You know how sometimes, you’ve got these friends, and they totally love that you’re a knitter, and they really think that it’s terrific that you knit, but they’re kinda fuzzy on the details?  This is a story like that.  I know this guy, Barrett, and a while ago (I am unclear how this happened, truth be told) Barrett came into possession of a bag of yarn. He was thrilled. Delighted really, because he knows me, and I know what to do with yarn, and he presented me with this bag of yarn – all smiles, and asked if I would make him a scarf.

For reasons that I can’t even begin to explain, I agreed. (Actually, the way I remember it, I only sorta agreed, but then he agreed to be a Team Lead for the Bike Rally and I said it was for sure then.) The problem, other than that knitting a scarf is actually tons of work, was this.

I don’t know if it’s clear from that picture, but there are two problems.  One is obvious. Those colours don’t really “go”.  The second problem, and I this is the one I think you can’t spot… it’s dishcloth cotton. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how I was going to make Barrett a scarf that was a) remotely good looking b) not so heavy that it didn’t threaten to break his clavicles.  I thought about it for a while, and by a while, I mean months. Maybe a year.  (Okay, it was a year for sure.)

A few weeks ago, I got this idea. I’d pretty much firmly established that I had no interest in knitting this yarn, but I still kept it around in the canopy of the stash, right at the top, where I had to feel guilty about it. I’d told Barrett it would be a scarf and I didn’t want to tell him it wouldn’t be, and frankly, part of me didn’t want to give up. I decided that if I couldn’t/wouldn’t knit it, then maybe there was another way to make it into a scarf?  I started playing around with it, making different piles, wondering how it could go together… then I got my little loom.

I made the yarn into two piles, in the end and did a bit of math to make sure my plan was going to work.

Then I wove,

then I warped it again.

When all was said and done, I felt like I’d done a magic trick.

It has occurred to me, while I think I’ve pulled off quite the charm, that I’ve likely done very little to teach Barrett about good yarn, about what can be a scarf and what can’t be and he remains a person walking the earth thinking that you can just bring a textile person anything and have them turn it into something pretty good.  I wondered, as I handed him the scarves, if I should have said something. Something like “You know, this is actually very impressive” or “You know, this was practically alchemy dude, that was dishcloth cotton”. Instead I just forked them over, and he looked pleased, and said he loved them.

I didn’t say a word, but we’ll all know.  Magic, I tell you.  Magic.

199 thoughts on “Interlude

  1. Magic, indeed! I am so impressed it makes me think I should learn to weave so I can create magic, too.

    • I think rigid heddle looms are going to experience a Yarn Harlot-related bump in popularity. And I for one welcome our new loom overlords. 😉

  2. Bless you, Stephanie…and me, too. I’m currently knitting and crocheting my way through my late Mom-in-law’s stash. I want each each family member to have something from the stash as a remembrance. I never knew my creativity could stretch this far. 😉 I might be feeling pretty proud when I come out the other end of this.

  3. I have been given my mother’s dish cloth yarn, using it like this would never have occurred to me. It’s amazing!!

  4. Congrats Steph,
    I have a warp on my rigid heddle loom right now that is in need of some magic. As I looked at what you did, I was confirmed in an idea that came to me yesterday. I also have a floor loom that is trying to get on her feet, or treadles and have no idea what to put on her so that I can adjust her feet (treadles). I looked at the blue scarf and remembered a certain giant plastic storage container in my attic. You have magiced me again Yarn Harlot. You have done it again!

  5. Amazing. I would have tossed it all and made him a scarf of something else (he probably wouldn’t have remembered the colors anyway). You really pulled a rabbit out of the hat there – I am in awe of your creativity. The scarves look wonderful!

    • Yup, me too (unless the yarn had special meaning for him!)

      I’d have worried about matching the colours though!

