I was given a remarkable gift. A gift on many levels and remarkable on many levels. At a local auction, there were five bins of yarn available: three filled with wool, bamboo, boucle, and mohair and two with acrylic. My parents texted and wanted to know if they should bid; I said yes to the wool and no to the acrylic. A few hours later they texted again. All three bins were mine.
At first it was like winning the lottery and my birthday all mixed up together. My parents had spent $70 on these bins, gave them to me, and the value of the yarn was well over $1000. There were skeins and skeins of remarkable, expensive, luxurious yarn. It was not all yarn I would have picked out for myself, but it was all beautiful. As I poured through the bins there were patterns with the yarn, and there were start of projects, and projects half done. Suddenly, this wasn’t just a bunch of awesome yarn, but another knitter’s stash, and she was no longer around to finish that sweater, that blanket, or whatever that swatch was going to become. The deeper we dug the more real she became. She loved yarn and knitting, and this is what my heart has invented of her story.
Mrs. Knit Purl never skimped when she bought yarn. She wasn’t one of those optimistic knitters who thought, “Oh well maybe I can make do with just 5 skeins of this gorgeous boucle.” She bought 6, even if it was $40 a skein because she knew that if a pattern said she needed to have 1000 yards, 1200 was safe and 1000 was cutting it just too close, especially given her growing waistline. She held onto projects for years waiting for the right time to turn yarn into a garment. She prided herself on knowing what she was going to do with every skein in her stash, but a smart knitter knew that it was easy to use less yarn than you have but hard to use more.
Knit wasn’t afraid of having multiple projects going at once, in fact she loved the variety of a purple itchy wool sweater on one set of needles, a boring brown swatch for her grandson’s Christmas sweater started on a second, and a fluffy soft Alpaca cardigan in vivid jewel tones halfway completed on a third. She wasn’t the knitter she used to be, anything smaller than a size 5 needle made her fingers ache, so the variety of projects gave a routine to her knitting days. As she was drinking her morning coffee and smoking her first cigarette, the smaller needles and wool helped loosen her hands. Late in the evening, while she was watching the evening news, and smoking her last cigarette, the alpaca on the giant size 15 needles was easy for her eyes to see and her hands to work.
Her projects also gave a routine to her years. She told people she loved them through her knitting. Every April she started a sweater for her grandson, and she had it finished and wrapped every December. She knew that he didn’t love her sweaters – who needs a new sweater from his grandma every year – but she still loved the tradition of him wearing her sweater every Christmas Day. She’d made his first one when he was just a tiny baby, and this year would be her twenty-second sweater for him. He was in college now, and maybe he wouldn’t mind wearing a brown cardigan on cold winter days. Now that he was paying his own heating bills he might appreciate something to throw on in the house instead of turning up the heat. She saw boys his age walking down the street in sweaters. Maybe this year would be the year she would finally make something he would cherish. The one he’d still be pulling on years from now when his own baby woke in the middle of the night.
She loved color and dreamed of making a knee length sweater for herself: a statement piece that would show everyone that she was not just a knitter, but an artist. One winter day she found a yarn that reminded her of the sunsets she during her Alaskan vacation. She was stroking the yarn and counting the balls when the lady at the yarn shop asked if she could help. Knit told her about the dream, and the yarn shop lady found her a pattern she loved; it looked like a housecoat, but in the sunset yarn it would be a housecoat she could wear with pride. She’d waltz into her knitting group and her friends would gasp in admiration at her masterpiece. Oh, but there wasn’t enough yarn in the stacks. The shop lady smiled, went to the back and came out with four full bags of sunset yarn, each containing twelve balls. Knit never considered not buying the yarn and the pattern. Each time she finished a project she would pull out those bags of yarn, and each time she started something else. She loved the idea of the coat, but she never felt ready to actually cast on the dream.
Knit’s collection has been donated down to two bins of yarn. Every Thursday, when I work from home, I place the yarn in my backyard to let the sunshine and chlorophyll in the grass work their magic on the cigarette smell. As I set them out I appreciate her plans, and make my own. The sunset yarn will be shared with a knitting friend who loves color the way Knit did. The jewel toned yarns are beloved by my mother and will make a blanket, or a shawl, or a cardigan. There is an afghan kit I will make for myself and five different beaded scarves that will become lovely Christmas presents. With every packing and unpacking I appreciate her artistry and promise to make something, different than she planned, but equally lovely with her beloved yarn. I’m sorry she never got to make her sweater, but I won’t make it for her. That was her dream, and I’m sad she never got to realize it. My gift to her is to love her yarn and to make my own dreams. I hope that someday my yarn will go to someone like me who appreciates it and laments the fact that I had cats the way I wish Knit hadn’t smoked.
Thanks Knit. I love your yarn, and I’ve loved having you as an imaginary knitting friend over the past few weeks. May you rest in peace.