Adventures in Frugality: the Scarf Story

Knitting and I have a funny relationship, sort of a dysfunctional one. I get into a project, img_20161023_145247992_hdrusually around the holidays, and then I knit like mad until I can’t even stand to look at a string of yarn. That’s what happened to me this last time around (and the time before that), but I’ve started a new hat, which means I’m probably ready to tell this story.

You may remember back in August I posted a list of things that I could do to entertain myself while my man is off in the big city. One of the things was to knit through the box of yarn that I’ve got, which is stuffed to the gills with yarn I’ve inherited, the leftover bits from old projects, and yarn I just thought was too pretty to pass up. One of my good friends saw that post, and she had an idea.

While I was over at her house for dinner one evening, with my yarn in tow of course, she asked whether I’d be up for a knitting project. Would I be willing to make scarves for the bridesmaids in her wedding, which included me? I thought about it, and I knew the timing would be a bit tight, but I was bored and scarves don’t take that long right? Sure, I said. Let’s look at patterns.

We chose this one, which seemed challenging, definitely the hardest knitting I’d done so far, but it was pretty and felt doable. As long as I knitted a scarf a week, I figured I’d be fine. I stopped at a yarn store, picked up the right gauge needles and yarn, and went to work.

It was frustratingly hard, but the pattern was lovely once I got the hang of it (I thought). I took my friend back to the yarn store to pick out colors, feeling a little nervous, but competent.

We went to South Park Dry Goods, a locally owned yarn and crafts shop in her neighborhood. My friend, who is a little bit of a puppy sometimes, started touching all of the yarn and asking what I thought about colors for the other bridesmaids, whether they should wear the scarves during the wedding, whether they should all be the same or different, and because I don’t care about weddings and am honest, said I don’t care at all. So finally she asked the ladies who owned the store what they thought.

They were happy to help. “Oh we have opinions,” one of them said. “Just tell us what we’re talking about, and we’ll give you our opinions.” So my friend launches into the story of her wedding, telling the women, Susan and Elise, how it would be in the fall in Ohio, how much she loves handmade things, and how I’d agreed to knit scarves for the bridal party. The ladies were agog. They enthusiastically helped her choose colors, even going so far as to find a mustard yarn that matched the color of her accessories and march it down an aisle of colors so she could see how everything would match.

“Now,” said Susan, the yarn shop owner (and a saint among knitters), “when’s the wedding?”

“October 8th,” my friend said. About seven weeks away.

“What?!” Susan and Elise shouted in unison. Susan turned to me with big eyes.

“You’re going to try to knit six of these scarves in seven weeks?”

“Yeah,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant instead of terrified. “I figure if I knit in every spare minute between now and October 8th, I can do it.”

“Oh no,” EliseĀ said, “you’re going to need help. We can help!” she volunteered. “Let’s see, I can take one, and Susan can take one, and you’ll take one, that’s three already.”

I demurred.

“Well,” Susan said, “try it out this weekend and on Sunday, come in for our open knitting session if you need help.”

“Don’t knit while you’re drinking and don’t knit late at night,” Elise warned.

That weekend, from Friday night through all of Saturday until Sunday at noon, I knitted. I knitted, messed up, ripped out, and knitted. I broke one of Elise’s cardinal rules and knitted until 10:30 one night and had to rip everything out and start over. It was brutal. By the time the open knitting session started, I had ten inches.

I came into the shop as soon as it opened and showed Susan.

“Oh honey,” she said, whipping out her phone. “I’m texting all my friends now.” And like the bat signal, Susan put the word out. Every woman who walked in the store that afternoon was handed a scarf and told the story. How I was in a wedding and I’d agreed to knit these scarves, but like Rapunzel with her straw, it was too much for me. Sometimes with a smile, sometimes with a little bit of a side-eye, each lady took her yarn and got started. By five o’clock that evening, five scarves had been assigned.

I knitted and I knitted and I cursed my friend a little bit and I cursed myself a little bit and I knitted some more. It got easier, both the pattern and accepting the mistakes I made and learning to keep knitting without looking back. The scarf grew longer and longer. I went back to South Park Dry Goods a few times a week, and every Sunday, for encouragement, and I’ll be honest, to check in on everyone else’s progress.

With a few weeks to go, I finished my scarf. I went back to the yarn store to show Susan, who gushed appropriately and told me how to block it, another new skill I was learning. There was still one scarf to go, so I took the last two balls of yarn, a lovely rusty brown, and got to work.

That weekend, my friend and I worked up at camp the entire weekend, with eighteen high school girls and eighteen high powered women who were there mentors. In every free moment, I knitted. I knitted during panel presentations. I knitted during mealtimes. I knitted after smores and before anyone else woke up. I knitted and I worked and I knitted.

When we got home after camp, we went straight to the yarn store. One woman had finished her scarf, two done. The others were still in progress, but doing well. We brought them champagne and lavender cookies and peanut m&ms (a specific request). I remember hoping, and I still hope, that when I am their age, my mother’s age, that I have as much fun as those women, that I laugh as much as they do, and that I have as many friends.

A week or so to go. I knitted my scarf. I crossed my fingers that the others would finish as well, and figured I’d just knit on the plane if they didn’t.

On the Sunday morning before I was to leave, I finished my scarf and went to South Park Dry Goods. Susan and Elise were there, doing a book making class and discussing Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. All of the scarves were drying in the back room, lined up next to each other, and they looked gorgeous.

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Five scarves, minus one that was already finished.

I sat around the store that afternoon for as long as I could, no project to keep my fingers busy. I listened to the ladies, watched them work on their books, touched the trinkets for sale. One woman knitted a hat between working on her book.

“She’s knitting hats for the Native American’s in North Dakota,” Susan said, “The ones protesting the pipeline. Now I didn’t volunteer you…”

“Of course I’ll knit a hat,” I jumped in. “I’ve got to give back to the knitting gods somehow.”

Which brings us back to the hat at the start of the story. The hat I’m knitting for someone to take to the protesters. I hope it keeps a head warm.

2016-10-23

Me and three knitting queens

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