April 29, 2011

The Bird and the Window

On the Monday evening before Easter Vigil service at St. John the Evangelist Church in Vancouver, Washington, there was a buzz of activity. The class I had been attending since last fall was ending, and the time had come for our group to take the final steps necessary to come into full communion with our church.

There was a rehearsal for the big Easter service that night and all of us were there—about 10 altogether. Housewives, three healthcare professionals, a courier, lay ministers from the church, a former gang member, two retired women, dads and moms alike … such different people coming together for one purpose.

Over the year, we had become close as a group and we now collectively felt that strange, dichotomous, uncertain peace one feels when successfully ending one long journey and moving on to another—one that would be new, and somewhat unknown.

We dutifully filed into the sanctuary of our church at the appointed time. There was another group in there before us and we could see that they were not finished, so we quietly seated ourselves in the center of the room near the back so they would not feel rushed.

The group we were waiting on was one of seasoned volunteers from our church. They, along with our priest, were finalizing the details of the Easter Vigil service. They were laughing and talking comfortably down in the front of the sanctuary. They were sitting near the altar on the front row of pews and some extra chairs—in the full brightness of the only light in the room.

The church staff was in the habit of using minimal lighting in the sanctuary to save money and energy. Tonight, the only lights in use were in the very front. This left the rest of the sanctuary with a sort of twilight feeling.

In the back, we waited in dusky light for instruction. I could tell it was going to be awhile before our turn, so I pulled out a pair of almost-finished wool and cashmere socks. I tried knitting a few stitches, but it was really hard to see in the dim light. I looked up from my knitting and instead contemplated the situation in the room; they in the light of familiar anticipation, us in the darkness of anxious anticipation. We were like actors waiting in the wings to go on stage.

Before I could form some fantastical theological hypothesis about this, a soft thud turned my attention from this curious happenstance of light and shadow in the sanctuary. Then it happened again, then again. Where is that coming from? I set my knitting on the pew beside me. I listened. Thud.

Others were beginning to hear it, too, and we looked around silently at one another. The people in the front didn’t seem to notice the sound. The people around me started whispering to each other. After a time, we were able to predict the timing of the sound and sat in silence accordingly in an attempt to pinpoint it.

Finally, one of the women a few places down the pew to my left said, “There it is!” She almost shouted it in a whisper.

Then, we all saw it—a bird. It was repeatedly, if not rhythmically, running into a glass emergency exit door. A window.

We hadn’t seen it earlier, because it was obscured. The early spring sun was still setting fairly early and it was almost completely dark outside. The glass door had a coating on it so it would be opaque, blocking a view of traffic on the road outside. And who would expect to see a bird out in the dark, anyway?

We stared now in the direction of the bird thuds.

“I think it’s a parakeet,” one person said, “it looks green. You know, like a lost pet trying to get indoors.”

“No,” the whisper was returned by someone in front of them, “the light outside is that color. You know, the security light?”

A third, a bird watcher interjected, “I think it’s a Flicker.”

Over and over, the bird continued its pointless efforts.

Two people behind me were having another sort of conversation, “I bet it sees its reflection. It thinks the reflection is its mate,” said one.

“No, it sees itself as a predator,” returned the second, “it’s protecting a nest.”

From down in front, our pastor called out, looking up from his meeting, “It’s been doing that for days!” He had heard us. His previous knowledge of it explained his apparent indifference earlier, “We’re trying to figure it out, but we haven’t been able to stop it.”

Days? I thought, Isn't there some sort of "definition of insanity" joke to be made here?

Thud … thud … thud …

Someone made a wise crack, “It’s a Catholic bird! It wants in the church!”

No one laughed. Unspoken though the thought was, it seemed indeed as if the bird wanted into the church. All eyes remained on it for a bit longer.

After a few moments, the meeting in the light continued and we in the back stopped our whispering chatter little by little until there was no more. We watched.

I sensed that each of us was puzzling this out individually, certain that there must be some meaning to this curious bird behavior.

Thud … thud … thud …

I stared like the others. I leaned forward a bit. This bird was so determined, yet, it wasn’t getting injured. It seemed to know just how hard to hit the glass without breaking its neck.

I thought about some small birds that use to appear in my parents’ yard every spring. They would eat the orange berries that were produced by a particular tree in our back yard and then, intoxicated, fly into our large family room window. Many of them died each year until my dad finally had pity and removed the tree.

Our church bird was smarter than those birds. He had figured out just how much pressure he could exert and not hurt himself on the glass. It was evident that this bird saw something he wanted, whatever it was, and thought he knew how to get it.  He seemed to think tenacity was the key. This seemed so intelligent at first, but how smart was he, really?

As I watched his futile effort, I wondered about people—about myself. How many times in my life had I really believed that I knew all the answers, had leaned only on my understanding, no matter how na├»ve or uninformed I was?

I thought back to my childhood, building “houses” on our back patio out of cardboard boxes over and over again, and not understanding why a second and third floor did not work—why they always collapsed.

Thud … thud … thud

I thought of a weekend trip with my daughter to a mother-daughter camp a couple of years ago. I spent hours on that trip trying to teach myself how to knit a sock. I tore it out no less than six times that weekend, starting it over and over, only to finally, really understand the concept in a much shorter, six hour class later on. Maybe my time at the camp would have been better spent with my child.

My thoughts began to turn a little darker. How many times had I even thought I knew the answers better than God, Himself?

