My destiny

Behold, My nemesis.


I know that this thumb looks like an ordinary thumb. I know that just *looking* at the seemingly simple thumb of the MSF mitten wouldn’t be any sort of tip off about what the thumb is. I know that there is no way for you to know what the thumb really is…why it is here. Why the thumb has come to exist in my life.

Before I slammed my finger in the door (almost all better now) I had knit the thumb on the left mitten twice, and it looked like this.


I didn’t tell you about the first time I had ripped the thumb back because, well…frankly I didn’t want to admit that even though I have a world of experience knitting Latvian Mitten thumbs (and this particular thumb in specific terms) that I had somehow made it look like a stinking pile of fetid crap. I quietly yanked it back, picked up the stitches again and carried on, keeping my pain and humiliation quiet. (There’s no reason for the blog to know everything). Then I suffered the humbling and self inflicted finger injury and put the mitten aside. Last night, when I noticed that I could think thoughts that didn’t involve my finger, I decided that it was likely well enough to resume mitten knitting and picked it back up again. That’s when, in a moment of sparkling clarity, I noticed that the thumb seemed a little…large. I compared the two mittens (Note to self: when knitting items intended to match, learning to do a little more comparison of the two items intended to resemble each other can be helpful) and discovered that the thumb of the completed right mitten had 32 stitches and the heinous, loathsome thumb of the left mitten had 39. Fine.

I ripped it back. (I admit that I may have had some hurtful thoughts about the mitten. I’m sorry for that). I picked the stitches up again, this time deciding to do a little COUNTING, and carried on, really feeling pretty good about it. Charming little mitten.

I knit happily onward, merrily knitting the sweet little crosses into the pattern until I took a break and compared the mittens. See it?


While the two mitten thumbs are now the same size, I have forgotten the white stripe in the thumb. Blew right by it. I have to pull it back again. AGAIN. (You may ignore that I have already yanked the needles out in a momentary flash of temper) It is not enough that this is the third mitten. It is not enough that this is the third thumb on the third mitten. It is even, apparently, not enough that this struggle is public and humiliating. No, no….I have to knit it AGAIN.

It’s ok though. I’m not even angry this time. No frustration, no upset, no cursing or hard liquor. Nope. Only peaceful, relaxed thoughts. It’s because I finally understand. I get it. It’s suddenly all so clear, here I thought that I was trying to knit a pair of mittens. I was wrong. The mitten is here to teach me patience. The mitten thumb and I are going to be together forever. Each evening for the rest of my life I am going to sit down and knit this mitten thumb. Sometimes big, sometimes small, sometimes with the decreases in the wrong spots or over an odd number of stitches, each simple little thumb more craptastic than the last. Sometimes I will knit other things, even sucessfully…but it is always going to come back to me and the mitten thumb, every night….forever. It’s my destiny.

71 thoughts on “My destiny

  1. A mitten thumb: the world writ small. Thank you for sharing the saga…it helps to know that even the mighty have their days. Next think you know you’ll try to convince us you put your pants on one leg at a time!

  2. Usually when I think my knitting is trying to “teach” me something, it means that it needs a little “time-out” – just so we can all be sure who’s boss.
    Unfortunately, looks like you’ve tried that. I’d say, if they weren’t already a promise to someone, *whomever that person may be* that it really would run off with that Aslan sock. Be vigilant, dear. We shall overcome!

  3. Ah. So it wouldn’t be the serenity born of one teensy blood vessel in the overwrought brain choosing to rupture, flooding that particular lobe with a sense of oneness of all beings. Good to know. I’ll withdraw the e-mail to Oliver Sacks.
    (I also hereby withdraw myself from the mitten pool. No way could I support the cosmic weight they have accrued — the Hope Diamonds of wool.)

  4. How to console a fallen harlot? I know that if I were so fortunate as to be the winner of the TSF mittens, I would treasure them all the more because of all your frogging, all your thumbs, all your cursing and even that faint aroma of screech.
    You can be sure they will be the most beloved Latvian mittens ever made.