  6. Better than returning a garbage bag full of dishcloths to him by far! However, as a knitter who can’t read patterns ( can’t read music either), I have knit more than one baby blanket from dishcloth cotton. This after my best friend’s daughter-in-law ruined her first baby’s blanket knit by the proud grandmother from expensive washable merino by puting it a hot dryer. I figured it would be indestructible, and just hoped the dishcloth cotton wouldn’t end up too stiff. Please tell me, Dear Knitters, that it wasn’t an Epic Fail on my part.

    • It was an epic WIN! I’ve been surprised at how soft my dishcloths and dishtowels I made out of cotton get when thrown in the regular washer and dryer wash.

      • Thanks Judith, glad to hear it. I don’t have a dryer, so line dry everything. As a result, have some pretty crispy dishcloths. Plus everything else…

        • I have knit so many cotton blankets for new mothers and they have been very well received. Anything a new mother can launder mechanically must surely be a winner. But THESE projects may just have shoved me over the cliff into the world of weaving. Steph, they are gorgeous. And the kindness in them shines through.

  7. I’m chuckling to myself at work, because he truly, truly will never understand how much magic you actually worked. That is dang impressive. And I would’ve been so much less humble about it and definitely, DEFINITELY, would’ve given him a talk about what can be a scarf and what can’t be a scarf.

  8. Oh. My. I….. wow. This is amazing. I said some impressive surprising curse-words-of-wonder when I saw this. Nicely done.

  9. I can just see him later, running into some other knitter and proudly displaying his scarf that his friend knit for him. The other knitter will look at it, and perhaps say something like, ‘oh! Your friend is a Weaver!’ And he’ll protest that he’s pretty sure you’re a knitter, he sees you making socks and using needles. The knitter will doubt themselves and check that it’s not some fancy linen stitch, but it’s not, it’s woven. Then he’ll tell them how he gave you a bag of yarn and you gave him back this wonderful scarf and the other knitter will nod as the truth comes to light and they will appreciate your ingenuity and dedication. And they may tell him how you took an impossible task and turned it into something beautiful, as fiber people are known to do.

  10. In my little world, what you did was PFM (Pure F-ing Magic). Not to mention extremely clever. Well done!
    They’re lovely.

  11. I will not start another craft or hobby. I will not start another craft or hobby. I will not start another craft…
    BTW you ARE magical.

    • OMG same! I really want a loom now…must not get a little loom…but I could use a lot of yarn faster, and I have so much…must not get a little loom…lather, rinse, repeat!

      Stephanie, you worked some serious magic there. That’s the correct word. Beautiful and amazing!

  12. Yes, we know. It was magic. You waved your wand, wiggled your nose, cast the right spells, and magic happened.

    Now, you’re doomed. That same magic will want to outfit every kitchen in Canada with matching sets of dishcloths, tea towels, placemats, table runners, chair cushions, etc., etc., etc. Drop us a postcard when you get the chance.

  13. “he remains a person walking the earth thinking that you can just bring a textile person anything and have them turn it into something pretty good”
    I encourage that sort of thinking. And if you give it to Stephanie, you will be right!

  14. Stephanie, those are gorgeous. And you made, as my mother used to say, something out of nothing. That always impresses me.

  15. That turned out so well, it ALMOST makes me want to take up weaving…

    I am glad that Barrett is happy. Chances are, you could not have explained to him the miracle that is those scarves. And, you have a Rally leader!!!

    A win for everyone.

  16. Holy crow, woman, you’ve got some mad artistic skills. I looked at that picture and gasped. You are an amazing friend, indeed.

  17. I hope he doesn’t tell anyone that you “knit” those scarves for him! You really deserves kudos for that transformation though!!

  18. Magic indeed. If I see Barrett (or his partner) wearing one of these, I will impress upon him what magic it is.

  19. Beautiful, you turned straw into gold, quite a feat when dishcloth cotton is not a favorite. Fiber folk are a tricksy bunch!

  20. Alchemy is the only word for it! You inspire me.

    I recently ordered my own little loom and it is on its way to me. Weaving lessons this summer!