Thud … thud … thud …

I realized something more vividly that night than ever before. Something that I suppose I have known all along, but have never fully articulated to myself: Sometimes we need to reach out to someone older, wiser, more experienced, or maybe even someone more evolved than ourselves—as in the case of our little bird—to help us open the door instead of banging our head on it.

Maybe sometimes it is wiser to relinquish control and wait for the door to be opened for us.

My thoughts were interrupted by the call for us to come to the front. We all stood in relative silence and walked, together, toward the light.

April 27, 2011

Sock Summit 2011 and Weekend Blog Story!

Hello, everyone!  Just a quick note to say that all the classes and information are up for....drum roll...Sock Summit 2011! Click on the icon to the right of this post to go to the website.

There is an unbelievable number of classes and loads of information. I plan to start wading through it now!

So, make a weekend of it and join a whole bunch of sock knitters, vendors, designers, teachers and maybe even some Portland locals like me for a ton of fun!

Your next blog story will be up for your Saturday morning coffee. Join us then for "The Bird and the Window."

The Knitting Muse, making weak jokes for over four weeks

April 25, 2011

Some of my own published poems

How about a few of my own published works (don't get excited...they were very small publishings!) for the final week of National Poetry Month?

Here are a couple that may be appropriate for spring. What do they have to do with knitting? Nothing at all.

The Lilies

Consider the lilies of the field
Their reincarnation is sure
New every Spring
Without blemish
Or spot.
Green anew
Innocent faces
With ageless wisdom


I searched for myself
Foundations of sand
Foundations of stone
My own revelation
My genesis, my requiem

The fresh sunrise against
A bright turquoise sky
Morning's cool, chilled air
Distilled purity

Sultry afternoon heat and
The breeze that lessened it
Fly-beating horses' tails
Dusty, trodden paths, well known

Glistening bubbling pools of
Intense steaming water
Alongside joyful cathartic geysers and
Still, silent icy lakes, staring, concealing

Prairie dogs romp without care
Through grassy  dandelion fields
They know their lot
Where is my substance?

Pink and orange evening skies
On fire with their reality
Sparkling nighttime eyes
Still, cold, staring--
Embedded 'round a full, wise moon

I still watch
Unmoved, I wait
For a glimpse
Of myself


We focus pure,
In black and white,
Our filter never fails--
And you will see--
Our cure for curiosity--
Our Lens is clear
Don't blur our view--
The grey
Need not apply

April 23, 2011

Portlandia: The More-Than-Likely-Lost-On-Purpose Yarn Bombing Episode, partie deux

Portlandia: The More-Than-Likely-Lost-on-Purpose Yarn Bombing Episode, partie deux

Last weekend on Portlandia: The Lost Yarn Bombing Episode, we left our heroes in some fine predicaments. Let’s recap them all in 100 words or less, “Glee” style. Deep breath. Here we go!

Tiffany feels completely misunderstood by her friends and runs out into the street over a sheared sheep only to be run over and dressed in hand-knits by the mad knitting yarn bombing mob who are in a frenzy after feeling that overwhelming thing people feel when they enter a like-minded group that causes them to develop the disorder known as “mob mentality,” except that our mob is—more or les—doing a positive thing, even if they are beginning to overrun the city of Portland with shreds of yarn, broken needles and clothing on statues. Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Mr. Smith’s brother Joe made a public service message/telethon-type appeal to the community for their adopt-a-sheep program, which they really shouldn’t be doing since they know nothing about sheep and sheep rearing practices. Mr. Smith becomes angry with Joe for pointing out some evidence of his brother’s defects in sheep knowledge and they begin fighting, cutting the important service message short. We learned how knitting began, even if it was only a rip-off of an old Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cup commercial and we learned that with a little willpower, an entire Navy ship can be afghaned to cozy it up.

How’d we do? 203 words? Good enough. Moving on…

A Drive-by Fleecing II

Tiffany is dazed and confused after being practically trampled by the well-meaning knitting mob. She is stumbling around. A passerby asks her if she needs help and she screams, spitting out, “NO! The SHEEP does, idiot!” A little alarmed, the Good Samaritan backs away and leaves her, mumbling something about “probably being on meth.”

Tiffany makes her way desperately through the city streets. She wanders sloppily, aimlessly, looking for a yarn shop. There have to be needles and yarn somewhere!
She finally sees a storefront that might be a yarn store. She stumbles in, nearly falling prostrate in the doorway, as one might do after several days without food.

It’s a small shop with a long counter in the center and a more than ample supply of yarn to cover one naked sheep. There is a television behind the counter that seems to just be on for background noise. It’s blaring something about a mob. Tiffany barely notices two women behind the counter and one lone guy in a felted hat and a vest at the front of the store who has been knitting as she enters. The three of them turn to look at her in curious silence. Should they be afraid or concerned? They wait for more information.

“I need some needles!” Tiffany is practically in hysteria.

They choose fear. One of the women reaches for the phone. She hopes the police aren’t too busy with the Yarn Bomb Gang (as they have been dubbed on the local news).

The young woman sees the phone grab and screeches, almost inaudibly, now in pitiful dramatic fashion, “No! Knitting needles. For a poor sheep.”

The yarn shop lady #1 puts the phone slowly down and asks in an even tone exactly what the girl needs.

Tiffany realizes that she is going to get nowhere if she can’t spell it out. She squeaks, “I need some knitting needles…and some yarn and uh…” she tumbles out the last words so fast they almost sound like one, “some quick instructions on how to knit.”

