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?

Look again.

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….

“The Music on the Hill”


37 Responses to “Detour”

  1. Phiala Says:


  2. AS Says:

    Oh, man, I’m glad I don’t having spinning friends, because it is a) something I don’t need to get addicted to and b) something for which I currently lack the space to deal with. But, wow, is it appealing.

  3. ZaftigWendy Says:


    You realize that you are your own worst enemy, right?

  4. Linda Schaefer Says:

    You are soooooo toast.

  5. Sharon Rose Says:

    Nobody blogs about spinning that much unless they are already hooked. Methinks the lady doth protest too much!

    Welcome to Whirly side of the Force. *grin*

  6. Mama Cat Says:

    But of course, you know what happened to Sleeping Beauty when she touched the spindle …..

  7. Jesh Says:

    If I am doomed (and clearly I am, judging by the heaps and heaps of roving that arrived at my house today) then you, sadly, must be doomed with me. It is a terrible fate.

  8. Liz Says:

    Oh, boy. You’re heading down that slippery slope, my friend.

  9. Gretch Says:

    All that temptation aside (and I noticed you were admirable - nay, saintly in your resistance), I just have to be the one that admires deeply, and with ever-growing need to meet you some day with my best game on (and still falling, probably, mute) your skills with our language. If you never design, never do that weird bell stuff, never knit, never (dare I say) spin, I will read you until my eyes fail.

    and really, it’s just a matter of time with that whole spinning thing. Seeds were planted, covered, gently watered with wine and coffee, fed with laughter. But make no mistake about it - seeds were planted…you are toast.

  10. thetserf Says:

    Get me all set up with the texteses and maybe you might find time to spin….


  11. MonicaPDX Says:

    It’s only just repayment for planting seeds about Rhinebeck. [eg] Remind me to show you my beautiful Asciano FiberArts Tools cocobolo rosewood spindle this October…heheheheh.

  12. helen (of troy) Says:

    see you sunday–you know i have a spare spindle, don’t you?

  13. gwynivar Says:

    Fiyero: “What is it?”

    Elphaba: “It’s just… for the first time, I feel Wicked…”

  14. Carys Says:

    Oh, my dear Tsarina, I have been laughing my damn fool head off over head at your exploits….

    It sounds like you’ve been seduced by the dark side of the fleece.

  15. Cathy-Cate Says:

    Jennifer, oh, Jennifer.

    You realize, however, it must be the company she keeps….

    I am like you. I refuse to touch a spindle. Or a wheel. Or anything spinny. Because I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would fall in love. And I have NO TIME and Too Much Yarn. So, like Aurora and the Tsock Tsarina,, the goal is that a spindle shall not touch these hands.

    (Did I ever tell you that when a Russian touring production of Sleeping Beauty came here, in their production, in the scene in which supposedly all spindles are hunted down and confiscated after Carabosse curses the little princess; that the dancers had KNITTING NEEDLES that they were pretending to knit with, that were whisked away from them. Only time I’ve seen these two of my passions portrayed simultaneously. Until my recent original choreography of Actual Knitting While Dancing performed at Sock Camp, that is! But I digress. As usual.)

  16. Deidra Says:

    So would you like my favorite roving, sliver, and batt links and the photos of all the different beautiful spindles to collect, er, use before or after you start wasting designer time surfing all by your lonesome?

  17. Mardi Says:

    Spindles are beautiful (oddly, the whole spinning thing tempts me not at all…) and what are tserfs for, if not to free their overlords for more fiberly pursuits??

  18. LauraS Says:

    Spinners! When you mentioned wickedness, I might have known the story was going to be about spinners. At the last Harlot event, I was sitting quietly knitting a sock when I noticed two women spinning by the first row of chairs, in front of everyone! They were using drop spindles. Do you call that spindling? No–I don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the clear danger of being around these people. Just as I couldn’t stand it any longer and was getting up my courage to ask how it works, another knitter came up to them and was promptly sucked in. And then another. I believe one of the spinners gave them business cards. The spinners were doing it ON PURPOSE to trap the susceptible.

    Tsarina, you keep fighting the good fight.

    Uh, Deidra, I’ve been wondering (apropos of nothing) why people collect different kinds of spindles. Is it just because they’re beautiful, or do the different kinds of woods and so on have different properties? I’m not asking for any particular reason, of course. It means nothing that I put a soon-to-be-published book about spinning on hold at the library two weeks ago. And when I asked both my friends who spin where they learned, that was just to make conversation.

  19. Tunie Moreno Says:

    I’m grinning now as one obsessive-compulsive who definitely recognizes another. LOL Yes, you are toast. Not only will you be spinning AND later get involved with dyes, but you’ll probably be collecting the dog hair of any friends who have a Samoyed. Soon you’ll discover the joys of plying, traveller’s wheels, roving, raw fleece of all varieties and then wonder if you should knit or weave the yarns you produce. What?! You don’t have a loom? That, too, will come with time.
    To have me break the spells I’m cooking up for you, release the leaves pattern and I’ll be too busy knitting them to concentrate on sending you messages about spinning. :)

  20. Mardi Says:

    I take it back. I now predict I’ll be coming home from Seattle in two weeks with some sort of spindle, how-to book, and something to spin as a souvenir set. It’s those damned spindles, they’re so pretty, and I’m a sucker, just a helpless total sucker, for beautiful tools of any kind. Off to ask what’s the best book!