  21. My mouth fell all the way open and I blurted OhMyGAWD to an empty room. Hats off to you, pure magic!

  22. You are not only magical but a darn wonderful knitter to agree to that. And then you made straw into GOLD! I’m not that nice, even when the person asked nicely and is the nicest person in the world. Because if they brought me that bag I might have cried. Good on you for figuring it out!

  23. Seems to me that Barrett was pretty much on the money – he had a bag of straw, he gave it to someone magic and she, indeed, turned it into gold! He knew.

  24. Alchemy, indeed! That is the nicest result I can imagine from a pile of assorted (practically unusable) dishcloth cotton.

  25. That is absolutely wonderful. Talk about making a (beautiful) silk purse out of a sow’s ear. This only happened because you are this multi-multi-talented person. BTW I think you have to teach him to knit.

  26. I am shocked! I never would have believed that was from the yarns that he gave you. I am very impressed! I wish I had half your talent and vision.

  27. As is so often the case, everything I could think to say has already been said, and so much more eloquently. The one word that came to me, after shock and awe, in a really good way, was stunning! The scarves are so lovely! The way you chose and combined colors from that odd mix is so striking! Wow!

  28. These look AMAZING. I decided that I want a loom for my birthday. It’s on August 12th. Gonna start giving hints to hubby that this is what he and the kids should get me.

  29. I know nothing about weaving, but how your “little bit of math” and those bits of yarn came together to create such gorgeous scarves is truly miraculous! You continue to amaze.

  30. They are beautiful.
    To me, they look more like dish towels than like scarves, but I’ll bet Barrett doesn’t see that.
    And you are brilliant.

  31. I spotted immediately that Barrett’s yarn was dishcloth cotton, and when you said he asked for a scarf, I’m sorry to say I laughed out loud. Oh me of little faith. 🙂 You made a couple of properly gorgeous scarves – out of dishcloth cotton! Magic!

  32. He may not understand you can’t hand a textile person any old thing and get something cool back, but he does understand you can hand Steph any yarn and get something beautiful back. And, clearly he’s not wrong.

  33. Anyone that agrees to work that hard for the Rally probably deserves to have a little magic in their life. Well done, tho.

  34. The scarves a gorgeous and very inspirational. I’m trying to fix a sewing boo-boo, not just fix the boo-boo-, but figure out how to redraft the pattern so it doesn’t happen again. I needed some fiber inspiration.

    Kinda makes me want to grab my little loom and play around a bit rather than alter crotch seams.

    To the lady who asked if she could teach herself to weave on a little loom. Most definitely yes. Be sure to get a couple books on rigid heddle weaving and watch some YouTube videos and have a lot of fun.

  35. You are a miracle worker. I have always loved and admired you (in a non creepy way) but now I know you are a hero. I would have never come up with that. I would have knit sets of dish cloths for everyone for Christmas and made a scarf from something else. You are the best friend ever.

  36. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT – and nice scarves!
    P.S. If this guy isn’t going to knit anytime in the near future, it’s probably a waste of time trying to explain what good, decent yarn is…

  37. You are not only a fibre artist and a magician, you are an enabler. Those scarves are beautiful, especially the blue one. I have a huge bag upstairs full of dishcloth cotton passed on to me by a hoarder. And I live in Haliburton now and I know all kinds of weavers. If I had one of those little looms, I could get one of my weaver friends to show me how to make one.

  38. Please excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.

    Absolutely beautiful scarves out of some of my least favorite yarn.

  39. There is no “practically alchemy dude” about this. It is Alchemy (note the capital) at the most advanced level.

    I saw right away that it was dishcloth cotton (because of my stash I am familiar with many of the colours and variegations) and I sort of sighed. I should have known that you would think out-of-the-bag and come up with something wonderful.

    Should I ever figure out how to make the time to learn to weave, I have the makings of a HUGE number of scarves, hopefully as lovely as these.

