ahead of us, and at first we’re thinking it had better be a regretful raincheck. But… it’s a beautiful day, and it’s been a great weekend overall, and everything is put away, and a kind of satisfied mellowness sets in… and suddenly we decide what the hell, we’ll both go, and we’ll be each other’s much-needed surety for keeping it brief.
We get to Cate’s, where the five of them are assembled (Kellee and Marcy live nearby, Cass and Juno are both staying with Cate). They begin to ply us with strong drink - wine for me, tea for Jen.
And now, for a brief span, the pendulum swings the other way and it looks like I can get my own back against Cass. We’re all talking about knitting (no! REALLY?!?!?), and I happen to mention that in the course of the afternoon I cut the neckline steek on the sweater mockup. Cass shudders, and we all pounce. She has never cut a steek. Never. So I start in with the whole lose-your-cherry thing, and also with the whole explanation about how steeking is so safe because knit fabric is not vulnerable in the vertical plane blah blah blah, and the next thing you know we’re all clamoring for her to cut something.
Someone produces a pair of scissors. I whip out the Megaswatch, with its great swath of seed stitch down the middle, and say, “Here! Cut this in half!”
Juno snatches it from me amid cries of “No way!” And she refuses to return it until I promise not to harm a hair of its head.
Cate meanwhile goes in search of something less inflammatory, and she comes back with a plain swatch in very pretty dark blue wool, a few inches square.
It isn’t technically a steek, of course, but that doesn’t matter, because what’s scary about steeking isn’t the steeky part but the cutty part, and THAT’s the hump Cass has to be dragged over.
She’s pretty scared.
But we all lean over her, chanting “CUT! CUT! CUT!!!!!” - and at last she begins to cut.
She’s just coming to the last half-inch when Jennifer - or maybe it’s been Jennifer’s evil twin all the time? - suddenly leans in closer and cries out, “No! not THERE!” and Cassie’s hand visibly shakes.
We all leap on Jennifer and wrestle her to the ground.
And Cassie finishes cutting.
She has two pieces now, and she’s going to spend a good part of the evening and the following morning playing with picking up stitches in the cut edge of one of them.
And meanwhile, evil-twin Jennifer…
… still has no regrets whatsoever.
I tell you, people, this is not the sweet girl I’ve been working with for the past couple of years. She’s possessed. She is evil. She is twisted. She is naughty.
The final proof? Moments after this little stunt… she up and leaves.
Leaves me there with the temptresses and the wine. One hug and she’s gone. Vamoosed. Sayonara. (Why hast thou forsaken me?)
And someone pours me another glass. And then it’s “What? You’re not coming to dinner with us? Of course you are!” And then it’s a fabulous dinner and a lot of talk and laughter and a surreal waitress moment and… well, then we’re walking back toward Cate’s, and I’m thinking it’s still not that late, and I’m still sober enough that a cup of strong coffee will set me comfortably on the road… and then we’re back at Cate’s and Cate is saying, “you know, you can TOTALLY stay the night… c’mon…” and Juno is saying “c’mon…” and Cass isn’t saying anything because she’s too busy plotting, and then suddenly there’s another glass in front of me, and then my shoes are off, and then… then it gets ugly. Ugly as in we all sat up until all hours, talking and drinking and laughing, and Cate was the best sport in the world and she trotted out all her FOs of Humiliation and laughed at herself while we all said nice things about the, um, colors of the yarn, and told our own worst tales of knitterly shame, and stuff… and altogether it was riotous and lovely - I mean… I mean… I mean UGLY, you know I do.
And every once in a while someone would idly pick up a handful of fiber and pass me a wisp of it to fondle, and every now and then Cass would whisper, “you know… if you twist it, it becomes yarn….” - and then someone would pour another glass and change the subject.
And in the morning… there was stupor… and there was coffee, and more coffee… and then there were gradual signs of life and then there was waffle-making, lots and lots of waffle-making, and in-between waffles there was more chatting and more laughing and more hanging out, and yet again there was… you know… THIS:
And then there was more laughing and talking and then there was a lot of hugging and at last there was leaving, and it was all so brilliantly done that at first I though I might have gotten out with my wits intact. For most of the drive home I congratulated myself on a narrow escape. But now I’m not so sure. Because when I got home I found that at some point somebody had given me another big hunk of this -
- and even now, every time I reach into my bag or my pockets I keep finding lovely little bits of fiber, and I twist them up in my fingers without thinking,
and damned if it isn’t true:
If you twist it, it really does become yarn.
And every time I touch it, I hear laughter.
I’m doomed, aren’t I.
And in her ears rang the echo of… laughter, golden and equivocal….Saki,
“The Music on the Hill”