Good night, John Boy

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.

moablittlebit 2015-01-28

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.”

moablefteover 2015-01-28

“That, was a close one.”

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Mic drop. KNITTER OUT.



416 thoughts on “Good night, John Boy

  1. Knitters unite we can and will MAKE it work for us!!!
    And to quote a few lyrics of a favorite song from Queen . . .

    I’ve paid my dues
    Time after time
    I’ve done my sentence
    But committed no crime
    And bad mistakes
    I’ve made a few
    I’ve had my share of sand
    Kicked in my face
    But I’ve come through

    And we mean to go on and on and on and on

    We are the champions – my friends
    And we’ll keep on fighting
    Till the end
    We are the champions
    We are the champions
    No time for losers
    ‘Cause we are the champions of the World . . .

  2. OMG … stunning shawl. And WONDERFUL story, I haven’t been on the edge of my seat like that in years. Kind of renews your faith in MATH though, doesn’t it!

  3. On the upside of this fear- I tend to finish things much faster because I’m so desperate to know if I’m right about running out. (I was right, twice, it was awful.)

    Nice job!

  4. I kept waiting for the horrible end that wasn’t! I would give you the biggest high-five and a glass of bubbly if I was anywhere near. That is the most epicly close finish I have ever seen!

  5. That ending just made me laugh really, really hard. Also, this was the best suspense story I’ve ever read. I was literally holding my breath during the last few graphs. Will she make it? Will she have enough yarn? Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of… YARN CHICKEN.


  6. I don’t want to know how many of this year’s knitting miracles got used up on that cast off. I’d recommend tripling your safety net on all future projects, just in case. 🙂

  7. I think it is something in the air…. Last night I was in the very same predicament with the sample for my latest design: a unique hand-spun one-of-a-kind yarn, the ball of yarn more rapidly shrinking then it should have… Due to some thickness / wpi differences in the skein perhaps? Anyway, I found myself also knitting faster and faster, way past my bedtime, in order to beat those yarn sneaking goblins that must be hiding underneath the couch.

    I won, just like you. I did have a bit more yarn left: a whopping 100 cm. Still too close for comfort!

  8. Mic Drop! LIKE A BOSS!

    I would totally watch televised knitting. I was on the edge of my seat through this whole thing. Oh, crap, will she make it? oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap OH YEAH! TAKE THAT, KNITTING! STEPH WON! WITH THE SUPERPOWER OF MATH!

    Which is the most epic way to win. That tiny tail of yarn is HUGE.

  9. Reading that made me feel just like Gene Wilder in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Quote:

    “The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts.”

    Glad it worked out.

  10. That is seriously the most harrowing knitting story yet. How many inches/cm was left? That barely looks like the span of a hand from pinky tip to thumb tip.

  11. And everyone who was a knitter stopped, and drew their breath – for without realizing it, they had been holding their breath, reading ever faster, as Stephanie knit ever faster, and still in suspense even when it looked like there might be light at the end of the beautiful bright blue tunnel!

    Whew! I finished a mystery thriller yesterday, and I can honestly say that the heart pounding exhilaration when the killer was known, was exactly the same as this one blog post!!

    Hurray for your your writing and hurray for knitting!!!

  12. this entry would totally work as a performance art piece. i would totally love to see this staged. ’twas the mic drop that did it.

    congrats on winning yarn chicken! i am 0 for 5.

  13. I’m so proud. I’ve played many rounds of yarn chicken and have only won once or twice. But such an amazing feeling of joy when it goes that way. Oh, and great shawl.

  14. Only true knitters will appreciate the epic-ness of this story. Baited breath, gasps of fear, growing tension, then.. FIST PUMP!! I can’t believe it.
    Not to mention how you turn a ball of fuzz into a shawl in like, 2 days. Always inspirational.

  15. Oh dear. Close call. That said, you didn’t think knitting faster would make the difference…. but maybe it did? I still believe that knitting faster means less yarn gets used. Not breathing also helps, but only in limited doses. Do it too long, and you get not just knitter out, but knitter DOWN! 😉
    It’s gorgeous by the way.

    • Knitting faster to avoid running out of yarn is like driving faster to avoid running out of gas. It seems like it should work, but it usually doesn’t. Still… I appreciate the sentiment, and GO HARLOT! #winning

  16. You know, if you run out of yarn a few stitches from the end, just slip each stitch over the other then secure the last stitch with a bit of close coloured yarn. It might look a little off but no one is going to notice at the corner of the shawl.

