In the Fold with My Peeps

My interest in knitting starting innocently enough some 30 years ago when we were visiting Ireland.  The island was awash in American tourists whose first order of business was the purchase of a hand knit Irish sweater which was then worn throughout  the trip.  I thought a nice riff on this tradition would be to buy yarn and then make my own hand knit Irish sweater while I was traveling through the country.  My interest blossomed from there as I caught the craze for worsted knit vests inspired by the movie Chariots of Fire and Brideshead Revisited. 

Somewhere I the mid 1980s, my “interest” in knitting evolved into a passion, from there perhaps into an obsession with a slight hint of a budding pathology.  I remember buying my first basket to store wool for future projects.  I blew through this basket and eventually dedicated a whole room with elaborate shelves to house my collection.  I still thought it was my little secret, and was aghast to find that my husband began to budget “wool” as a line item.  Fortunately, he cheerfully concluded that the psychiatry bill would have been higher.

At the start of a knitting project I would spend some quality time with my growing collection of pattern books and wool, touching and reorganizing them, trying to figure out the best strategy.  I typically had a couple projects going at once, usually a simple one that was readily portable, and a more complex one with multiple different colors that usually was permanently spread throughout the TV room.  The many projects were like airplanes in a holding pattern over a busy airport, eagerly waiting for the signal to land.  However, I frequently exercised my right to wave them off even as they made the final wheels-down approach. 

I made dozens of sweaters, and although I usually could find somebody to wear one, it typically wasn’t the person it was originally intended for.  I then segued to making scarves (which always fit) and this is where things really got out of hand.  I was working from home at this time, and I found that when I began a work project, I would be totally committed to the exclusion of almost all else until the project was done.  However, in between projects I had some down time to get recharged for the next effort.  Scarves needed only a ball or two of wool, and thus I could use my down time to go to the wool store to get just one more ball – but in reality I would rarely leave without spending at least one hundred dollars.  I had scoped out the local yarn stores, but discovered that the store with the most extensive inventory was located over an hour away on the north side of Milwaukee, where I always stopped on vacation as we drove north to the upper peninsula Michigan.  One time I was in serious need of a work break and decided to take this extensive road trip.  When I got to Milwaukee I was overwhelmed with disappointment to find the store closed for inventory.  I got back into the car and decided to take a little nap before the empty-handed drive home.  I woke up three hours later from such a deep sleep that I needed to brush my teeth.  When I finally got back home Nick greeted me with great relief; in my prolonged absence he could only come up with two very unattractive scenarios.  Either I had gone on an over-the-top wool spree or that I had been in a car accident.  It never occurred to him that I would drive to Milwaukee to take a nap.

By subscribing to knitting magazines I became aware of a local knitting convention and have made a yearly trek to participate in this slice of life experience.  A knitting convention clearly self-selects for the dedicated if slightly nutty knitter; the average knitter is going to find everything she needs at the local wool shop or on line.  In fact the most compelling reason to go to this convention is to mingle with people that share your odd ball passion, a place where you could proudly wear a pair of crocheted shorts without embarrassment, except maybe explaining the unfortunate color choice.  

In fact, many of the attendees, mostly older women, use the convention to showcase their latest creations.  Similar to my efforts, most of the sweaters are ill fitting, so the convention floor is filled with lumpy dumpy women wearing lumpy dumpy sweaters.  Furthermore, the convention is always held at the end of August, definitely not the weather for bulky sweaters.  This year, the conditions were particularly sweltering, but one women proudly walked into the convention wearing hand knit gloves.  One year, I walked from the parking lot to the convention next to a man elaborately dressed up like a superhero, with high boots, long black cape and a cowl.  At first very odd, but then I realized that the knitting convention was sharing space with a comic book convention, and this man was in his element.  Presumably, he could not wear his outfit around town, but here, among his congregation there was no judgment.  He was in the fold with his peeps amoxicillin 500mg

The knitting convention draws a very menopausal crowd; knitting still has the image of an activity for brownie scouts earning a Home Ec merit badge or a fuddy duddy habit for retired women with nothing better to do.  In fact, if you put everyone at the convention through a juicer, I bet you would end up with less than a cup of estrogen. 