    Bless you for sharing this with us all.
    Chris S in Canada

  40. When I saw the picture of the dish yarn, I gagged. Awful. When I saw the picture of the scarves you weaved (wove?) with it, I almost fainted. Gorgeous! HOW DO YOU DO IT?

  41. Please tell us you made sure he knows that these are not knitted? Few things wind me up more than Shreddies’ “knitted by nannas” ad campaign here in the UK. Shreddies are clearly *woven*.

    Fine, fine weaving work. Alchemy altogether.

  42. Hi, in Czech we would say you have made a whip out of shit:)
    I love your writing and your fiber magic. Adéla

    • I love idiomatic expressions! They sound so literal when translated. In English we say “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. For what Stephanie did, it was more like “pull a rabbit out of a hat”.

  43. love this story of transformation, thanks!
    A hobby of mine (besides yarn) is workflow management using Kanban. I think knitters are a special case because we’ll sort of have a task in the pool of options/backlog but we’ve also sort of passed the point of commitment with the task since we’ve got the yarn.
    It’s like, at what point are we considered “doing” the project. Planning stage? Getting yarn stage? Casting on?

    • Interesting hobby, kanban. I tried a spread sheet for the Christmas knitting last year, and it became part of the fun. A pull system might have been useful.

      But in answer to the interesting question (yes, I know it was hypothetical): for me, “doing” a project starts at the cast on, or even later, given how often I scrap something after a bit. Sadly, I also consider the “doing” to be over after the knitting is done (and have been known to wear projects w some loose ends still waving about on the inside.) Must sew on those buttons, must sew on those buttons, must sew…

  44. You’ve done a lot of impressive things, but this may top them all for creativity. I never would have thought of it! Seriously impressive! Barrett doesn’t need to know. We all do!

  45. You weave, too?!!?!!!
    You are a fiber wizard, nay. goddess. I kiss the hem of your handspun, hand-woven garments.

  46. Hmm… if yarn is the magic, then you MUST be the Master Wizard and we are…. wizard apprentices???? I think I like that metaphor 🙂

  47. I internally cringe when someone presents me with their grandma’s old yarn stash, because they know I knit and they don’t want it to go to waste. They never need to know that a lot of old acrylic has gone into my trash can instead of theirs. I have used a lot of it in weaving though. I’ve been working through a pile that makes good warp for prayer shawls…

  48. Also he’s totally going to go around saying “my friend knitted this for me!” because non-knitters don’t know from weaving.

  49. You are so HONEST. I am such a COWARD. Someone gave my sister-in-law a present of a scarf, but alas it was quite short. She (never a knitter) handed it to me with a request that I add a little length. I had no idea how to proceed. So I went to the yarn shop, bought some look-alike yarn and knit her up an entirely different scarf. And never told her the truth.

  50. I saw the yarn picture first and wondered what you were doing with all that cotton yarn. Then I read the post and wished I had a small loom, because the scarves are lovely and my pile of dishcloth yarn leftovers is a bit larger…

  51. I was so sure that the punchline was going to be that you finally went to your stash, knit him a scarf out of some lovely cashmere, gave it to him, and he never knew the difference!

  52. Hahaha! That’s funny, and sad, at the same time. Oh, the innocent bliss of someone who says, “Can you make me a scarf?”, thinking it just falls off the needles. Never a clue of how much work it is. But sometimes, it’s a challenge that you just can’t let go, isn’t it? Good job, Steph!