  17. Fantastic on all counts – the spinning, the knitting, the suspense, the beautifully blocked ending!

    And, a Happy Belated Blogiversary. Wishing you many more. 🙂

  18. Did you know that if you skip over those little boxes at the end, not realizing that they’re a test that you must pass to post your comment, you get this note?

    “ERROR: You failed the human verification test. Please go back and try again.”

    Failing the human verification test is pretty sad!

  19. Good golly, woman! That’s the closest I’ve ever seen to running out. The universe was watching over you for sure. (it’s very pretty, by the way)

  20. What a suspenseful tale for the middle of the day… So glad you totally knocked it out.. and that spinning is stunning.. I admire how you got those colors to match when plied.. I am not yet a good enough spinner, esp since it looked like you were drafting across a wide batt…. Kudos….

  21. Please tell me that Joe manages to say “yarn trouble?” without a sarcastic tone. It would give me hope that my own boyfriend can learn. He does not seem to believe that knitting can be such an emotional venture.

  22. Awesome! You can do a happy dance and celebrate, the shawl is beautiful and you won. If it was me I would just have to leave that little tail.

  23. Ok…as I read this. I came to the realization that I was not breathing!! Glad that it ended happily and the finished piece is gorgeous!

  24. I was sitting on the edge of my seat, leaning forward, heart racing… I was that knitter. I loudly hooted in triumph as the knitter narrowly made it to the end. I looked up only to remember I’m at work, in the middle of my fellow programmers. Programmers are a quiet lot, you see.

  25. When the low fuel light goes on in the car, I naturally drive a little faster to get to the gas station. So far, it has worked. I’ve never run out of gas that way.
    Apparently the same holds true for handspun yarn on a project. Just knit a little faster. Good to know.

  26. That. was. AWESOME! I felt the angst right up to the end and I’m so glad it worked out. And Holy #$%@&, that’s a tiny tail left.

  27. Good grief. Why hasn’t it ever occurred to me to measure by arm-length and knot, when trying to determine how much each row takes? Best tip today.

    And good job on making use of every precious inch of your handspun. The shawl is beautiful!

  28. I am TOTALLY flattered that you chose one of my designs. I’m sorry for the nail-biting finish, but WHAT A LOVELY RESULT!!! 🙂

    • @Verybusymonkey- well now you have a MOST famous pattern! It will now appear on thousands of necks and shoulders. It really is adjustable from the notes of others.

  29. I am fairly certain that you are the only person in the world that can write a story about knitting a shawl that literally leaves me with my heart racing and a giant exhale of relief at the end. Beautiful work!

  30. Oh My! I have been there. I know that feeling. Well okay, all of those feelings. You have a way with words and I for one am glad that I read your blog. To know that someone else goes through the same things that I go through makes me feel so much less alone.

    I especially liked the last line of this post…”Mic drop. KNITTER OUT.”

    Thank you Stephanie. You are my hero.

  31. Gorgeous shawl! And finally, karma is good!!! You deserve that too…because we also know about the ones where you didn’t knit fast enough.

    • Let us discuss the forms of yarn harlotry. The only contribution I have is that the applicant must admire, love, covet and hoard yarn, in all its forms. Surely there are refinements?

      • The most important trait is a criminally short attention span combined with an inveterate pleasure-seeker’s willingness to drop a perfectly satisfactory current project (steady boyfriend) in favor of a cleverly constructed luxury fiber pattern seen while browsing Ravelry (doing basic shopping and ending up in the bedroom of the hunky checkout guy). Does that help clarify the definition?

        • Can you introduce me to the hunky checkout guy? Or at least tell me which lane he’s in? I had gained the impression that harlotry was seriously concerned with divine foreign accents and rare fibers. In short, I doubt that harlots do much basic shopping. Although the harlot in question does seem to have an unreasonable need for toilet paper.

  32. My last 2 projects i have ended with 25cm and 5cm of yarn left after bind off. Just finished someone’s “Oatmeal Stout Mittens” pattern in hand spun. Split my hand spun into two balls, one 33gr the other 34gr. Knitted the first mitten using two contrasting yarns plus the 33gr. Ran out of the hand spun on the last 2cm of the thumbs length on mitten 2. And that was after spit splicing every little end I could cut off from other parts. Your shawl is beautiful!

  33. I feel like I just hit the lottery! You had me so caught up in a relatively uncommon, yet so familiar, crisis. Hope always springs eternal, and it is wonderful when anchored in truth! Congratulations!

  34. That was EPIC!!!!!!!!!!! So awesome! Like watching some sort of sporting event… knitters world series or something. You definitely won!

