It wasn’t going to work. She could see that now, as she looked at the shrinking ball of yarn beside her – and compared them to the number of stitches left to cast off. Her hands almost shook as she squeezed it again, trying to estimate how much yarn was left. The trouble had started two days before. The knitter was making a shawl out of handspun. She’d found the pattern on Ravelry, sitting there, paging through the results of her search, getting up from time to time to pat the skein drying on the radiator by the back door. There were lots of good options, I mean, there always are when you do a Ravelry search, you can lose a whole day to just choosing, but in the end it was the Moab Shawlette that she’d settled on. It was simple, and had the comforting oatmeal look of garter stitch, and a simple geometric border on the edge that was charming. Best of all, it was perfect for handspun – written for it, in fact. All you had to do, the pattern said, was knit until you had half your yarn left, and then work the border. Easy enough, the knitter thought, and when the wool was dry, she’d waltzed over to the little drug dealer scale she kept in her office for just these moments. A quick weigh in, and she was off.
A garter stitch shawl moves pretty quickly. Before too long she was just about at the halfway point, and after double checking her stitch count, she pulled the trigger on the border. It felt like a million bucks – and when knitting feels good like that, it flies. Something wasn’t right though. The border was supposed to take half the yarn – so at the halfway point, she should have had half of the yarn left, but she had a funny feeling. “Knitter’s intuition” she thought, and wondered how many times she’d ignored that feeling. Probably a thousand times, maybe two thousand. That feeling you get when you’re knitting and you know something’s gone wonky, but you keep going, because why? Because the knitting faeries are going to come down in the night and fix what you know is wrong? She looked at the yarn, she looked at the chart, and she decided that there was no freakin’ way that this ended with her sobbing into a coffee cup while thinking “Why did I keep knitting when I knew it wasn’t right?” She assessed the chart, and decided to cut a few rows out. “Better safe than sorry” she said to the yarn.
A few hours later, it was clear that things weren’t working out – that ball of yarn was shrinking really fast, too fast too work. There was no way the knitter was going to pull a dumbarse rookie move like running out of yarn – not when she could see it coming. The yarn shortage was like a truck bearing down on her. A big truck. She pulled out an arms length of yarn, and tied a knot in the strand. Another length, another knot, until she had a bunch. She started her next row, and every time she came to a knot, she untied it, and make a mark on a post-it. Seven. At the end of the row she had untied seven knots, so it took seven arms lengths to knit a row. She sat there, running the yarn through her hands, counting arms lengths. Her instincts were right at the end of it. She had enough left for about eight more rows – that was it.
Looking over the chart, it was easy to see where to start. She’d work four more rows, then skip a few, then do the four rows of the edge. Simple – she started the row, then caught herself on the edge of a cliff. The cast off row! She hadn’t counted the yarn for the cast off row – she started to tink back, one stitch at a time. That would have been bad. She would have run out for sure. Almost smugly, she adjusted the pattern again. Two more rows of pattern, then the four for the edge – that would leave two rows worth for the cast off. “Plenty,” she thought, and with a nod to the yarn that said something like “What? Do I look new to you?” she embarked.
A while later, the smugness had faded. She’d finished the knitting and was about to start that cast off. The little remainder of the ball blinked at her, electric blue and tiny. “Uh, oh” she mumbled, and her husband looked up. “Yarn trouble?” he asked. “Maybe” she said, and thought about it. This is handspun. There is no more, nor any way to get any. If she’d misjudged this – man, would it suck. There would be nothing for it but to go back – she re-checked her math. No – she hadn’t judged anything. This wasn’t a gut feel thing, this was a math thing. She’d measured the yarn. She’d measured how much it took to do a row – there was enough. Actually, there should be MORE than enough. She’d allotted two rows worth for the cast-off, even accounting for knitting more loosely as she finished, there should be lots. She looked at the yarn, and gave it fond little pat. “I’m keeping the faith” she said, and Joe looked over again, one eyebrow raised.
Many minutes later, the knitter paused, mid-cast off, and said something filthy, and then “Are you kidding me? ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?” She’d glanced sideways at the yarn remaining, a huge mistake really. If you’re going to keep the faith, then keep it, don’t peek and second guess yourself. It’s the opposite of faith, but still, that’s what she’d done, and it didn’t look good. She was afraid to stretch out the little bit of yarn that was left. “Wing of moth” she muttered, and imagined what came next. If she ran out, she was going to run out with just a few stitches unbound, maybe 20 – or fewer, out of 300. When that happened (“when”, she thought, “not if”) she was going to have to unpick the whole (*&*^%$$#ing cast off – then tink back a row, then cast off again and the whole edge would be wrong. Should she stop now? Was it even worth trying? She spread the stitches out on the needle and tried to see how many were left. About half. “Nerves of steel” she muttered, and kept going.
Thirty stitches later, then forty – she wasn’t out of yarn yet, but the length of what was left was shrinking at an alarming rate. Sixty, then seventy – by now she had only about forty to go, and that length of yarn was so short that she was already planning the epic temper tantrum that she was absolutely going to have if she ran out. The farther the yarn went the closer the finish was going to be, and she couldn’t even imagine the size of the fit she’d pitch if she ran out with five stitches unbound. Her phone dinged and she looked at the text without putting down her knitting. A friend was offering advice. “Knit really fast, that will help.”
Intellectually, that advice is crap. You can’t outrun yarn. Emotionally, however… she picked up the pace. There was no reason not to try. Fifteen stitches to go – her hand stroked out the remaining centimetres of yarn. She thought about the whiskey bottle in the kitchen. She thought about stopping there, because it would almost be better not to know. You know what they say about not going to bed angry. Losing a crazy game of yarn chicken wasn’t exactly going to be calming. On the other hand, who can sleep with a game afoot?
She knit one stitch. Predictably, this used up some yarn. Another – then another, until there were only a few left, and all of a sudden it hit her. It was going to work. She wasn’t going to run out – she was going to make it. “Holy %^@&!!” She said aloud, startling the cat.
She knit the last few, pulled the tail through the last stitch, and laid the knitting on her lap. “Holy )*&*%$!!” she said again, and put her hands on it, holding it down like it might fly away. “What just happened here?” Joe said, looking at her a little funny. “I won!” She exclaimed. “I didn’t run out!”
“Did you really think you would?” he asked, and the knitter just looked at him.
“OH YEAH.” she said. “OH YEAH.”
“That, was a close one.”
Mic drop. KNITTER OUT.