  5. I feel your pain. Really, I do. (I slammed my toe into the side of the tub last night.)
    In the grand scheme of things, knitting the same thumb every night is probably a lot more enjoyable than other tasks the universe could drop on your head.
    (Also: Happy birthday a day late to your youngest. Don’t let her size deter you from LapTime; I’m a good 3″ taller than my mom and still sit in her lap when needs be.)

  6. Oh, Sylvia, you’re a cruel, cruel woman.
    I’m also worrying a bit about the person who will receive these mittens, with all the despair that’s been knitted into them. Or perhaps the sweet relief when they are finally finished will wash any bad karma-junk out of them.
    Stephanie, we all know you’re a crazy woman but perhaps once a matching pair has been achieved, the best thing for the third, single mitten would be a ceremonial mitten-burning. Wouldn’t that feel good, so much better than casting on a fourth mitten? Can you resist casting on for a fourth mitten?

  7. Imagine Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” furiously thundering in the background, as Mr. Washie moans, and the Harlot screams “Kill da mittens, KILL THE MITTENS…..”

  8. You know, I put away my insanely tiny needles and pattern for my Estonian Mitts of Lust a month ago.
    I had pulled them out last night thinking, “Once I figure out how to do the thumb thingie, I can proceed.”
    Thanks for knocking that silly arsed idea out of my head today.

  9. Oh! They’re not Latvian mittens – they’re Sisyphus mittens! I’m sure the translator just made an error in the name of that particular pattern.

  10. I’ve been lurking around here for awhile and had to finally say hello. I am a new knitter and always feel like I am the only one who could ever have made whatever dumb mistake that caused the most recent bought of ripping, but it is nice to know that even the mighty harlot can make a mistake every once in awhile. Thanks for making me feel better about myself 🙂 That said, I really enjoy your blog and your sense of humor – it’s always a bright spot in my day. Don’t let those pesky mittens get you down, because ultimately we all know that you will come out on top!

  11. Excellent lighting on the thumb/nemesis shot, by the way. I already felt the sense of foreboding before I read the caption.
    I would like to confess that I am partially responsible for this latest tragedy: I had been recently frustrated when the Harlot didn’t post every *single* day — a morning without Harlot was a morning without sanity (er, sunshine). I began to despise your children, your family, your work — all your nonblogging activities. Will I be forced to read the New York Times in the morning, I asked myself miserably?
    But then, while eating chinese takeout, I got a fortune cookie message: “All your dreams will come true” — and the very first thing into my mind was not that I want to get a big fellowship for next year, or that I will finish my papers on time, or that my Serbian dream man will realize that he can’t live without me — NO.
    The first “dream” in my head was this: I want the Yarn Harlot to post every single morning so that I have something to read when I wake up. That’s probably more likely if she experiences continual tragedy, knitting trauma, and frustration, but she’s really funny, and I wish she would post more often.
    I take back my wish. I’m really sorry I was so selfish. Please forgive me.

  12. I feel your pain. Not the pain in your healing finger, but the pain of ripping back that thumb. There is a single sock torturing me in the same sort of fashion. Three times the heel has been ripped back for one flaw or another. The only joy this sock is providing is that at least it’s being knit of Fleece Artist merino… Sigh… Maybe tonight’s the night the heel will finally be turned.

  13. And I have the sweater that I have Already Worn. Twice (or perhaps 3 times). I have finally come to grips with the notion that the sleeves Really Are Too Short.
    Fortunately, I have extra yarn. And, more fortunately, it was a top-down raglan, so all I have to do is lengthen the cuffs an inch or so.
    After I finish the sock that’s currently on the needles (and perhaps its mate).

  14. Hey Harlot…
    How long ago did you start knitting? I want to know how many years I have to knit until I can be as “LUCKY” to have bad days like you. 😉

  15. Patience is over-rated.
    I hope that this is the final time you have to knit the thumb and be shed of the Mittaine Menace.
    BTW, I loved the birthday message for Sam yesterday. What a neat, neat girl.

  16. Ah, Stephanie, these mittens do seem to carry a large frustration load. But Stepahnie, $57,000!!! $57,000!!! Doesn’t that make it seem a lot less painful?