  35. I almost found myself in the opposite position a few days ago, but luckily it was with a far simpler pattern, and I was able to cheat myself out of the corner into which I had nearly been painted. (Having two garter stitch ridges left in a hat, and enough yarn for one and only one.)

  36. Oh man… when I got to the picture with how much was left… my stomach clenched. I really thought you weren’t going to make it, math notwithstanding.

  37. how in the world you manage to artfully describe things we all have experienced with such eloquence is beyond me — i bow to your talents, both with words and with yard…thank you for making a rather bad day end with gales of laughter. thank you thank you thank you — and it’s gorgeous!!!

  38. Just plain old AWESOME! I couldn’t breathe while I was reading your post—That is just one of the many reasons we love you—you are one of the best knitters in the universe and you still make mistakes that all of us make!
    The shawl goes beautifully with Sam’s new blue hat—has she claimed it????? Thrilling!!!!

  39. You are the good example. I am the horrible warning who is begging on the Internet for half a ball of Elann DK07 in color 13, Cardinal!

  40. Ooh, if it were me playing yarn chicken, not only would I lose, but I’d somehow manage to finish a modified 7/8ths of the shawl, panicking the whole time, before realizing I HAD NEVER USED THE SECOND HALF OF THE SKEIN.

  41. My husband “fondly” refers to this as yarn roulette. He is well acquainted with the swear words that go with it. I read this outloud to him and he had a good laugh.

  42. Splendid! I kept thinking that if I READ faster you would have enough yarn to finish. This post was better than the last mystery I read. Congrats.

  43. Old non-knitter here – but I do recognize beauty and good work when I see it. That has to feel cool, spin the yarn, knit it up, fry it in a pan … Just beautiful.

  44. It’s beautiful!

    I’m so glad it worked out! When I saw the picture on Instagram I was worried, but it’s great to see that it all turned out right in the end!

  45. Wow! That’s like the Seahawks going to the Superbowl second year in a row. And Winning, second year in a row! But better…as wool is your witness. 🙂 Love the shawlette.

  46. I just can’t “say something filthy” even when the knitting deserves it. So my husband says it for me. By now, he doesn’t have to ask if it’s time to say the words. He just knows. I’m glad he is involved in my knitting.

  47. A thriller worthy of being made into a Hitchcock move, if the great director were still alive! Glad you were able to finish the shawlette.

  48. Just sent a link to this tale to my boyfriend – told him he is in love with a knitter and he has to read about “yarn chicken!” He has no idea what that is! But we knitters understand all to clearly about this bird!

  49. Yay! I also just finished a cashmere shawlette for my niece with yarn from LYS close out, I had to rework the edge when I realized it wasn’t going to be enough. I finished my bind off with 2 inches to spare! By the way, it is a treble clef, not a music note on the verification!

  50. How awesome!!! You should go out to eat, celebrate, do a happy dance!! You beat the bad yarn fairies, and how often does that happen!
    I would definitely celebrate!! Way to go!!

  51. Whew! What a cliff-hanger! (Collective sighs of relief are vibrating in knitter cyberspace.) Nota Bene: In a “yarn-mergency” of this sort, remember that a sewn bind off uses less yarn than the old standard “potholder loop” bind off.

  52. I never read the last page of a book first, but I had to scroll down and peek at the photos on this race to the finish. It’s a lovely thing you’ve created.

  53. What a beautiful shawl! You will always, always have a fondness for that shawl. Every time you look at it, or wear it you’ll have a fleeting sense of that moment of triumph! Arm-math rules!
    I’ve been on both sides of that ending too.
    Once I was knitting a stripey Rowan cardigan with a ruffled edge. In Rowan yarn and everything. Kid Silk Haze even. It occurred to me, as I worked my way up the second sleeve that the remaining bit of expensive Kid Silk Haze wasn’t going to be enough to finish out the very last stripe. No way was I buying another whole ball of that stuff for 2 rows. I scavenged the tails of the cast ons for the body and sleeves and knit it really really fast. I won that time and I remember it every time I wear that sweater, especially, as often happens, when I get compliments on it. 12 years and counting…

    I’m jumping on Ravelry right now queue the pattern, but I could never find a more perfect yarn than your hand spun! Really gorgeous!

  55. You sure know how to spin a yarn in all senses of the phrase! I can’t tell you how much I admire your writing, your knitting, and your spinning.
    I was lucky enough to win a skein of your hand-spun yarn a couple of years ago and promptly knit a pair of mittens that I attached with an I cord so as not to lose them. They are precious to me and be assured that I’m probably the only 67 year-old wearing idiot mittens. When asked, I always explain who you are and why they are so dear to me … Straight from your hands to mine!

