If Crap, Then Quit?

swallowtail1 I may have been able to put a fuzzy halo around my Swallowtail with the aid of Photoshop, but there’s nothing angelic or even remotely lovely about this, this . . . uch, I don’t even know what to call it – because I certainly don’t want this icky thing around my neck.

When I went to Rhinebeck last November, I was all about yarny yarn – yarn you could really sink your teeth into – nothing processed, something straight off the farm, something so organic that if you bit into it, it would crunch like an apple, and juice would dribble down your chin. I was over the handpaint, the variegated, the neons, the pastels – all I wanted was natural – browns, greys, blacks. My yarn store employee/yarn snob purist phase was in high gear.

I found this yarn in the very last booth, from a farm that sold mostly Shetland sock yarn. They (this mystery farm I can’t remember) have a large booth every year, with fair isle sock kits (in naturals – greys, brown, black and white), and single skeins, and very warm, sturdy,flora-184 workhorse looking shawls and socks knit up. For whatever reason, I didn’t pick up the Shetland, I picked this up – and I don’t even remember what it is. I walked around with it, trying to decide if I was going to buy it, or if perhaps I was going to buy 2 – thinking big, thinking Irish Diamonds, or Frost Flowers and Leaves. I went back to the bin where I had found it, and this other woman pulled a young (not the aged, traitorous Dawkins that’s going to the Broncos, and who will never last five years) Brian Dawkins move, swooping in front of me, snatching the skein from my tentative, outreaching fingertips, and then, gloating, doing  a little happy dance in front of my face. And, I immediately thought, fine, I’ll show you aggressive woman I will never see again, I do not need thousands of yards.  I only need 400 or so perfect yards.  This will make a lovely lovely Swallowtail. So there.   And, I have a handsome, hot boyfriend, so nya nya.  This is Joe and I at Rhinebeck – just thought I’d throw us in here so that there is a happy, successful, positive part of this post (because happiness in life is so much more important than happiness in knitting).


I took my yarn home, and wound it into a ball that night. So far so good. I cast on, still ok, it was only 3 stitches. And then I began to knit. Well, what can I say, I got what I wanted – this yarn was definitely natural – so natural that I felt like the sheep was sitting next to me while I knit – not only did it feel like I was knitting it off the sheep – as it felt — there’s no other way to put this – down right dirty —  it strangely, smelled like little sheepy was in the room as well. I wanted the yarn to be from a farm – I didn’t want the farm as well. 

And, it just looked like crap.  The twist was wrong – again, as if it were not so much spun, but kind of combed off the sheep straight into a skein.  Yet, I persevered – this is all natural yarn, as natural as Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter, from an honest to G-d farm, combined with a well-established, much knit pattern that has yielded many a beautiful shawl, it’s gotta be awesome, right?  The yarn snob in me said, it must, of course.  

And, I knit on.  The beginning/middle section looked like a fuzzy wuzzy blob, that seemed to be calling “BAAAHHHH!!!”  I got to the nupps.  Not only was it a struggle, but they seemed to be felting as I knit them – butterfly cocoons that resembled shibori balls rather than delicate nupps.  Yet, I thought, blocking, blocking will make it all better.

All of this knitting really calls the question – when does one quit, when one seemed to have had the best laid plans?  Is there ever a right time just to cut your loses?  Or, will you simply be left wondering what would have happened had you finished?

In The Way We Were, Robert Redford says to Barbra Streisand, after they have tried to break up, but because he is such a weak willed, spineless creature, he is going back to her, , “You never give up, do you?”  And she replies, “Not  unless I’m absolutely forced to.”  But, does she say this because she knows she’s already won, she’s getting her way, he’s coming back?  Would she say that if she had the insight to know it was really time to throw in the towel?  

The answer to this question is a simple equation — If pain > potential success ->quit.  Here, while potential success was extremely low, the pain was still less, in fact perservering was almost painless in the face of quitting –  I knit so fast, it certainly wasn’t going to kill me to find out what was going to happen in the last chapter (even though I knew, as if I had flipped to the end of the book – the monster at the end of the book!)  So, for me, following this healthy equation, finishing was logical.  While I in my knitter’s heart of hearts knew this was never going to be a thing of beauty, I would never have been satisified until I had seen it to it’s conclusion. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to figure impatience into the equation – I wasn’t suffering, but I still wanted it over – and I ended up casting off so tightly, that I couldn’t block the points into the thing, nor could I really draw out the pattern – not that it really mattered, because the thing felted in the blocking anyway – a teeny tiny aggitation, and it was like glue.  There’s no way I can take the bind off out.  And, I know I shouldn’t – because a redo would definitely up the pain ante, and this thing – and that’s all it will ever be – a thing – will never amount to a scintilla of success.


And what of my snobbery?  In this case, perhaps the potential for success aspect of the equation was subject to a bit of puffery – I’m a more than proficient knitter, I usually have good taste in yarn, this was a good choice of pattern, but I don’t really have an equation to determine success without the subjectivity of attitude and ego.  Perhaps there should be a little division by humility (if pain > (potential succes/some humility) -> quit).   But, you knit, you learn, and at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I will conquer.


Oh, did I say something about humility?


  1. Bridget March 3, 2009

    Wow, that’s a lot of work to end up dissatisfied. And it’s really too bad, since the yarn is kinda neat-looking, in its “rustic” way.

    Hmm. Does this mean a return to Brooks Farm??

  2. jen March 3, 2009

    that sounds like a dilemma. yarn having too much of a capital Y. i would’ve cut my losses a long time ago, but I’m quick to rip and redo. Think of it as being a fancy hap shawl. And Big Bird is gone and off to a happier home.


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