  17. There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. – Mr Shakespeare
    However, perhaps you really are February challenged and should just hang up your knitting needles for a few more days. You got Sam out of February. Maybe all the rest is just pushing your luck.

  18. Let’s see now. This is the third mitten. That’s 3 thumbs. And this is the third thumb on the third mitten. That’s 2 more thumbs, for a total of 5. Do you realize that you have knitted a mitten that is ALL THUMBS ! A new style perhaps ? Betsy

  19. I think that all the problems with this particular mitten means only one thing – – that, you, Dear Harlot, are supposed to keep the mittens after all, as an MSF gift for all your hardwork and generosity, and not give them away as intended. Why else would they prolong their stay on your needles??

  20. Remember the story of Odysseus’ wife Penelope, who every night undid the work she had done that day? I once knit a hat which I named Penelope . . .

  21. too many comments for me to check and see… has this ordeal prompted anyone else to ask if you’ve seen, or to recommend that you see, the movie groundhog day?

  22. Well, it’s good that you realized what the lesson is. I guess. I’m trying to look for something positive to say to you! 🙂

  23. I love the spooky shot of mitten.
    I believe Sisyphus was made to roll the rock up the hill because he angered the gods when he skipped out on death and the underworld (at least temporarily). Is there anything you’ve been doing lately that we should know about? Perhaps hiding from a certain Gansey??
    (sorry – I couldn’t resist)

  24. I’m sorry, but I laughed when I saw the pic of the soon-to-be-ex-thumb, and that the needles were nowhere to be found. It’s what I would do too. I have been working on the Forest Path Stole (IK Summer 03) for a long long time and have had to rip out whole sections when I realized they were finished in the wrong direction (you have to see this pattern to believe it), but I will continue with it until it’s done and then I will give it to my granddaughter to wear on her wedding day (she is 9 now, so you can imagine how optimistic I am about finishing this thing)

  25. It’s still winter, ‘ya know? When actually our brain wants us to think it’s almost spring… and thus, everything that can go wrong, will… at least that’s what’s happening at my house. Have a good weekend…

  26. “Cheer up, they said. Things could get worse. So we cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse!” – Melanie Rawn
    The great thing about knitting is that you can throw it against the wall a few times, and it usually comes back unscathed. Even better now that you’ve already removed the needles. 🙂

  27. Based on your post today, I see you’re still the bug, not the windshield. I’m getting that faint forboding fear that when you ultimately do finish these damn mittens, you or its recipient will accidentally felt them in the wash… (cue horror movie music)

  28. Crap Stephanie, I think MSF could have trained you to do caesarians for them in less time. (Ok, second thought, stick to stitches you can rip back.)

  29. Bon courage! The image of you and mittens sitting down together every evening reminds me of the after-dinner speech in “Babette’s Feast”, where that which we have chosen is given to us, and that which we have not chosen is also given to us. For righteousness and bliss have kissed each other … and eventually mittens come to an end.

  30. And aparently I’m having a better day because I will now point out the silver lining on your thumb of doom. At least you have something you can count on, in a weird way. The thumb will always be there waiting for you. Whenever another project is going a little too well and you think the universe may be preparing to get even again, you can return to the perpetual thumb and rest assured that your other projects will come out unscathed. It’s all in how you look at it 🙂

  31. Stephanie and the Mitten of Doom?
    See, the problem is that it is a mitten “_Sans_ Fronti�res” — of course it will never be done!
    Time for _some_ “Fronti�res”, methinks!

  32. Stephanie and the Mitten of Doom? (See… this is the real reason Frodo lost a finger!)
    The real problem is that it is a mitten “_Sans_ Fronti�res” — of course it will never be done!
    Time for _some_ “Fronti�res”, methinks!

  33. I feel your pain. Not your bruised finger pain. Your thumb pain.
    I hope you and thumbsy are happy together. Does Joe know?

  34. It’s like a Sartre play. The mitten is your own personal hell. 😉
    Oh, Steph, you are so so so hilarious. My day is complete.

