Not The Harlot

Pssst. Over here.

No, here. In the corner. That’s right. Hi.

I’m Rams. And I’m going to (no, Stephanie isn’t here right now) to ask you to cast your minds back (Soon. She’ll be back real soon.) to your babysitting days. (She went for a little bike ride, okay? And she’s going to bring back lots of nice…)

Now see here. Get a grip.

No, wait, my fault. The baby on Jim Henson’s “Dinosaurs” used to react to alternate caregivers (like his father) by shrilling “NOT the mama! NOT the mama! NOT the mama!” and anyone filling in for Stephanie’s got to anticipate a similar response.

As I see it, I have two choices, Imitation and Distraction (Uglification and Derision will be along in a minute.) On the one hand I could start adding “u” to any word ending in “or” in a valourous attempt to add local colour. I could allude to Rick Mercer’s blog, complain that the kids dripped poutine on the chesterfield, show no surprise that a “combo” at Tim Horton’s means “with coffee” and say “arse.” (Okay, that last wouldn’t be much of a strain.)

Or. There’s Choice B – Distraction. This is where the babysitter puts in the Thomas the Tank Engine tape, pulls out all the pots and pans to bang on and even starts sharing her Mint Milanos. Of course this is too transparent a technique to use with sophisticated adults. (LOOK! A baby panda!) Greater subtlety is required. For example:


Well, one incomplete sock isn’t going to do it, right? To simultaneously distract, suck up and impress/horrify you, I need to come up with spectacle. Now, granted I just finished teaching a sock knitting class and felt it was My Duty to have a sock at every possible stage of completion, just in case, um, you know, someone needed a demonstration of what came next. Still, that may not quite explain my compulsion to cast on every ball of sock yarn in the house and order


three new colorways (oops, colourways) of Blue Moon Socks That Rock.

(Actually, this feels more like the knitting equivalent of the Locking Yourself Out story, where everyone competes to prove they were even dumber than you were. I once had to burgle my own house because I had a pot of water boiling on the gas stove, but my friend Lynn left her locked car running in the teacher’s lot all day long and even returning to it after school just wondered why every car was covered with snow but hers. My boss, however, holds the current title, having stopped to check his country-road mailbox and locked himself out of his car which was running, in the road and nearly out of gas. Not enough? He also locked himself INTO our store’s former “air lock,” between the shop’s back door, which automatically locked, and the outer door, which at that point had a deadbolt. Keys on his desk. Gotta love that man.)

No, no, wait. Don’t wobble that collective lower lip at me. No lemur eyes! (What would Stephanie do, what would Stephanie do….)

I know! A vote! (I’ve always suspected her polls are a way to get us to play quietly while she gets some work done.) All right, how about this — No, really, I need your help….

A lot of us love handpainted yarns, the variety, the colors, the plot, the way the project just sings along while you wait to see what color comes next. Yet when all’s said and done, too often you step back and look and that schmatte might just as well have been knit of Red Heart Mexicalli. Okay, so Gretchen Huggett, the head of textiles at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and I have been experimenting with dying intervals, spinning techniques and patterns in which handpainted yarns would be indispensable, not an afterthought. We tried producing self-patterning sock yarns, some successful


(Why yes, there are two of them – thanks for noticing,) and some less so, like those blue and yellow ones in the group shot (Shut up. They were supposed to be Pansy Socks, purple and blue with a touch of gold, but that chrome yellow makes everyone in Michigan start humming “Hail to the Victors”) Then we moved on to bigger things.

We dyed parallel lots of merino/tussah/alpaca roving in identical colors,


then took them home to spin


and knit into completely different stoles. We’re working on an article (well, two articles of clothing, but you know what I mean,) so I can’t reveal too much, and nothing at all about what Gretchen’s up to, but I’m stalled. I’d never liked modular knitting until I saw Barbara Venishnick‘s ingenious top in the summer 2004 Vogue Knitting. Adapting its diagonally-migrating diamonds for my purposes, I envisioned a rectangular stole with tapering ends, each end deeply fringed (so the fringe would taper, too) and knotted.

As I spun, though, and calculated (and recalculated – I’m an English major, so shoot me,) I began to get nervous about having enough yarn (this despite the reality that spinning it was taking decades of my life.) And we all know two things about fringe: a) it eats up a lot of yarn and b) there’s no going back once you cut it. So I chickened (didn’t hurt that one skein, spun while watching A Night at the Opera, came out way too thin) and decided to do my favorite lace trim.


I forgot about that point.


Now, even the best of us sometimes have to make a couple of running starts at points before we round them. But see how adorably (read: accidentally) the lace-so-far mirrored the sequence of colors of the shawl? Until it all began to go horribly, horribly wrong (pink began too early, didn’t go on long enough, one point should really be three centered ones but then there REALLY wouldn’t be enough pink…) To further complicate matters, this stole builds diagonally, so that mirroring won’t happen on the right side.

So, possums – what should I do? (I mean, “rip out and get that point right” is a given, as is “block that lace SEVERELY – how can we tell anything from this picture?”) – suck it up, rip it back, spin more pink, round the point symmetrically and finish the lace? Or go for glamour and fringe it? How about lace on one end, fringe on the other? Help me – I’m flailing.