As the women divide and conquer the store to complete the task as fast as they can (they have to get this girl out the door—she may scare away customers), Tiffany looks in her backpack. No money. Todd had paid for her coffee earlier. She had forgotten that she had no wallet.

“…uhhhh…” Tiffany’s expression turns suddenly lucid.

“Yes?” The yarn shop ladies both turn.

“I don’t have any money.” She sees the look on their faces and very, very quickly recounts the story about the sheep and the driving and Oregon City and Toad—uh—Todd and almost out of breath says, “… it’s for a good cause. Couldn’t you donate it?”

It had been a weird day what with the yarn bombers and the guy with the felted hat. He had earlier tried to tell them he could help them find their religion. They had declined and, instead of finding religion, spent the afternoon scrutinizing him from afar like department store security, as he nested cozily on the futon in the front of their store with some knitting. The yarn ladies were at the ready to head off any customers he may approach.

God, couldn’t this day just be over?

One of the yarn ladies gives in to Tiffany. This will be quicker, she thinks. She is only interested in having one less colorful character in her store.

Tiffany thanks them with soulful crocodile tears in her eyes, mumbling something about how she will mention them when the media covers her story, and stumbles out the way she stumbled in, but this time she is armed with bamboo needles and some 100% blue alpaca yarn—to cover a sheep.

The young man on the futon calls after her, “Bless you!”

A Yarn Bomb. No, Really

Fred and Carrie meet up with a good friend from Portland named Vince who has been a very useful consultant for the show, helping to keep it true to Portland form. He is an earthy fellow who still believes in peace and love. He has very long, graying hair that is lately forming dreadlocks surrounding a kindly face. He is soft spoken, but deliberate in his way of communication. He has elegant, fine features and a slight build formed from years of yoga and a strict vegan diet. An accomplished fiber artist and glass blower, he has called the two friends for a meeting.

He has an idea for the show.

Let’s listen in as they settle down in a coffee shop...

Vince orders a chai tea without cream. No animal products, please. He softly smiles at the server, a young woman probably in her early 20’s.

Fred and Carrie order a couple of espresso drinks and ask Vince what’s up.

Vince’s serene face lights up and he strains to hold back a too-broad grin. He begins, “Well, my friends, you know how much it means to me to work toward a more peaceful existence through natural means and loving others,” his words are drawn out in a meaningful, almost dreamlike way.

He continues as Carrie and Fred glance at each other, then return their attention to Vince, “I believe I have found a way to celebrate Yarn Bombing Day, which also strives to bring people together, with a message of peace.”

No longer able to hold back, Vince produces a tiny, round knitted object with an even tinier stem of crocheted stitches on the end. He points the stem toward the ceiling. The sphere is only about 2 inches in diameter, and the stem only millimeters.

They all three gaze at the tiny…bomb?

Vince exclaims, “Isn’t it great?”

“What is it?” Fred and Carrie ask simultaneously.

“It’s a bomb!”

“Why would you want a bomb to promote peace?”

Vince is clearly glad they asked this question, “Don’t you see the social irony?” His words are freely flowing now, his excitement rising, he speaks rapidly as though all the words will not wait their turn, “A tiny, warm and fuzzy deliverer of peace in the very form that usually instills fear! What a message!” Vince, the evangelist of peace goes on, “Remember that piece you guys did a while back? ‘Put a bird on it?’ Well, put a bomb on it for International Yarn Bombing Day!”

He sits back triumphantly. His eyes welled a little with tears as his emotions have momentarily carried him away. He composes himself, waiting for the wonderful compliments from his friends that will surely ensue.

“Uhhh…” Fred hesitates, careful not to burst his friend’s bubble, “Vince, you might be able to do this in limited places, but I think overall people might think it sends the wrong message.”

Carrie nods. She holds her hands over Vince’s. “Vince, it’s a great thought, but I agree with Fred -- it’s too risky.”

Vince is undaunted, he ignores their caution. They just aren’t getting it, that’s all. “Think about this for a minute. It will be cute. You know, like those miniature knitted figures. The bombs will be like a messenger of hope. Imagine! Bombs for peace!”

He says this last part too loudly, and people are starting to turn and look at him. He is wearing flowing robes and is starting to make people suspicious.

“Vince,” Fred says through his teeth, smiling and glancing around, “you might want to lower your voice.”

“Fred, we did not lower our voices back in the 60’s and we aren’t going to start now!” Now he was really getting riled up. He tried to quickly lighten the mood that was clearly turning, “Look, it could be really splashy and fun! You could use those candles that won’t burn out—the birthday candles that re-light themselves—inside the bombs. Light them for fun, leave them in a public place, and watch people try to blow them out!”

He wasn’t finished, “Or another thing you could use are those party poppers. You know, wrap them in yarn, only the string is the ‘fuse’ and kids could pull them and the streamers and stuff come out the bottom. Maybe that could be a 4th of July skit, or something. Man…you could get crazy with this!”

There was a commotion outside, which Vince did not hear at first. A few people wearing lovely entrelac sweaters and carrying dogs on leashes—wearing the same sweaters—were running by the coffee shop window. Were they running from something?

For a moment, everyone in the coffee shop turned their attention from Vince’s sermon (“…or what about New Year’s Eve and party crackers…”) about peace and bombs to the window. They all heard the sound of drums, marimbas and this clacking sound…what was that? The television behind the espresso machine in the shop was humming something about a Yarn Bomb Gang and the mayor of Portland declaring a state of emergency.