  21. CindyS Says:

    In all my days surrounded by evangelical Southern Baptists, I have never in my life seen such a fervor to convert others as I have among spinners. One particularly evil disciple attempted to convert me via my sweet, innocent 9 year old daughter. Fortunately, said daughter was terrible at it and wouldn’t try for more than a minute or two. My heathenness thus remains intact, but for how long? Be strong, my sister.

  22. Tina M. Says:

    Heh. Come to the Dark Side. We have Cormo.

  23. Sally Says:

    Next thing you know you’ll be keeping angora rabbits, and maybe one liitle sheep…you know just to keep the edge off the spinning jones!

    I myself have long ago given in to the dark force of the spindle…I have only resisted a wheel because I just don’t have the $$ to get the one I really want…so let that be a lesson to you — DO NOT spin on someone else’s new “fabulous” wheel unless you want to be seduced by the #$*@* thing.

    And oh yeah, you are so very doomed….

  24. Lynne Says:

    Yep, doomed. Not a hope. Lost. Demised. Gone. Sailed into the sunset.

    Good luck.

  25. Melanie Says:

    Can we expect twenty seven 8 by 10 color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one? And if not, WHY not?

    (I had a friend grab me, drag me to a wheel, and teach me to spin. I’ve had two lessons. It’s fun, and it’s soothing, but I am not allowed another hobby. Be strong.)

  26. Marcy Says:


  27. Toni in Florida Says:

    You. Must. (And Can.) Resist. The. Spinning.

    Stay strong, sister!

    Thank the gods I’m not tempted by the whole thing. It one time-/space-/money-sucking fiber-based hobby that doesn’t appeal to me. That probably has something to do with the whole living-in-Florida-and-not-using-wool thing. Yes, there’s cotton and silk, too, but again, not tempted. Heck, I don’t even want to dye… or bead.

    I’ll just stick to knitting, (occasionally) crocheting, (rarely) sewing, (in the distant past, but still with 2 UFOs) cross-stitching, and (of course) yarn collecting.

  28. Astrid Bear Says:

    There are also low whorl spindles. And supported spindles. And spinning wheels. You’ve got room to build an equipment and fiber annex, don’t you?

  29. onafixedincome Says:

    You know….

    Jennifer’s shirt really SHOULD have been taken as a clear warning…. :)

    And as for the ’sucking in’ of new and embryonic spinners….well, ever seen a whirlpool? Same principle.

    Toast, thy name is Tsarina :). Lemme know when you want some Angora to play with.

  30. mamacate Says:

    You really were in a nest of vipers, weren’t you? I was enjoying hanging out, but when I reflect back on your resolve, it was sort of like bringing the avowed teatotaler to the speakeasy.

    And though I’ve been known to gloat about such conquests, I have one caveat: NOT UNTIL THE TENTH TAILOR!

  31. Maria Says:

    You know, this might be karma for your sock enabler activities…. ;)

    (That said, I am SO joining next year’s sock club. I’m so sorry I couldn’t do it this year and am still pouting about it.)

  32. RobinH Says:

    Whoa. Traveling in dangerous company, clearly. I have tried spinning on both a drop spindle and a wheel, and still managed to tear myself away, chanting my mantra, ‘No more hobbies that require practice’. But it wasn’t easy.

    Good luck.

  33. Glenna Says:

    Don’t you already know that spinners are worse than knitters about converting the populace? You might want to increase your stash storage to accomodate fiber, now.

  34. Mistress Wenzer Says:

    I was seduced by the dark side in January. Beware the dark side. I now have more fiber than yarn in my stash (if that’s possible).

  35. Kelly Says:

    Oh you are so done!! Its like watching a train wreck, you dont want to but you just cant help yourself. I also have a spare spindle LOL

  36. Gryphon Says:

    Stepping in to save the day, since your knight in shining armour has turned renegade! Here’s the truth: all those little spindles are a front. Those spinners don’t really spin on pocketsized spindles with wee little tufts of fiber, that’s just a way to make the whole thing look small and innocent to the unsuspecting victim. Then you get your own little spinde and play with it and soon realise that it’s slow and cumbersome and what you really need is a wheel. But the wheels are different and some are better for some kinds of yarn and others for others, and really you can’t do without four or five wheels (or fourteen, not that I’m referring to myself…), and you get pretty little braided rovings until you find that it’s safer to buy at least two pounds of everything so you’ll have enough for a sweater, and then maybe you accidentally take home a fleece or five and need to learn all about processing it and need combs and a drum carder or two and a niddy-noddy and a yarn blocker, and and and… am I making my point? DON’T TOUCH THE SPINDLE!

  37. Dan - aka brewergnome - aka the naked dude Says:

    Heh. Stay away from my journal for a while. You know what *I’m* heading for. A total of about 6 hours and I’m already making useable yarn. Dangerous thing it ’tis, lady Tsarina!

Leave a Reply