  56. WOW! Cliffhanger.

    I kept thinking about a scarf you knit, with some very precious yarn,where you worked the two end borders, then knit the body onto one end, and Kitchnered the other border onto the body, with just a couple of inches to spare.

  57. I actually laughed out loud when I hit “crazy game of yarn chicken”! That may be one of my new favorite knitting phrases!

  58. Oh my gosh – only other knitters could appreciate what you went though. Which is why you have “the blog”! We feel your pain, but more importantly your victory. And you have yourself one beautiful finished product. Awesome!

  59. I just finished a skirt for my daughter where I had to scavenge the tail of the cast on and the tails where I switched skeins of yarn to finish the bind off. I literally had less than a half inch left at the end!

  60. This would be a great idea for ‘Knitter’s Super Bowl’. Give 10 knitter’s random amounts of yarn and see if they can flub it to the end of the project:) That is a Super Bowl that I may actually watch!!

  61. Congratulations, Stephanie, that was epic. Be still my beating heart.

    So, when I make that shawl, how much yarn should I leave for the border?!

  62. 1. Well done! I was confident that you could pull it off!
    2. Beautiful yarn, beautiful shawl!
    3. I also spent this evening measuring arm lengths of a rapidly vanishing skein as I rushed to finish a shawlette (Susan B. Anderson pattern, but not her fault, since I
    changed the yarn and added some bits). Wow, the Harlot and I, both playing Yarn Chicken, at the same time. (I like “yarn roulette” too. )
    4. Great blog entry!!

  63. Not only an incredible victory of Math, but also possibly the speediest shawl ever from fiber to FO. It is also very beautiful and a perfect scarf size!

  64. I have sooooooo been there!!! I was ready to have a beverage for you! Way to save it. great spinning lovely shawl. Off to check my handspun stash!

  65. I just showed the picture with the remaining yarn to my husband. His reaction? “Well, yeah, any more than that would have been a waste.” As a spinner and a knitter I’m impressed, even if he wasn’t! Beautiful shawl – the colours are stunning.

  66. Good grief, now I need a glass of wine – my adrenalin is going! SIgn of a true knitting nerd… WELL PLAYED, MADAM. WELL PLAYED.

  67. I’m laughing so hard my eyes are leaking. (I’ll refrain from sharing what other parts are leaking as well.)

    I think there’s a scientific explanation for why knitting faster works. Very much looking forward to having someone discover it.

  68. Oh my gosh, you had me in suspense the entire time. I was seriously knawing on my fingernails by the climax! I’m actually feeling a little frazzled now, thanks to the Knitter’s harrowing tale, and made squeaky little sounds like ‘oh no!’ and ‘YEAAAHHH!!!!’ at the end there. Congrats on Arm Mathing things out correctly and keeping (a sort of) faith right to the bitter end!

  69. Ooooh! That WAS close! Thank you. Thank you for showing me and the world that a knitter’s crazy is real and so very normal.

  70. I’m so wound up over over this epic finish that I may have to have a glass of bourbon and it’s only a little after 7:00 am. Love the spinning, love the color, love the fabric. Way to go. Now where did I stash the bourbon.

  71. And this is why you are the revered one.
    (You also have the opening chapter of your next book)
    Heartstopping. Thought we were going to initiate a DALWYS (drink along with yarn shaming).
    I need a little liedown-that was exhausting.

  72. Then there is my Aurinko shawl. I thought that I had enough yarn, I really did. It was only the bind off. I mean, come on! It looked like enough yarn. That perfect little ball of MadelineTosh Pashmina was certainly enough to finish my bind off. I had the same nail biting struggle that you did but with totally different results. After binding off over 2/3 of the shawl I knew that there was no way I had enough yarn to finish. I’m in the process of ripping out the bind off and the row before it. UGH! I’m so glad that you won. It gives me hope! Your shawl is stunning by the way, and so is your spinning!

  73. And EXTRA points towards his nomination in the role of supportive significant other to a star knitter….Joe KNEW it was YARN trouble…Not knitter trouble.
    Pedestal being built quickly with giant spotlight on Joe to serve as THE example to SO’s everywhere-hopefully preventing errant remarks that transform them into SOBs.

  74. Fabulous! Beautiful shawl and great story! Whew! I was ready to have a temper tantrum on your behalf if you ran out of yarn (although I was sure you wouldn’t given your measuring technique – gotta remember that!) Another Yarn Harlot triumph!

  75. I was at the edge of my seat! That was close. And, may I say, you have become a really good spinner! Your plying is excellent.