Additionally, there are no men at the convention, except for a few clearly bored husbands slumped in chairs minding large bags of wool. as their wives go on additional forays.  Most of the vendors are women who have shops with overly cute names, like “Adorable Ewe,” “Knit Knack” or “I’ll Keep You in Stitches.”  I bet that many of them started the stores as a hobby and then brought their retired husbands along to ring up the sales. 

The wool is clearly the star of the show, but there are other vendors who take advantage.  I am reminded of  remoras, a fish that attaches to a shark in order to feast off of the shark’s sloppy seconds.  These vendors are always working hard to come up with new ideas for the hard core knitter who has already made sweaters for everyone in her life, even getting ahead of herself by knitting for as yet unborn grandchildren.  Knitting colorful Fair Isle socks has become a popular trend, but the obvious downside (aside from having to knit two socks) is that all of your meticulous knitting is immediately covered up with shoes.  One enterprising vendor was trying to take advantage of her captive audience by selling see-through plastic books.  This year I saw someone who had basically knit a whole farm scene and another who had knit a garden.  There was also a book of patterns devoted to knitting cakes and cupcakes.   I’m trying hard not to be judgmental, but if Nick saw me knitting a chocolate cake with sprinkles, he might think that a psychiatrist would be a wise investment after all.

Then there is a whole category of accessories – weird buttons made out of old typewriter keys, or knitting needles with carved animals on top.  Other vendors focus on the consequences of excessive knitting – a special brace for your hand to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, a massage therapist offering a free massage for overworked shoulder and neck muscles, and a booth set up by a chiropractic association touting the advantages of readjustment. 

This year there was a booth where a women was demonstrating a device to keep your ball of wool from completely unraveling as you were knitting, which is only a problem if you are using very slinky wool.  She was equipped with a microphone head set, and was one of the few people in the room who was young, tan, toned and wearing a clingy and revealing top.  She would fit right into a car show, but her whole effect was lost on this audience.  The device was a clear plastic ball that you put your ball of wool in, and she enthusiastically demonstrated it by cupping and caressing the balls.  Her performance reminded of the movie Sleeper, a Woody Allen movie that featured the Orgasmatron Orb.  Woody is disguised as a robot and is clearly distracted as he passes the Orb around a cocktail party.  


Knitting has been a great ride for the past 30 years, but about two years ago the feverish pace broke and I have reached a more comfortable middle ground.  I was fairly successful in selling the scarves, but then began to have nightmares that all the scarves would simultaneously start unraveling with hordes of shoppers showing up on my doorstep demanding a refund.  I then segued into knitting multicolored and complex afghans, which I often give as wedding gifts or contribute to silent auctions. 

Yes, I still crank out an afghan or two per year, and there are plenty of circling projects, but wool is no longer a line item in our budget.  But regardless of how much I continue to knit or not knit, I will always go to the convention to appreciate the knitted cupcakes and orgasmic wool holders, to soak up the common understanding as I return to the fold with my peeps.  The other day I was reading a book that was profiling some of nature’s quirks, including blood sharing among vampire bats.  The anecdote concluded, “The bats don’t regurgitate blood for just anyone … Clearly, we have more to learn about food sharing among vampire bats.”  Personally, I felt that I had already learned more than I needed to know about vampire bats, but this statement delivered at a convention of fellow chipoterans would produce confirmatory head nods and murmers of approval.  And then there is the television ad where a man with a lovely British accent announces, “For the past 17 years I have been obsessed with reinventing the vacuum cleaner.”  While I am tempted to snicker at both of these people who may be a bit myopic in their focused professions, I realize that I should hold back.  After all, I have entire basement full of wool.   

The missing words in the following poem are all anagrams (i.e. like spot, post, stop).   The number of dashes indicates the number of letters.  One anagram will rhyme with either the preceding or following line.  Your job is to figure out the words from the context of the poem.  Scroll down for the answers.


When does your hobby —– to go out of control, when moderation is not enough?

It’s when you need a line item in your budget, or a special room for all  your stuff.

It’s when you overindulge your passion and go on a buying —–

And friends and family worry that you are approaching a lunatic fringe.

That’s when you go to a convention to experience a friendly attitude change

There’s nothing like —– among people who don’t think your hobby is so strange.







Answers:begin, binge, being

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