Then they all saw it. The tidal wave of color and yarn and needles and oh so many people!

Vince stopped his speech. He saw them, he heard them. He heeded them. His people. They were calling him!

He turned. He had, in his excitement, climbed a chair to preach to an unwilling crowd.

Now, as they passed, he gave up on his friends, bidding them farewell. He grabbed his bomb and lightly, freely exited the shop, joining the mob as joining old friends. They welcomed him, tossing him a tee shirt that said “only knitting.” on the back.

“We’ll never see him again,” Carrie said wistfully.

“No. He’s happy now.” Fred smiled. Then he wondered, almost to himself, “Where the heck did they get those tees?”

They both stared as they watched their old friend pass from this life into the next…

Adopt-a-Sheep II

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, who we will now call John and Martha because I am tired of typing the periods in Mr and Mrs, are holding a fundraiser for their cause at their country club. They have brought their first sheep with them.

The sheep is on a pink leash, and Martha has tied a pink bow around its neck.

Martha stands up in front of the crowd to announce some of the successes of their first participants.

“They are here tonight,” she says, gesturing around the room.

A couple sitting in the back raises their glasses in a return gesture, but their sheep, present with them tonight, has a leash and it is around the woman’s hand. The sheep lunges to one side, spilling the woman’s drink on her husband’s lap. He is clearly irritated, tries to dry his pants a bit and smile to Martha.

Another couple in the opposite corner of the room, looking exhausted, speaks up. Did they shower before coming tonight? Hmmm…Martha looks at them, “Yes? How are things going with your lovely little lamb?” She smiles sweetly, then stumbles on her heels as her pink-collared sheep tries to walk toward the sheep to her left. It begins bleating.

The husband of the couple says, “Uh, alright, I guess. What is the sheep supposed to be eating? I mean, uh, this one keeps trying to eat our carpet.”

“It ruined my spider plant!” The wife pipes up, shaking uncontrollably, “It nibbles things!” she raised a hand with two broken nails to wipe her eyes, “And it doesn’t answer to its name.”

Out of turn, John pipes up, “Did you try spraying its nose each time it came near the spider plant? You have to be consistent, but…”

Martha gave John an evil eye. Then she turns to the shaking woman’s husband, “Didn’t you get a kit in your sheep’s crate with all the information?”

“Uhhh…no, just a sheep. And I think it’s pretty hungry.” The sheep tries to pull the cloth off the table, knocking over several serving pieces. “We don’t know what it eats.”

Martha moves on, trying to keep the peace. People are murmuring, some are giggling.

Martha straightens her spine, feeling taller and says, with authority, “We will address all questions at the end of the evening. She has a PowerPoint presentation ready and the lights are dimmed. She has worked on it for weeks and is very excited to show it to someone. Her first slide has a picture of a sheep close up with the title, “Why City Folk Can Help Homeless Sheep Too.”

“Hey! Does this presentation have anything to do with the care of sheep?” The first couple speaks up again.

Martha rolls her eyes a little. They clearly have not been listening. She sighs, regains a demeanor of authority and directs her attention to the question.

The man of the couple continues, “We read online that they are supposed to have at least 50 square feet of space—outside. The paperwork in the sheep’s crate said our apartment was okay, but it seems a little small.”

Martha is getting nervous, “Well, I suppose if one is out in the countryside that would be possible. But,” she raises a finger here in an attempt to segue into her PowerPoint, “we can help the homeless sheep here in the city too!” She adds some light laughter.

The right-hand couple is quietly quarreling in the corner. The man interrupts again as Martha tries to once again begin her presentation.

“Uh… sorry, but don’t these sheep need other sheep? You know, like in a herd? I read online that they need at least one more sheep to feel comfortable, and we can’t take on anymore sheep.”

The left corner couple agrees, “Yeah…and there’s no category on Craigslist to give away sheep. Not even for free.”

Martha is beginning to lose control. She tries again to say that questions will be answered at the end. John comes to her aid and tries to answer some of the questions now, just to keep the peace.

“Everyone, everyone,” he says, “Let’s all calm down…” the whole room is muttoning—er, muttering. John continues, “We all want to help these sheep—“

Another interruption, this time from someone sitting nearest the front who has no sheep, “Hey, aren’t you getting these sheep from U.S. farms? And aren’t they usually coming from farms where they are freely roaming? You know, like sheep should? Where they can graze? Why would you take them out of that environment and give them to, well, people who don’t seem to know anything about sheep?”

“Sir, Sir, all your questions will be addressed—and yes, the sheep came from a farm that provides pet sheep to people.”

Right-hand corner couple, “Well, then these sheep are not homeless at all!”

Martha’s sheep has somehow broken free of its leash and has toddled across the room to be with the other sheep on the left. The right side sheep is gnawing on the carpet now, and they all begin bleating, calling out to each other.

People are standing up too quickly as the sheep pass, spilling their drinks onto people around them. Women are wishing they had not worn cocktail attire—they move too slowly in tight-fitting dresses and several people get knocked over by running, confused sheep.

The couples with the sheep are shouting now at John and Martha and her PowerPoint becomes unplugged in the pandemonium. The lights go out completely with the loss of the large monitor for the PowerPoint. Joe appears from somewhere in the shadows just long enough to tell his brother that this was all a really bad idea and he was an idiot to try it with so little research.

John goes after Joe, they get into a tumbling and punching match on the floor.