  76. Awesome! I love it when it all works.

    I recently finished a shawl and ended up with just over 3m left (of 839m), and I thought *that* was cutting it rather fine. I trusted my spreadsheet and weighed the yarn every row in the last repeat, but still found myself knitting faster towards the end.

    The shawl is beautiful as is the yarn.

  77. All you are doing is giving my father more of an opportunity to say I told you so, from all those years of telling me that I’ll use math every day. Dammit.

  78. Beautiful yarn, beautiful shawl!

    I cannot even tell you how many times I have played exactly that game with handspun and shawls. One time I actually went back to the store, bought more fiber, and spun another half-ounce for the bindoff. But for the most part, I have somehow won, finishing with 4 or 5 inches of yarn left.

  79. Wow!!!! you won – but by a nose! Beautiful shawl – beautiful handspun. People who think knitting is just a nice quiet hobby don’t get the excitement and the drama. Although our spouses have learned the hard way about a major hissy fit when the knitting rebels. I can picture poor Joe tentatively inquiring if it is a knitting thing, then anxiously watching out of the corner of the eye – is this going to be OK or a major hissy? When my husband senses that the knitting isn’t being nice – he usually slinks to another room and curls up in the fetal position until it is over. I love your blog and how you describe your knitting – humor, adventure, application of real life math skills, ingenuity, enduring through tough times. Cheers.

  80. Sorry if you’ve already answered this, but: in post-game rehash, would you say you were too casual in estimating “half of your yarn left”, or that really the pattern should not be encouraging one to carry on so long before switching over???

    • (ps. I extra-laughed at this one, since just this day I had had a similar yarn emergency–casting off a baby toque with Amazingly Stretchy (and I’d already gone back and removed a row on the body), and realized three stitches from the end that I was Not Going To Make it. Switched to REGULAR cast off for those last bitty stitches to pull it off….whew!!!)

  81. I just had the exact opposite happen — I was short by eight (eight! Gods, why?) stitches on a homespun shawl. So I totally cheated and used a wee bit of millspun stash in a color that matched one of the colors of the variegation. Way less noticable in mine than yours….so I’m going to count this as knitterly karma. A little extra blessing of length for you, just in case. 🙂

  82. Best short story ever. I love that it had a happy ending. Like a cherry on top for using every last inch of hand-spun. Thanks for winning one for the team – now we will all go boldly on in our next game of yarn chicken – they’ll all end just as successfully as yours did, right? Keep the faith….

  83. OMFG!!!! I just about choked on my coffee this morning reading this!!! It was even funnier as I’m trying to read the last couple paragraphs to hubby…..the muggle look just added to the hilarity for me. I think, living with a knitter for 34 years, he was relieved that it wasn’t me that was going through this to deal with.

    I can breath a sigh of relief for you now…..and wipe the coffee off myself, my laptop and my Chihuahua.

    THANKS for the great giggle!!!

  84. What a suspense story – only a knitter would understand. And you only had a few inches of yarn left – that is a triumph – no waste of your wonderful hand-spun. I once finished a shawl with literally only 1 1/2 inches left – almost not enough to weave in the end. And it was in boucle, we all know how hard it is to tink that!

  85. Oh, good for you! I had some raw silk yarn that I bought at Maryland Sheep & Wool a few years ago that was supposed to have 1100 yards in it. I knitted the Radiance Shawl with it and it was/is gorgeous. The pattern called for 900 yards and I had 900 yards. Just to be safe, I left off a few rows. When I was binding off I ran out of yarn about 25 stitches from the end and had to tink back two rows of almost 800 stitches. The language was not pretty. 🙁

  86. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat by the end of the post and called out YAY! when I seen the picture of the bit that was left…it caused my coworkers to give me awkward glances from across the room. I have been there before, I know the pain. So glad this worked out for you!

  87. Great writing, knitting and MATH skills!!! (I’m a retired math teacher and it’s so nice to see logic in use.)

    Now a request for help: my daughter is having skunk issues (they have literally worn a path through her back garden and she can see the hole to the den). I wanted to send her the link to Steph’s fairly recent post about her skunk battle (misery does love company) but I can’t seem to find it.

    I search “skunk” and “smell” (wow, are there a lot of smells associated with yarn) but I keep being ‘skunked.’ I suspect that the ‘retired’ in front of my job description makes me old enough that my computer skills are not up to snuff.

    Anyone out there who can help me? I’ll look through all the comments in the next few days for the answer. Thanks so much!

