Ivy is a knitter and I am not at all, nor will I ever be, no matter how much I would like to be. Since the earliest of times, as far back as when my grandmother tried to teach me, later with my crafty and artistic friends patiently sitting with me, through an attempt at using the Dummy’s Guide to Knitting (and finding I am too much of a dummy to follow), buying and trying to follow a children’s beginner book, and having a coworker patiently showing me – nothing has helped. After all of these things, I just am not a knitter.
I drop and gain stitches without knowing it, resulting in weird, lumpy shaped scarves that look like floppy 3D maps of continents filled with holes and multiple heels. Knots happen that I did not mean to create. Fuzzy balls of fiber appear on random stitches, which are not even. Everything I try to knit takes on a Frankensteinish aura. A number of my friends find the art of knitting calming, but for me it is the total opposite – stressful, disheartening, sometimes tear-provoking. This is supposed to be relaxing? Not. I tried switching to some basic crochet, which seemed slightly easier (one hook vs. two needles) but it proved non-productive, with the same horrifying results. I have three disaster projects sitting in a basket at this moment that are now years old.
Seeing the variety of beautiful yarns available and the creative finished products these knitters (and a whole new breed of funky cool young knitters, too) are turning out is enticing, but I am unable to even come close to such results. It is a great disappointment, and one in a list of a few failures on my part that I sadly try to accept. We cannot all be good at everything, I guess. Tomato/Tomahto.
Which brings me to Ivy, who I met during one steamy, hot summer while at a holistic center workshop. I had come to this new-age setting for a family week with one of my children, who happened to be going through a rebellious and difficult phase of life right then. The intention was to hopefully expand my child’s horizons beyond the stagnant local townies she was running with at the time. With fantasies of having a mother/daughter bonding concurrently, we arrived at the location, registered, and within five minutes she was off and running with new-found peers. I was not to see much of her for five days. A glimpse here and there, like a puff of faerie dust, and not much more.
And so I went off to a workshop alone. On day three or four I connected with Ivy – a bright, creative and very social woman – one of those people who can strike up a conversation with just about anyone and keep it going. This talent for chat was rather key, as I am somewhat of an Anti-Socialite and a hard-of-hearing one at that. For the most part, the girlfriends I have are all intelligent and artistic women, and Ivy is no exception. What I can tell you about Ivy and I is that we are both cancer survivors, that we have some similar insecurities and neuroses, a somewhat twisted sense of humor, that we are usually up for an adventure and had kids going through a number of transitions. Of interest (to me) is that she happens to be the third friend of mine (all of them unrelated) who is a Dutch immigrant. She is a contemporary woman who makes beautiful jewelry too. After the workshop ended, we continued to keep in touch and have been for about the last six years.
So…. Ivy knits and she knits very well. Our local Sheep and Wool Festival is held every autumn, and Ivy wanted to attend, so I invited her to come stay with me with a plan – I, the non-knitter, would go to the event with her and find some beautiful yarn and she, the uber-talented knitter, offered to knit something for me. Is that a great deal or what?
The women were wearing their finest creations at the Sheep and Wool Festival. We spent a crisp, Fall day admiring the beautiful handwork, then sitting under brightly turning leaves while drinking hot chai and eating brownies. Ivy stopped to chat with just about everybody. I got some free basic knitting instruction from a woman at the 4H table, with hopes of suddenly having a knitting epiphany (didn’t happen). We found some gorgeous hand-spun and hand-dyed wool for scarves and headed back to my home.
Ivy explained to me that the figure-eight shaped skein of the softest wool I had purchased needed to be rewound into a workable ball to knit from. I had no idea this had to occur, being the “knit-iot” that I am. Given this discovery, I am not sure if it came that way or if I did something to it, but the unwinding and rewinding of the skein became a major ordeal because the skein had somehow come undone on both ends and was snarled full of knots. It was an incredible mess. Ivy and I spent hours trying to unwind it. And so The Unravelling began.
We unravelled until two o’clock in the morning. We anchored the wool to the top of a dining room chair, sometimes having to reach over and under each other’s arms to undo the knots. While we worked, we talked about so many subjects and issues that affected our lives. The longer it went on, the more detailed and personal the conversation became, an unravelling of ourselves. It took on a therapeutic, insightful and almost magical quality. When we were finally finished and had a tidy, knot-free ball of yarn left for our efforts, we became silent. Our spoken words hung in the air much like the immediate vacuum left when the music ends after a concert. Beneath the silence the air still was humming with the thoughts and stories we had shared.
I think perhaps this is something that sometimes occurs between women working together on a quilt, or canning garden harvest, weeding a garden, cooking a huge meal or doing chores. I supposed working together on a car engine together or painting a room might also have similar results. There is a bonding that occurs when people step back from the technology and work with their hands, together.
Ivy took our ball of yarn home and knit a beautiful scarf for me, and for a couple of years after that, we would returned to the wool fest together, where she would chat with the knitters about heft and gauge and stitches and all sorts of crafty stuff. Meanwhile, I would tune it all out and wander around aimlessly, touching the gorgeous yarns and pretending I was going to create something epic. Then I would pick out a skein, roll it into a workable ball of yarn, and a few months later Ivy would send me a hand-knit pair of socks, which I treasure.
Since that time, we have moved on to other adventures, but the memory of the night of The Unravelling has stayed with us.