  35. It got back to 5F this morning, my fingers were cold. If I win the mittens, I am willing to have you channel all of your angst directly at me.

  36. When you are finally finished with that mitten I just KNOW you will want to rush into starting that fourth one. After all, you must be approaching Thumb Knitting Perfection by now and you wouldn’t want to lose the momentum.

  37. I view it as the world preparing you for having several teenage girls at a time. My mother can explain.

  38. Sounds like Sisyphus and the eagle. Or was it Prometheus and the eagle? Or Atlas? Wasn’t he the one with the big rock? Lets face it you are in Hades, and this is one of your eternal punishments.

  39. Craptastic is my new favorite word!
    I’ve been reading you for a while; this is my first post. I simply have to thank you for hours of entertainmant. I laugh, I cry…

  40. Hey Harlot!
    Take a moment here. Think back. Think way back to the moment when those MSF’s were first conceived and why. In the face of all that suffering, YOU pointed us onto a path of selflessness and made us realize that any and all that we were able to give was for the good of humanity and would help to ease suffering we couldn’t begin the comprehend. Now, do you honestly believe that we would have given less if those mittens were not up for the winning? I think not. Take a day off. Spend time with your beautiful family. They need you more that we may covet those MSF’s. Truly.

  41. I think Barbara from NS just said something alongside of what I wanted to say… Instead of knitting a pair of gloves just like that… you are building a shelter for hands… you are having a sympathy experience with the people of the areas affected by the Tsnumani…

  42. Reminds me of Beetlegeuse, the movie with Michael Keeton, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder. The couple dies, and DOESN’T KNOW they are dead. They just keep living their lives until evidence starts to accumulate. Maybe this is your form of hell.

  43. S, I have to say that this is, perhaps, the funniest thing you’ve ever blogged – at least by my estimation. Although I feel your pain, I hope you appreciate how much you just made me laugh!

  44. Oh, Stephanie–
    This is too much like natural childbirth–sometimes the baby comes out faster than you’re ready for, but other times, it’s just one contraction beating you after another, until you’re in some sort of Twilight Zone/Zen state where they just go on and on and time doesn’t seem to pass. You need a midwife to watch you so that nothing else happens except that thumb gets born.

  45. Maybe the mittens consider the greater good over the good of one person. Think about it: the neverending MSF collection… When will the mittens be content? At 60.000? 100.000? Should we people try to help Stephanie out and donate some more? (Though there still isn’t a MSF here, but maybe I could donate through some other European agency…)

  46. Your lesson has convinced me to pull out my own cursed project..a pink cabled sweater for my daughter. May have to have another daughter once it is done… Thank you, I hope the serene peace of patience hits me…

  47. Sounds like Groundhog Day – but with yarn. Just proves that sometimes knitting is not a spiritual creative experience. Sometimes knitting is all about beating that g**d*** yarn into submission. Some yarn is more stubborn than others. Some yarn rolls over and gives up with barely a whimper – but some yarn needs to be absolutely flogged into shape. Become the alpha knitter!! You are the master – the superior species! After all that is why you have those d*** thumbs in the first place…. 😉

  48. Holy Crap, Knityphus…
    So we’ll be seeing you tomorrow, then, same Mit-Time, same Mit-Station. Meanwhile, good to hear that thoughts have now drifted from the spectacularly bruised finger. The photo, alone, hurt like hell.
    I guess you would not be so Zen if you were doomed to repeat a sleeve rather than a thumb. The only “bright side” I could think of, sorry…

  49. Would it help to know that someone is NOT coveting those dratted mittens? I personally have a coveting problem with that beautiful handmade book. Wow. But, I am working on self control as well….Please know even “people unable to knit” feel your frustration!

  50. Don’t knit the 4th mitten.
    I know plenty of people who are already planning to frame the mittens if they win. I’m more than willing to frame the spare mitten and save you from the agony of knitting the 4th 😉 It’s the least I could do

  51. I call it the “know it all” mistake… if I think I know what I’m doing I don’t pay close attention and make those kinds of mistakes… so frustrating to think I cannot keep this simple lesson in my head.

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