  88. Oh! Lord! I was on the edge of my chair, holding my breath and thinking “Not this time! Not with hand spun yarn!”.
    How lovely that you caught the end of the thread just in time! Great tail. ( pun 🙂

  89. That happened to me with a skein of Qivuit that was gifted to me. Knitting faster, gasping, muttering prayers as I cast off the shawl was more exciting than any horse race. Ended up with 6 inches left. My husband thought I was crazy when I hollered and threw the needles to the floor like a receiver in the end zone.

    Isn’t knitting wonderful? The muggles have no idea what they are missing.

  90. You have got to be the fastest spinner imaginable! I can knit fast, but if I try to spin fast I just get a mess. Kudos to you!

  91. Oh goodness, pounding heart over here reading this! I have done the very same when knitting a shawl with handspun and the cast-off very nearly killed me, but I won too. I hope you’re keeping this shawl for yourself after all that panic! It is absolutely beautiful (as is the yarn).

    • yes! that was what i noticed first. thought it was so cool that stephanie did that. the inside joke. but then nobody commented on it, so i did not know if they all got it or if nobody got it.

  92. Possibly your best post EVER!!! “Yarn Chicken”, my new favorite phrase…bonus points to you for marrying a man smart enough to just sit back quietly while you defeated the beast all by yourself.

  93. You know it’s a good blog post when you get this many comments on it. 🙂 Well done. On both post and the Game of Yarn Chicken.

    Your next book should be Harlot Vocabulary, considering you’ve given us Yarn Chicken and Kinnearing, to name a few.

  94. I think this is the equivalent of a great shot in golf. No matter how many times you have a bad round, you just need one perfect one to keep you coming back. Same with knitting. We all tink way more times than we end perfectly. But that one perfect one is all we need to keep trucking. Well done!

  95. I love a good suspense but this was crazy!! I am so glad it turned out and it is beautiful. Verybusymonkey is one of my favorite shawl designers and I have made her Geology shawl.

  96. Love this post. That was so very close. Have a Drink on me. Too close for comfort…man!!! Makes my heart race just thinking about that. Its beautiful though!! Love the colors. Thanks and I might do that pattern as well. Love the look of the border!!

  97. so I’m breathing again – a bit – and no one else has asked, despite being aware of the math involved, what amounts the yarn should have been divided into. maybe more like 1/3 and 2/3? you cut out a lot of patterning.

  98. Around these parts when we win with that little left over…we call it Victory Yarn.
    You deserve a beer. Or maybe even some of that Scotch that Ken gave you for Christmas.

  99. I think that is my favorite post. Not because you won, (which is wonderful and I commend you and celebrate with you) but because of the writing. Please tell us you’re thinking about writing fiction and this was a test run to see the reaction! This is one knitter who is totallysupportive of that idea. Anyone else?

  100. Omg. Great story and so well told. I could hardly breathe.
    But what a reward! It is lovely, flat out lovely.
    I never buy dyed bats liked that and spin matching skeins. Now I will definitely give it a go. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Of course it looks terrific on your photogenic in home model.

  101. Fantastic post! Suspenseful, emotional, and even a happy ending. That last line pushed it over the edge. I laughed so hard I cried! We all know you don’t always win against math. Thank you for letting us rejoice with you.

  102. You better trademark “Yarn Chicken” fast! Hysterical and totally relatable! Loved every minute of that read. Hope you had a big glass of whiskey after that!

  103. I was holding my breath as I read! So happy you beated the yarn!

    Is there a problem with the pattern instructions or is handspun less predictable?

  104. I don’t often read the comments, but when I did yesterday, I knew that you’d get “Good night, John Boy” in there somehow!
    (I didn’t have as much faith about the yarn holding out…way to go!)

  105. The last time I lost at Yarn Chicken I dug around in the stash until I found something that matched close enough to finish the final 5 or 10 stitches that were left in the bind off. Fortunately you can only tell if you look very closely. (and if you’re that close to me you are WAY too close.) 🙂 I’m playing Yarn Chicken right now too. I do have more yarn this time, I just hate to start a new skein to bind off less than half of a row.

  106. Congratulations on making it! i have been there and done that so i understand your sense of achievement. but lets not talk about the times i was wrong and had to rip back. those don’t get mentioned – much. FYI loved your Eleven post but (for some reason) was unable to access to post a comment. i have enjoyed reading your blog (and books) and look forward to each new one. 🙂

  107. Love the shawl. The colors are beautiful, and as I just recently had the same experience with nearly running out of yarn I am so glad to learn the knotting trick.