John and Martha decide later that week to close down Adopt-A-Sheep, cut their losses, pay for the judgments against them and never, ever try to have livestock in their condo again. They are, however, working on a Coats-For-Yaks fundraiser. Check out their blog at www.yakkingaboutyaks.blogspot.com.

A Drive-by Fleecing Conclusion

Tiffany had no plan, really. All she could think of was the cold, naked sheep, probably shivering in its little—hooves—she thought. Did they wear horseshoes? Like, tiny ones? She shook off this little mental detour and got back to the work at hand.

She knew she had to focus—but on what? Facts, Tiffany, facts, she told herself. She was pretty bad at facts. But for the sheep! She could pull it together! Now she began muttering to herself, “No ride,” she said as the light rail train passed by, “no money…I could work on the knitting!” 

She sat down on the sidewalk with the yarn, the needles and the instruction sheet. She looked at it. It looked like Greek. But this just had to work.  It’s exactly like riding a bike, she told herself. If I believe it in my heart, it will be true! I can do it—I can knit that sheep a fur—fleece, whatever—exactly like it had before the brutal de-furring! She closed her eyes, took some deep breaths—just like the woman did on that FIT TV yoga show—that would do it.

She held up the needles into the sunlight, which was lowering a little, just to the top of the building across the street. The light was slanting a bit. She lifted the end of the yarn, she kept breathing. But the breathing didn’t seem to be doing anything. Why wasn’t it working? She should have been casting on like the picture on the paper and knitting away. And why didn’t her fingers remember how? Did she ever know in the first place?

She breathed again. The needles should be acting as divining rods of justice, shouldn’t they? Nothing.

Her hands were suspended, needles pointing up. The sun was just beginning to sink in the sky, the time was running out. She realized it. She had failed. She had failed the sheep. The naked, furless sheep. The temperature would be dropping soon. She thought of it shivering in the night.

She dropped her hands. Weeping uncontrollably, she hung her head in failure and shame. What had she done? She couldn’t complete this mission. And she didn’t have money, a way to get home, not even her iPhone, which she left in her bag.

A sound, creeping up at first, began in the distance. She ignored it at first, but it grew louder and louder.

She looked up out of faint curiosity and turned her head toward the sound. There was a blind hill to the right, and the sound seemed to be climbing it from the other side. After a moment, she saw something like confetti lifting into the air like it had been shot out of an air popcorn popper.

Then figures appeared under the shower of colors and sticks, determined in a sort of march.

A march of purpose.

A march of destiny.

There appeared a man at the front. Tiffany, face still tear-stained, temporarily stopped weeping to see the marvelous sight. Were those Cirque du Soleil acrobats around the edges of the crowd? Where was that music coming from? Was this a delirium?

The man in the front seemed to be singling her out—from what? She was the only one on the street. He came closer and closer, his mignons flanking his sides. Now, they seemed to form a holding pattern.

Tiffany looked up at him more and more steeply as he approached. He stepped right into the space between her and the sinking sun, its light forming an angelic, ecliptic halo around his gray dreadlocks.  He held out his hand.

Vince said, “My child. Come. Join us.”

Tiffany knew in an instant: This was the answer. The muses to her knitting, the Others to her Lost, the tick to her tock, the peanut butter to her chocolate.

She held out her hand. Vince helped her stand.

The holding pattern broke and she joined in the dance.

The next day, all was quiet. The evidence of their goodwill tirade was everywhere, as though Mardi Gras and about 10 other celebrations had converged on the city all at once.

The city was sparkling with vivid hues of an unimaginable number of colors. Yarn bombs and graffiti draped, hung, dotted, scattered, spread, covered, embellished and—let’s face it—improved every corner of the fair city of Portland, Oregon.

The state of emergency was lifted, and everyone came out to see the giant mural-like landscape. People stared in awe. They never forgot that day, June 11, 2011.

No one knew what became of the paraders. Some said they went on to other cities, while others said they probably just went back to their lives.

As for Tiffany and Vince? Some say they ran off to start a commune in Vermont. Someone else claimed to have seen them trying to hand out yarn bombs at the airport a few months later. Wherever they are, I am sure they are happy. And cozy.


April 20, 2011

Cliff Note review for the coming episode, Portlandia: The More-Than-Likely-Lost-On-Purpose Yarn Bombing Episode, partie deux

Last weekend on Portlandia: The Lost Yarn Bombing Episode, we left our heroes in some fine predicaments. Let’s recap them all in 100 words or less, “Glee” style. Deep breath. Here we go!

Tiffany feels completely misunderstood by her friends and runs out into the street over a sheared sheep only to be run over and dressed in hand-knits by the mad, knitting yarn bombing mob who are in a frenzy after feeling that overwhelming thing people feel when they enter a like-minded group that causes them to develop the disorder known as “mob mentality,” except that our mob is—more or less—doing a positive thing, even if they are beginning to overrun the city of Portland with shreds of yarn, broken needles and clothing on statues. Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Mr. Smith’s brother Joe made a public service message/telethon-type appeal to the community for their adopt-a-sheep program which they really shouldn’t be doing since they know nothing about sheep and sheep rearing practices. Mr. Smith becomes angry with Joe for pointing out some evidence of his brother’s defects in sheep knowledge and they begin fighting, cutting the important service message short. We learned how knitting began, even if it was only a rip-off of an old Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cup commercial and we learned that with a little willpower, an entire navy ship can be afghaned to cozy it up.