  53. Usually when I teach someone to knit, I’m pretty specific about the kind of yarn I suggest… but I had someone ask me at the Farmers Market and I was distracted… an hour later she showed up with a ball of dishcloth cotton and some needles… so I taught her to knit making dishcloths or washcloths. “This is how you cast on, this is the knit stitch, this is the purl stitch. Practice those and come back next week and we’ll see what’s going on.”
    She never came back… but I ran into her in Walmart and she was buying a big cone of dishcloth cotton… (a year later) and was completely thrilled to be a knitter.
    So… to each his own, I guess 🙂

  54. Wow they look amazing!!

    I wonder if he added insult to injury by adding those 6 dreaded words “you could sell these you know”. xx

  55. Your creativity is magical! But I am more impressed that you actually used that noxious orange.

  56. Steph! That. Is. Amazing. You’ve turned a pile of what I would have immediately donated into frankly gorgeous scarves. Yes, even if he doesn’t know what just happened here, you know, and we know. All hail The Yarn Harlot. XO

  57. Kid, that IS magic. You know I’m intensely weaving-resistant, but I’ve gotta say, my jaw thudded. Full marks. Zowie.

  58. God bless America and shut the front door how in the holy hell did you do that? AMAZEBALLS. You win the internet.

  59. Those are beautiful.
    Donyou have an idea for the single point long needles non.knitters find when their moms die and them think they are generously giving us?

  60. Those scarves are beautiful! Well done, Steph, both in the magic of creating those scarves and for being so kind to your friend.

  61. My best friend went to the San Juan Islands with her daughter for a getaway. She texted me while there and said she bought some hand-dyed sock yarn for me. After she got home she couldn’t find it in her luggage. Months later she and her husband came over for dinner and she triumphantly announced that she had found my sock yarn. She presented me with a little “try me” sized skein. There might be enough to make a square for my sock yarn afghan. 😉

    It’s the thought, right? I WILL always think of her when I see it.

  62. Wow, my jaw dropped when I saw these! This is doing nothing to quell my desire to start weaving. Unbelievably beautiful.

  63. That line about breaking his clavicles made me laugh so hard I snorted! Seriously, you are a wizard or magician or something! They are beautiful!!! Now everyone is going to bring you their crap yarn and expect miracles.

  64. I am stunned…I just showed this to my whole family and told them that you can do anything. What a challenge. I hope those scarves will be loved for a long time.

  65. That moment when you realize you just bought nine skeins of dishwashing cotton for a garment..

    (Still kinda learning the ropes here. I didn’t know that kind of cotton was a thing.)

  66. my jaw actually dropped when I saw the beauty you created out of that mess. well done YOU!

    And yeah….I didn’t know dishwashing cotton was a thing either. Who knits, or uses, knitted dishrags? Is this a thing I need to know about?

  67. Wow! They are very beautiful. You really are a magician. I really think you need to sit him down and have a conversation about different kind of fibers. He may be inspired to learn to knit or weave. You have definitely demonstrated the magic of fiber arts.

  68. The funniest thing to me is that I’m pretty sure that you could have grabbed any scarf-worthy yarn in some various colors, knitted up a scarf, and presented it to him as if it were the yarn he supplied you with. I think the chances of him realizing the switcheroo are almost nil.

    Given, you know, that he’s clueless about yarn.

    But good save, and it looks like a fun project. Creativity rocks.

  69. I went back to a Jetta from a Passat. Just so i could sing I’m a Jetta girl, living in my Jetta world. hahahah

    ( im a barbie girl living I’m my Barbie world

  70. Wow. Just. Wow.

    And—I’m married to a weaver. Ge’s All about pattern, so I usually xhoise and plan his colors. “Little but of math” doesn’t fool me!

    This should be an article in “Handwoven” or a class!

  71. Your woven scarves are beautiful!
    After reading through the comments I am happy that some folks see the value of the humble skein of dishcloth cotton.
    Inexpensive and washable, I have made grandchildren and now great-grandchildren blankets (“yes you may take it outside honey”), toys, sweaters and hats. It allows the kids to be “kids”. I make stuff that they use everyday not heirlooms. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    PS: Dishcloths? Yes!! A stack of coloful dishcloths is a lovely sight indeed.

  72. Pingback: Something from Almost Nothing - Stephanie's Scarves - Mandy Art Market

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