  108. “… aaand, it’s the Harlot on the inside… three lengths ahead at the half-mile… but the Yarn is making a move! It’s closing the gap!! Oh no! The Harlot has broken stride and Yarn is pouring on the speed! 2 lengths… a length and a half… half a length in the backstretch! The Harlot opens it up… but will it be enough?! Here comes Yarn… eating up the track… taking over fast on the outside… the Yarn is on FIRE!… It’s Yarn!… It’s the Harlot!… It’s Yarn…. It’s the HAAAAAAAARLOOOOOT! It’s The Harlot by a nose in the most exciting Derby since EZ beat the Woodsman’s Sock in 1953!”

    Crap weather. Warm house+cat-kids. Hot coffee. Knitting and the Harlot. Could not ask for a better day– thanks for *all* your posts. All eleven years of them– the beautiful ones, the funny ones, the sad ones, and the nail-biters. Every. Single. One.
    a Newish Reader Who Went Back and Read Every. Single. Post:-))

  109. GAWD. That’s gorgeous.
    Also, can you please end every talk you give from now on with *Mic drop* Knitter Out?
    That would be epic.

  110. Woo Hoooooo!!!! You made it and it’s gawgeous!
    What a story! Kept me on the edge all the way to the end. You’re a bloody marvelous writer.

  111. Are you freaking kidding me! That is the best post ever. I gotta copy and save this one to my computer. Lol, I LOVE the arm math and will have to do that in the future. Beautiful shawl! Fantastic color in the yarn. Congratulations!

  112. Phew! The suspense was palpable and I read this practically holding my breath. You remind us that, in spite of being The Harlot, you too have these knitting moments and thereby make us more accepting of our own.

  113. Thank you so much for sharing this little story – it was just the laugh I needed. And I too knot faster when I think I’m running out of yarn.

    Beautiful shawl by the way.

  114. I’ve had my share of close calls, and close missed ones too… and I had a friend wondering that all that matching yarn and buttons and needles, and the color of the bobby pin having to match my shoelace (and you can guess about the underwear too)… ao with all that why do I think that it id perfectly fine to have the last few stitches of cast off of a big shawl or scarft done with a similar colored but slightly different yarn… go figure.

  115. The only funnier story you’ve ever told (in my humble opinion) is the week you spent on decaf. That one had me belly-laughing and reading it aloud to everyone I saw for about 2 weeks. But this one I’ll remember well- especially in a few days as I’m binding off my current shawl, as I am short of yarn and also playing the chicken game if I’ll have enough yarn!

  116. Classic Harlot story-telling at it’s best; lovely shawl from lovely yarn; and a very gracious reponse to a less than gracious comment. Once again, Stephanie – a truly class act.

  117. But for all the suspense and excitement, the best part for me?

    After all the finagling the pattern, eliminating rows, and redesigning on the fly, the finished shawl looks Iike it was intended to be exactly as it turned out.

    It’s not just the triumph over yarn. It’s the artistry.

  118. Applause! Applause! Applause!!!

    I could feel the tension you had while approaching those last few stitches. I have been there, but not with the success you had. I have always ended up having to undo… and that is just not fun.

    I’m amazed at the results. It is as if your yarn was MADE just for that pattern!!!

    Brava, Stephanie!

  119. Extreme knitting strikes again! Well done Stephanie!
    That shawl is gorgeous and I do a lot of handspun… I may need to grab it!

  120. my stomach was in knots…terrible horrible decisions to make…and you wrote THAT word m.o.t.h. if I write it that way, they won’t pick it up on their m.o.t.h. radar. Gorgeous beautiful shawl.

  121. That was exciting, and scary! I kept having to remind myself to breathe, because I kept holding my breath waiting for what might come next!

    Possibly you should FRAME that wee bit of leftover yarn! (Maybe with a photo of the finished project)

  122. Man I had to scroll forever to get to the bottom of the comments! You had us all in suspense, and it was so very satisfying to vicariously enjoy the success with you! The shawlette is gorgeous, the colors perfection. The blue on the edge is just the right amount of bright to make that yarn really pop! You did a fabulous job from beginning to end.

    Now, if you ever need a yarn receptacle for your handspun…I’m your girl. 😉

  123. This is why some of my shawls have a nice, tidy contrasting narrow black border. Just the cast off row is black. End of problem. Some are even black eyelash yarn. Some are in a solid yarn that picks up one of the colors in the varigated yarn. Some have a 1 inch black border, for when the yarn ran really short. One mellow pink and purple shawl has a I-cord bind off in a Hot, hot, hot pink yarn I bought in Mexico. No problem…
    Julie in San Diego

  124. You write suspense well. While admiring the shawl while thinking of yarn chicken, the lace pattern reminded me of chicken feet.