How’d we do? 203 words? Good enough. Moving on…

Join us again for saturday morning coffee and the "rest of the stories..."

See you then!

The Knitting Muse, writing mildly entertaining stories for three weeks

April 19, 2011

How To Knit*

 *The following story may be applied to knitting, crocheting, needlepoint, differential calculus, car repair and those folks making their very first lasagna. Read on...

You know how it starts. Usually, it is a friend or new acquaintance who strikes that spark inside you. Maybe your scenario looks like this: You notice one day that they are knitting; you become curious.

Certainly, there have been other occasions when your curiosity is piqued as you observe someone knitting, but this day is different.  On any other day, in any other moment, you might ask to see what they are making and complement it sincerely, saying something like, “That is so beautiful!” But on this day, in this moment, you say instead—internally, or even out loud—I wonder if I could do that….

And so it begins.

You quietly ponder these new thoughts, not even realizing how they are starting to root, to branch into your psyche.

You go home and begin looking through your kitchen drawer coupon file, wondering if that craft store coupon is still in there, hoping it is not expired. As you rifle, tossing aside old ads and pizza fliers, you wonder to yourself, how hard can it be? I have seen so many people knitting…and—dare you even think it?—if so-and-so (insert the name of someone you momentarily, sinfully, imagine yourself to be superior to here) can do it, then surely, so can I.

You sit down with your coupon and computer after your kids are in bed that evening, seeking out new information, new knowledge, new sales that will help you figure out this mystery of knitting. You peruse YouTube videos, online yarn shops, various sites that claim to be of help to new knitters.  There are acronyms like CO and LYS. There are new, strange terms like “gauge” and “frogging.” You wonder if some of them aren’t Latin. Your mind starts to spin a little. The world of crafting suddenly seems to open into layers and layers, spreading out before you into a vast, three-dimensional maze.

After about an hour of rough—in all senses of the word—research, you determine that the best way to get started is to head to the craft store—the big, beige suburban box that anchors the strip mall nearest you. The Internet information was getting really hard to follow, you admit to yourself, and you want to begin in a place already comfortable to you. Since you bought little Suzie’s birthday decorations there, you’ll give it a whirl first. The staff there was nice enough, too. They will be a better help. You decide as you drift off to sleep that night: You will head to the craft store the next day…maybe after work or while the kids are at practice.

Sure. You can work this into your life. It’s going to be fun.

At work all the next day, strange new thoughts trickle, then thinly stream into your head. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to make your own clothes? Your own sweaters and hats? How about for the kids? Surely, something you could make would be of a higher quality and sentimental value that the clearance Power Ranger winter hat you bought little Johnny for next year—you suddenly remember that he would be entering junior high next fall. You think that maybe that purchase was no good for several reasons, but then return to your daydream. What if, you wonder, the future things you make will be handed down through generations?

You imagine your family decked out in new things made with lovely yarn and lovingly crafted stitches—all from your very own heart and hands. What if we had a family photo together wearing things that I made?  That would be nice, you tell yourself. The thin stream of imagination is becoming something of a babbling brook. Someone passing your desk says, “Sorry? What was that?”

You didn’t realize you said it out loud. “Oh, nothing.” You smile and the person walks on. The work sort of piles up on your desk that day as you sneak peeks at the computer or jot down ideas for family wardrobes. After hours of this, it’s finally 5pm! You get up a little too quickly and hurry to leave.

You decide to head to the store before returning home. You figure you have about 30 minutes to get what you need and be home in time to make dinner. It takes you 10 minutes to get to the store and you look for a parking spot.

You have to park out in the rain about 50 spaces north of the store entrance because everyone else also thought quickly stopping by the craft store after work was a good idea. You join a throng of several other women, running in heels from their cars to the door and the light and warmth inside.

There is a slight crowding at the automatic sliding door and you are still smiling to yourself as someone more competitive than you takes the last dry shopping cart, not even acknowledging your presence as she shoves you a little. Slightly irritating, maybe, but what is that to a priceless family photo that will last for generations?

No, you will remain emotionally unmoved. You head into the store with one of the carts speckled with water droplets. You use the sleeve of your Columbia Sportswear jacket to dry the handle of the cart. The fleece only smears the water, which is now evenly distributed across the entire handle.

As you walk to the back of the store where you can clearly see the “Needlework” sign on the ceiling, you periodically shake off your hands. They are getting cold, but not for long.

Before you know it, you are standing before rows and rows, towers and towers of colorful yarns in an astonishing array of texture and color. Where to start? You stare in respectful awe for a few minutes while other people mill around you, trying to steer clear of you—sort of. After the second nip in the heel with a shopping cart, you are jolted momentarily from your stun and realize that you need to buy something. You look at your watch. You get to work.

There are signs dotting the wall of Technicolor monolithic towers. They say things like, “Classic Wool” and “4/$5” and “Fun Yarn! 2/$5.” Where to start? Online you saw several books that looked like good beginning books, or you thought you remembered it that way. What were those titles, again? Was that Barnes & Noble or that Knit Picks site?

You look behind you and find an aisle exclusively filled with books. So many books—so much information! Surely there will be answers here. If you need ingredients for a recipe, you consult the cookbook, right? This definitely will be the place to start. How different can it be?

You rifle through the flimsy white wire magazine style racks. The prices and titles on the racks don’t seem to match with the books in the slots. There doesn’t seem to be a designated location for just knitting. You see one woman handing her whining toddler a book with animals on the front to console her while the mother shops. You see her putting another book back in the same slot—was that the first one the toddler had been chewing on a second before and dropped on the floor? Note to self: Don’t touch that one—no matter what it is.

