Cat vs. Yarn

This is Bella, the latest addition to our household. Bella is about five months old. We adopted her from the local SPCA. Her name was Stevie at the shelter, but there wasn’t any way that was going to stick.

One of the things that I’d forgotten about having a kitten was that it means stopping your knitting every minute or so and saying “No!” It also means making sure that neither your working yarn nor any yarn ends are trailing across your leg; if they are, prepare yourself for the delivery of a tiny set of claws right through your pants and into your skin.

I’ve set aside a sacrificial skein for when Bella gets too obsessed with my knitting and won’t take no for an answer. I haven’t had to use it yet because, like most kittens, Bella has an attention span of about three nanoseconds. Just tossing a penny on the floor works wonders. And this afternoon Bella was quite happy going to sleep in my lap without trying to help me out with my current project.

Bella isn’t our first cat——Maxine predates her by almost eleven years——so you’d think I’d be used to the cat/yarn negotiations. But as you can see from the picture below, these days Maxine just can’t be bothered with anything that doesn’t involve being asleep.

Up and Running Again

Those of you who visited this site over the weekend may have noticed that things weren’t working the way they were supposed to. This is because you have all made me weirdly famous, and I maxed out my bandwidth allotment for the month of September. The problem is solved, though, and everything is running normally again.

If you use Bloglines (or another newsreader) you may find that all of the old posts that you’ve already read are coming up as unread. It’s just a side effect of that bottle of tequila you emptied last night of my having moved the site to a different host. I think I’ve caught all of the other problems, but if you notice that something isn’t working right, please let me know.

Thanks for reading, everyone! As website issues go, too many visits isn’t such a bad one to have. More posts coming soon.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: Silly me, giving a link to a contact form that didn’t actually work.  Well, now it’s working. Sheesh. I think we all had more time in our lives when we didn’t have the internet.  Certainly more time to knit, which is exactly what I’m going to do right now.

About That Curse . . .

Thanks for all of the wonderful feedback about Avast! It’s my first successful sweater design——hopefully the first of many.

Because more women knit than men, and because people like to knit for their romantic partners, and because Avast is (mostly) a men’s sweater, its inevitable that many Avasts will be knit for men by women who are in romantic relationships with them. Equally inevitable, apparently, are the inquiries I’ve received about whether knitting Avast will invite the curse——the phenomenon in which the knitting of a sweater dooms the romance that inspired it. I’ve addressed this issue in ask yarn boy, albeit indirectly, so it’s time to take the issue head-on. The best way to do that is to take a short trip into a subject that is near and dear to my heart: horror movies!

The Invasion of the Body Snatchers came out in 1953, just as the Cold War was gaining serious momentum and Senator Joseph McCarthy was getting warmed up. Its invasion of alien spores that turn humans into emotionless automatons was one short remove from what the Soviets supposedly had in mind for the entire world. The 1978 update (starring Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy!) worked with the same paranoia while also playing on fears of nuclear war-induced mutation. Both take an anxiety that was created by humans and turn it into an external threat, drawing a clear line between victims and aggressors. Almost any pre-1980 alien invasion movie can be read this way (before the aliens started healing us with glowing fingers and eating Reese’s Pieces).

Horror movies are a lot different these days, but their habit of externalizing their threats is no different. The victims of the vengeful ghost in The Ring are even more hapless and random, having made the grevious error of watching an unmarked video tape. The Ring——long popular in Japan——introduced Americans to their anxiety of pervasive technology, that it may be a conduit to forces beyond our control. Pulse (the Japanese version) brought that anxiety full circle, uniting deep suspicions of the internet, cellular phones and televisions with the terror of nuclear war. The creepy shadows left by the movie’s victims echo the prints left on buildings and streets by the victims of the bombs we dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In both of these movies (and their J-horror bretheren) innocent people doing innocent things find themselves at the mercy of the beyond. Like all good horror movies, they take the fears and anxieties that we create ourselves and turn them into monsters beyond our control, and beyond our responsibility.

It’s the same thing that gives us the notion that knitting a sweater might invite a curse into our lives. The fear that someone we love might leave us is primal; so primal that we’re willing to believe that it can be accomplished by a curse. But it’s not the sweater that causes the leaving, nor is it the act of knitting that sweater. It’s the unspoken expectations——the hope that the reaction of the person for whom you’re knitting that sweater will match up to the time, energy and love that you put into it——that will haunt your relationship. I’m not saying that the reaction won’t match; just that it’s the honesty about the expectations that keeps the ghosts away.

Sorry if I sound preachy, but this curse thing just bothers me. All horror films, after all, have something ridiculous in their premise, without which the movie would never work. It’s what caused Eddie Murphy, in a 1983 skit, to ask this blatantly obvious question: “Why don’t white people just leave when there’s a ghost in the house?”

The Joy of Mutually Consensual Knitting

Not to brag or anything, but my wife Z is also a knitter. This provides our marriage with a significant number of fringe benefits:

  • We get to knit together in the evenings while we talk about our respective days.
  • We get to knit together on Saturday mornings while we listen to Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.
  • We get to knit together before going to sleep each night.
  • We get to knit together when we’re travelling.

Z’s stylistic sensibilities are a lot different than mine, so I often consult with her on my designs for another perspective. She’s a lot better with color than I am, so she’ll encourage me to pick out yarn that I’d never have chosen on my own, and I’ve never been sorry to have taken her advice. Almost every shade of green in my yarn stash is the direct result of her influence; I can claim responsibility, directly or otherwise, for her increased use of purple.

And did I mention we get to knit things for each other?

Okay, Z actually knit both of these handwarmers, but you can still see my point (for a few examples of stuff I’ve knit for Z, check out the knitting gallery). Truth be told, this whole yarn boy thing was her idea in the first place. I was just a guy knitting sweaters before I met her.