Thursday, December 20, 2007

An ode to natural fibers

It all began with a mitten. Or two, really: in chunky sage-green and white wool. Each stitch was knit fair isle style in a perfect V, interlocking, row after row. Linked by a simple ribbon, handmade and pricey — $32. Oh, how I longed to knit like this, I thought. Sell my creations — art, really, at Wesleyan Potters, here with the felted vessels, purses, woven scarves and shawls. Muted and vibrant, earth- and jewel-toned — I could get lost here.
At home, I picked up my size 9 bamboo needles. I’d found them in a bin of clearance items in a yarn store tucked at the back of a West Hartford center mall years ago. Which was precisely why it was closing shop: foot traffic from the bank and jewelers on the populated Farmington Avenue side rarely led to this crafter’s haven. Palm-sized skeins of crimson worsted merino, soft as silk, were nesting in a basket. I’ll take these, I said, grabbing three.
But, as a young adult, I didn’t know how to cast on correctly, didn’t have a knitter to ask, and lacked the drive to consult a book at the library. Soon confounded, I passed the wool along to the Salvation Army.
Fingering the mittens, I realized I hadn’t knit regularly for years. Two boys, 4 and 10, leave me little discretionary time. In fact, the older one has taken to saying, "What’s more important, knitting or me?"
My younger child is more understanding, when he wants me to come to his toys to marvel at his arrangement or wants company as he’s playing, he’ll say, "You can do your knitting here," patting the couch, even if I’m doing something else. Then proceed to chatter incessantly, nixing any hope of following a pattern more difficult than knit 1, purl 1.
Still, I persist knitting. Sneaking in a few rows here and there, I finish a rich red scarf in a mohair-lamb’s wool blend: two skeins take three months. The time it takes to complete the scarf can’t entirely be attributed to motherly responsibilities. Perfectionism must share the blame. But, with such good reason.
You see, about a year ago, I alighted upon Farmhouse Yarns and become a convert. To wool, that is. In the Tylerville section of Haddam is a new store, Connecticut Yarn and Wool Co., LLC, which carries the full line of Carol Martin’s yarns. A Mecca, really, for fiber enthusiasts, who Martin says, make pilgrimages from as far away as California.
Naturally hand-dyed Avocado, Golden Pear, Salmon, Brick Red, Grasshopper, Juniper, Maple Sugar, Paprika, Pink Sand and dozens more artfully named are flecked with bits of hay or plant matter.
She even makes I’m Allergic To Wool in cotton for those (like me) who sniffle and sneeze their way around wool items.
Something primal overcomes me as I search out color combinations at the store. I must have this, I think, oooh … and this, here. I lug home overflowing shopping bags bursting with color. Then out the skeins tumble upon the couch, as I caress each one, mulling over its possibilities.
Now I can’t simply knit. I’ve a greater allegiance beyond the craft’s repetitious stitches. Each knit, purl or slip, slip, knit must be perfect: there’s integrity in my work now. It’s a loyalty of sorts to the sheep whose shorn coat I loop into hats with curling brims, scarves with ruffled ends, and mittens with ribbed cuffs.
The boys call — shriek, really — interrupting my fiber-induced reverie. Some one or another has hurled a wooden train track, striking an eye full-on. The injured one yelps, then writhes on the ground in pain, yelling for help. The thrower tumbles to the ground himself, feigning injury, to avoid blame.
It’s chaos out there.
But here, as I manipulate four wooden size 6 needles for just a few seconds more, eking out another stitch or two, it’s calm. I finish turning my heel and the cacophony subsides.
I push the stitches to the center of each needle, fold the sock carefully, then zip my plastic bag. Time to check the damage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is wonderfully written, thank you for sharing your gift!