Checking your watch, you realize that you are down to about 5 minutes in the store. You speed up your search, trying to speed read titles from left to right, then right to left, row by row until your eyes rest on one that looks like the basics—some title like “Learn to Knit.” You pick it up—wait, is it wet? Whatever. It has a few scarf patterns and what it calls some “basic” sweaters. You flip through the beginning. It has several pages that seem to outline some basic things with diagrams—that works for you just fine.

You quickly choose a sweater pattern from the book—who wants just a scarf? If you’re going to invest in this, it may as well be worth your time. You hastily go to the yarn wall, pick out a few skeins of your favorite color, green, and a pair of value-priced needles hanging on a clip strip in front of the glorious yarn wall. That’s what people use, right? You decide you’ll make do.

As you drive home with your tiny treasure kit, surely destined to produce many an heirloom, you pick up a quick take-out dinner for your husband and kids.

This is gonna be great, you tell yourself. You’re off the next day. What perfect timing. You begin to plan your day—a day of knitting.

It is a weekday and you cheerfully rise early, get showered and dressed. You make your kids a hot breakfast in anticipation of your goddess-like day of domesticity. They don’t notice this, take two bites of their pancakes and eggs, leave the rest and head out the door for the bus, quarreling over who is supposed to bring the trash can in later on.

You wave to them blissfully.

Back inside, you look at the clock. 8am. Great! You have all those dishes to do, but you are okay with that. It has to be done anyway and you have always worked around those things before.

You make yourself a new pot of coffee and, since you are already wearing your coziest sweats and sweater (just to get further in the knitting mood) you are free to push the start button on the dishwasher and settle in to a cozy chair with your two needles and lovely green yarn.

The dishwasher hums and the aroma of freshly ground, freshly made coffee wafts through the house. You cleaned it last night and your mind is clear.

Once you are nestled in your favorite family room spot, you open your book. For a moment, it doesn’t seem so simple as it did in the store. Hmmm….oh! Of course, you find it: the pattern. It says things like needle size, gauge…“materials!” There it is. Why couldn’t you see it last night? You read on.

The pattern calls for size 8 and 10 circular and straight needles. Are yours circular? You pick up the pink plastic needles from the dangling yarn bin strip. They don’t look circular. You look back at the pattern. It also says something about bulky weight yarn. You look at your yarn. It seems pretty bulky. It looks bigger than the yarn on your light, summer weight cardigan you are wearing. You compare the two. You examine the lovely green yarn from the store. There are all sorts of mysterious markings on the paper.

There’s a crisscross of—what, needles?—in a square and something about rows and stitches and yards…you find the word “worsted” on the label. Maybe the Internet maze is what you need. You sigh.

It is now 9am.

You search the Internet for a few words: “worsted,” then “bulky,” then “circular needles.” You check out images on the needles. You realize after about an hour more that your needles are straight and too small. You also only purchased one pair and the pattern calls for two. You had also better find bulky yarn—wouldn’t want to ruin your first effort. Anyway, you will probably use the things you already have later on. No reason to return them, at least.

Ok, one more quick trip to the store.

You put on your UGGs and head out to the car in sweats and your sweater. In your hurry, you believe that there is no reason to grab a coat. The sun is out, it’s April, and heck, you’re just getting into a heated car.

Turning the key in the ignition, you begin to feel the cold from the vinyl seeping into your pants. The car was outside last night—what was it, 40 degrees? You flip on the heater, which finally warms up by the time you hit the craft store parking lot. You can see your breath as you jog lightly to the door of the building and you are glad to get inside.

You forgot your book.

Going to the book rack again, there is not another one like the one you purchased the night before, so you pick up a similar one. No hurry this time, so you carefully look through it. You now know how to find the “materials” section in the patterns. Ok….let’s see. One pair size 6 needles, 175 yards of sport weight yarn. It must be similar to what you have, so you get someone to point you in the direction of the circular needles and yarn, and this time you buy exactly what the pattern calls for. You think.

Smiling as you leave the store 45 minutes later, you get into your now freshly chilled car (why did you park in the shade?), endure the cold vinyl through your sweats and begin the drive home.

Your hands have not really warmed up since you left the house. Seeing a Starbucks with a drive through off to your right, you change lanes and pull in. An Americano is just the thing for stiff, cold hands preparing for a knitting lesson. As you leave the drive through with a cozy coffee in your hands, you notice the heater is working and you bask in the warmth that is finally flowing from the floor, into your slippers and through your sweats.

Renewed, you enter your house, new bag of goodies in hand. What is that smell? The coffee pot! You left it on. You only made four cups. As you drop the bag and run to the coffee pot, you see that the water is nearly gone and there is a crystallized brown residue forming in the bottom of the carafe. It’s too hot to rinse out—that would break the glass. So, enduring the smell, you leave it on the stove top and turn on the hood fan over the stove.

The time is now 1:30pm.

A little annoyed with yourself, you open a window and a little cold breeze wafts through the kitchen and family room. You button up your sweater, pick up the new bag of goodies and the Americano that is now almost to cool to drink. Then you head to your chair and attempt to salvage those good feelings from earlier this morning.

You sit down and remember that there is laundry in the washer—delicates no less! Attempting to avoid indelible wrinkles in your silk work shirts, you jettison up the stairs three at a time. You get them out, hang some, flatten some to dry on a towel on top of the washer and head back downstairs.

