“The cook cares not a bit for toil, toil, if the fowl be plump and fat.”

scarfYour best friend taught you how to knit, and your mother sort of taught you how to purl – she’s lefthanded, and she kept miming the motions of purling with her hands and then trying to reverse the process in order to explain the whole thing to you, which gives you an idea of why that “sort of” precedes the “how to purl” above – and then they sent you out into the world to make your own knitstuffs.

Leave that word alone. If foodstuffs is  a word,  then knitstuffs should be one too.

So here is your first knitstuff, above. That’s a lie,  actually; your first knitstuff was a green and black scarf, but it was completed BEFORE your mother taught you, in that bewildered manner, sort of how to purl, so it doesn’t count.

Although the strange thing about that first knitstuff – let us call it a scarf, because even though knitstuff should be a word, it shouldn’t be overused, especially on its first voyage into the world – is that when your son glimpsed it, he reminded you that it is the exact colors and width of the knit coaster-placemat thing he made you in kindergarten, when the kindergartners did a small knitstuff unit.

The minute he reminded you of this you could see the tiny coaster-placemat thing in your mind, and you wondered what in the world you had been thinking when you made that first scarf/knitstuff. Were you trying to replicate the days when he was in kindergarten and making tiny gifts for you?

Best not to think about that now. Best to turn to the matter at hand, which is the current knitstuff project, pictured above.

When you began this particular project, you decided to make it according to this pattern: knit two rows, purl two rows. Because that would make it easy, right? Who couldn’t remember such an easy pattern?

You, apparently.

At first,  given the brevity of your knitting and purling tutorials, you couldn’t even remember the difference between the two. You got around that one by sort of (emphasis on sort of) re-teaching yourself how to knit and purl,  and then reciting, over and over “knit from behind,  purl from the front,” which made and makes a kind of sense to you.

Then you couldn’t remember how many rows you had knit – one? two? possibly three? – so you tried to teach yourself how knitting looks different from purling. But that proved impossible for many reasons, the main one being that you seem to be deeply impaired on a level that includes but is not limited to visual discernment between knitting and purling.

At one point, sitting in the church for the non-churchy (you are one of those people who concentrates better if your hands are in motion, and you make no apologies for it) you actually forgot, halfway through, if the row you were working on was a knitting row or a purling row.

Who could possibly forget such a thing halfway through the row? You,  apparently.

So you took a stab in the dark and decided to finish out that row by knitting. Wrong choice! The minute the row was finished it was immediately obvious that it was a half and half row.

“You can always unknit,” your best friend assured you when she taught you how to knit.

Not if you barely know how to knit in the first place, you can’t.

You suppose you could un-do everything. But then, given your huge inadequacies (in many aspects of life, aspects that go far beyond knitstuffs), you’d be left with a pile of twisted, shrivelly wool.

There are people who can sit calmly in an ergonomically correct manner at their desks for hours on end, steadily writing their way through novels that they have methodically outlined beforehand.

There are people who manage to follow a topic through to its end in a conversation, rather than leaping about like a frog, jumping from that topic to another because a certain word, e.g., “the,” reminded them of an entirely new – but, in their minds, somehow related – topic.

There are people who, when faced with their astonishing inability to figure out the difference between knitting and purling, would go to howtoknit.com and figure it out once and for all. Or give up entirely.

No matter how you might wish it, you are not one of those people.

These are the thoughts you ponder as you focus, focus, focus on the row you are knitting – yes, knitting – there in the church of the non-churchy. You are doing so well!

But wait, what is that? That appears to be a 1.5″-long strand of blue wool that is stretching across one row to another. It is not knit, nor is it purled. It is a homeless blue wool child seeking shelter, but no shelter is to be found.

What just happened? Truly, what did you do? You stare at it in puzzlement. Peer at the upper righthand section of the knitstuff pictured above and you too might be able to see it. Whatever it is, it’s there now. It cannot be undone.

You realize that at some point you will have used up, in your haphazard and horribly inadequate way, all three balls of wool. And then it will be time to cast off, a dreadful phrase which implies further wandering alone in the wilderness.

The thought occurs to you that you could just buy more balls of wool and keep going, sort of knitting and sort of purling for the rest of your life. It would be the Eternal Scarf, eventually big enough to rival the world’s largest ball of twine, currently located in Darwin, Minnesota.

That the idea of creating a knitstuff without end strikes you as easier than learning to cast off makes you, for a moment, deeply uneasy.


  1. oreo · May 3, 2010

    I have a pair of very nice bamboo knitting needles. They’re so smooth, and pretty, and just the right weight. And I bought the most bee-yoo-ti-ful ball of yarn, I mean really just gorgeous. One of those variagated patterns, with my favorite shades of blue and purple, so deeply colored that it almost seems selfish to hoard all that hue in one place. Yeah, I really enjoy looking at those needles and that yarn. Have for some years now. I truly did mean to use them for my first knitstuff project, having friends who sit there with fingers flicking, seeming so poised and calm and in the end holding up a funky fabric accessory. I mean, how hard could it be? (Not to mention the multi-tasking aspect–I am all about that).

    But among my flaws is that I won’t try something unless I’m relatively sure I’ll be reasonably good at it, and after further consideration of the flicking fingers and perusal of the manual that my stepdaughter used to teach herself as a mere child, I gave up before even beginning. I’d rather gaze at those slender needles and bright chunky yarn sitting on the shelf, accouterments that say I’m the kind of person who would knit. And I would, except then I’d end up writing something like the above, so I’ll just skip the whole shebang because really how much better would the yarn look just because I knitted and purled it into a different form? Frankly, I probably wouldn’t be doing it any favors. The only drawback is that I can’t share it with the world as I could were it in, say, scarf shape. So if you ever see me with a giant ball of yarn pinned to my jacket , you’ll know why.


  2. Pepper · May 17, 2010

    I shouldn’t laugh and howl so hard just before going to bed. Oh Lord. You are a piece of work indeed.


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