  125. Yep! Been there done that. Know how it feels. Congrats Steph. You beat the yarn devils again! Keep up the good work! 🙂


  126. It’s late at night and I’m all alone. Kids tucked away in bed, husband at work-not due until the wee hours. I’ve knitted until I’m cross eyed–I opened my laptop and somehow found my way here to this lovely space of the interwebs. This post is the first and only I’ve read. I have to tell you, I laughed so hard I thought I’d awaken my children. Mic drop sent me over the edge. I have wet cheeks right now as I type this comment. God, I haven’t laughed like that in a long time.You are one seriously funny chick! Thanks for the late night entertainment. Off to read more!

  127. Thank you for this highly entertaining and suspenseful post… You are always a joy to read. I do confess to being nearly in tears during the recent Blogiversay post… I thought at first you were signing off forever…my heart sank! So relieved to still have your posts to look forward to every few days. Love how the Moab turned out…great plying and use of the colors in the batch. Can’t wait to see what you maker with Biker Chick!

  128. “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”

    Truer words were never spoken!

    And your shawl is awesome. Congratulations on squeaking by!

  129. Wow! You Hulk-smashed that sucker! (Yes, I’ve been watching Avenger movies during snow storms.)

    As a bicraftual, I can attest that crocheting faster works, too.

    Thanks for letting me feel a little more badass when I use my Weight Watchers scale which is now rechristened the drug dealer scale. Now excuse me while I go weigh what’s left of this Cascade 220.

  130. I knit Colour Affection and cast off with literally one inch remaining. ONE INCH. I haven’t the heart to weave it in, because it reminds me not to cut it so close next time. So I wear my one inch yarn tail proudly!

  131. Wow… I was holding my breath, almost skipped to the end of the post because I couldn’t take the suspense – but I read.every.word. Brilliant you, beautiful it !

  132. That’s a great idea about testing arm lengths with knots to figure out how long a row takes, but since you were knitting outwards to the widest edge of the triangle, and the points were getting steeper, actually your final row took the most yarn of all.
    Love how the colors worked out over the width – just gorgeous.

  133. That totally makes up for ALL the times Yarn Chicken has ended – oh so differently – for me!! Congratulations on the WIN

  134. But surely you have heard somewhere about the reverse crochet “cast off” to employ in a five/fifty cast off stitches left??? Honey it’s like magic! Wish I had a link….

  135. If there were only a few stitches left to bind off – say 8 or 10, you could tink back maybe 50 or 60 stitches, and go down a needle size. You gain a few millimeters per stitch, and the gauge is close enough that it should block to the right size.

    I know, not acceptable to purists, but for the rest of us….

  136. OMG you are my hero — heroine — whatever. Inventing the game of yarn chicken and having us all at the edge of our respective seats, and the knots!! Brilliant!! Go girl! You rock!

  137. I just loved the “Mic drop. KNITTER OUT”. Hilarious!!

    However I did notice that a mic was metaphorically dropped and not Addis. precious wood needles, etc. As we all know, no sane and sober knitter would just drop great needles willy nilly!!

  138. WAY TO GO , STEPH! You beat the snot out of that yarn! I have to admit to snorting when you wrote “playing yarn chicken”!! Perfect description!!!

  139. Holy Cow! Reading that was more suspenseful than submitting the federal job application I’ve been working on for weeks. Which I did just before I read this post……

    Yarn puts everything into perspective. 😉

  140. I’ll admit that two thirds of the way through the post, I couldn’t stand it any more and scrolled down to see if you had made it.
    That was indeed a close one but boy does that blue border look stunning.

  141. Pingback: (Almost) FO: Quaker Scarf | Hannah's Cook & Craft Blog

  142. Wow, that shawl is stunning and totally worth the suspense.

    Seriously, did you know that if you run out of yarn near the end of a bind-off, you can just tink the bind off and redo it. Magically, the second time you will have enough yarn. I do not know if this works when you are playing yarn chicken, but it totally works if you just happen to run out of yarn. You may have to tink back and reknit the last row, if the bind-off is short (like a neckline or shoulder sleeve).

  143. Well. A literal day after reading this, I found myself in the same situation. I was begging, PLEADING, with the bind-off gods – please let it work out for me like it did the Yarn Harlot. And lo and behold. It didn’t. Thanks for using up all the bind-off luck 🙁 No really though, you did good.

  144. Pingback: (Almost) FO: Quaker Scarf | Rain Mountain Crafts

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