The phone rings.

The time is now 1:45.

Ignoring the phone, you are determined to sit down and knit. You firmly plant yourself in your cozy chair. Picking up the original book and the new supplies, you look once more at the materials and the sweater pattern, more dear to you now than ever.

Wrong needles, wrong yarn.

You jump up, forgetting your slippers. Running to the car, you are glad that at the least it is still warm. You hit the store hard this time. You sprint through the parking lot to the doors. The sliding doors are almost closed and you feel a sense of urgency like never before.

This time, you are the woman shoving other customers. The elderly lady you nudge out of the way mutters to her companion, “Where are her shoes?”

You don’t hear them. Your eyes are wild as you approach the supplies. If you open them widely enough, maybe you can take in more of the merchandise at once, saving time.

You forgot the book. Again.

The second book you looked through is still there. Not even looking through it a second time, you buy it.

You run to the checkout stands, pay and run out the door to your car.

Speeding past Starbucks this time, you wish you had brought your coffee. The time is 2:30pm.

Entering your neighborhood a little too fast, you hope it isn’t too late to start knitting before your kids get home. What day was it, again? Distracted, single minded in your mission, you dismiss this thought. People who are driven get more done in less time, you tell yourself.

The car gives a little screech as your bare foot struggles to reach the brake properly. Luckily, you don’t hit the garage.

Barely remembering the keys, you run for the door, head inside, pass the now ice cold Starbucks on the entry table and hit your spot.

Where is the pattern…where is it where is it…you mutter as you find the page. There is a lovely photo of a simple cardigan on the right side and materials on the left…for the scarf on the previous page. A “Garter Stitch Scarf.”

“It’s April!” You say aloud, nearly shouting, “Why the hell would I want a scarf in spring? What—am I supposed to wear it to church on Easter????” You realize you are standing.

You gather your composure. You get the computer, just in case. How can it hurt now?

You sit down—a little too hard—and get out the most recently purchased needles and yarn. You re-read the materials. The needles say size 6. Just 6. Not circular. Crap! Are you serious? You yank out the plethora of knitting gear you have purchased so far from its multiple bags. There, in the very first bag, is one pair of size 6 needles. Those pink ones from the dangling strip. Trying to salvage any imagined fun that was supposed to happen on this day, you breathe, you sigh. Ok…where was that book….

In the front of the book, you find some seemingly helpful diagrams and instructions on how to get started.

It suggests YouTube for a how-to-cast-on-video. You give in.

With the laptop on your knees, and your toes pointed on the floor to raise the screen just a bit, you watch the video, rewind it, watch it again and again and again. Where are they holding their fingers?

You get out your yarn and try it along with the video. The yarn slides off the needles onto the floor as the calm woman’s voice is saying, “Now that you have cast on your 8 stitches, let’s move on to knit stitch.” It pauses and directs you to the next video. It stares at you. You stare back. You drop one of the needles to the floor.

Who do you know? Anyone you can call? Depending on the age of your chosen friend—listed here in descending order—you call Opal, Mable, Ruth, Judy, Sharon, Jennifer, Ashley, Courtney or Brittany. You just need someone you can use—er—get some help from.

This kindhearted superknitter woman, whoever she is, tries to help you over the phone—to no avail. “Can we get together this weekend?” she finally says after hearing you stumbling and muttering as your try to follow her directions over the phone. Trying not to sound like lunacy personified, you hold it together, “Sure,” you manage.

What time is it, anyway?

All you know about time is that it is running out. The sweater idea long gone, you go over and over and over the cast on video, trying to do it over and over and over again. You are still talking to yourself, repeating the instructions again and again with the narrator on the video.

You feel as if you are underwater, your eyes surely are bleary and red by now and you have chewed off most of the nails on your left hand in concentration. Your thoughts are all consuming, and the woman in the video drones on and on. You think you hear your own thoughts audibly. Voices. How is this happening? Have you really sunk this far? What are they saying? You focus harder on the screen, leaning in closer to it. Maybe you can make it out….

Suddenly, something touches your shoulder. You jump. You swear. You turn to see you husband and two kids looking at you.


Still staring, you make no answer.

“Uh…we tried to call you a while back to say we were going out to dinner with Johnny’s soccer team. It’s 9 o’clock.”

Still staring. Who are these people?

“Mom,” Suzie speaks up, “We thought you would like to eat out with us. What are you doing?”

They look at each other.

You look down. You have coffee stains on your sweater, which is buttoned crookedly, and the side with the buttons is sticking up, brushing your chin. As you have been muttering, looking down, it has created a sort of rug burn. You finally feel the pain.

There are piles of yarn, cut, tangled, whole skeins scattered around the family room. Plastic shopping bags are all around you.

“Honey? Why was the front door open?” Your husband motions to the door.

Flash forward 5 years…

Having long ago avoided formal institutionalization, things are better. Those distant memories are dimmer all the time.

Today you are sitting on a park bench in April! What better place to be on a sunny, warm early spring day? You have made a lunchtime habit of coming out here with your knitting. It’s all so relaxing. Today, you brought a pair of socks with you and they are coming along nicely.  It’s your third pair and they have become your favorite thing to make.

In your peripheral vision, you see someone approaching from the right. You look over. It’s a young woman. She comes right up to you and sits down. You smile at her with deep wisdom that can only come out of great difficulty.

With a familiar light in her eyes, she says, “What are you making?”