Calliope has knit three emergency scarves over her life:
The ugly ochre alpaca yarn was first. She had just graduated college, and, promising her parents that yes she would do something with the business degree if this all didn’t work out, taken little else than her favorite tool box to California to begin her apprenticeship with accomplished metalworker Leland Brasher.
Calliope had always considered herself a relatively strong person. She’d survived middle school as the only one in a set of twins that got acne. She’d once given the quarterback of her school a piggyback ride to the dorms after the busses stopped running and he couldn’t use up his legs because the game was the next morning. But oof, Leland Brasher was one torch-wielding bastard, and he got to Calliope.
On the phone with her sister, she confessed she’d tried everything she could think of. Killing with kindness, giving what he gave, drinking wine, eating excessive amounts of cheese, drinking more wine. Then moving on to her other arts, which included a special tea she made for herself, and then a special tea she made for Brasher.
“You drugged the man?!”
“No, Caroline!” Calliope laughed into the phone, pouring a glass of Merlot. “Damn I wish you were close enough to make me a real drink. I just made an ice tea that would open him up to me, not to like actually change him.”
“Of course,” her sister sighed, “I’m sorry, I know… Also that much wine is going to bloat you. You know when you’re this anxious you get bloated easily.”
“I know. When I go to bed, I’m rolling around like an inebriated beachball.”
“You need to find your calm. And get some cognac and make a Sidecar before I come out there and do it myself.”
“Do come out here, I’d love that!”
“I will, my first week off. But you know what you have to do. Even I know that much.”
“Ugh, not the classics.”
“Yep. That old school stuff.”
It was kinda irritating that Caroline was so naturally knowledgable about the practice when she did not want to be active in it. Calliope tried to avoid that her sister was right for a few days, but after Brasher made her solder 806 iron circlets just to decide he wanted them melted down again, she gave in. Reaching down into her old tool box, she brought out two of her most powerful weapons- a set of steel blue knitting needles.
Unfortunately, due to a plethora of fertile friends and quickly-made baby blankets, the only material left in her closet was a large length of soft brown yarn with yellowish highlights she’d picked up at a farmer’s market because she’d spent too much time petting an alpaca and felt bad not purchasing anything from its owner.
Brown had never been Callipe’s favorite color. She understood its importance- woods and earth and fur and all that. But it washed her out and it did not spark joy. However, there were not a lot of late-night yarn stores in L.A., so she’d call it hazel or cinnamon or cocoa and it would have to do.
Every night after work, or after a night out with the other apprentices, she’d come home and pour a glass of wine or put in a movie, and start to knit. A simple stitch: 4 knit, 4 pearl, repeat 3 times.
In it went the stress from her shoulders, the aches from her fingers, the strain from her new muscles, the yells at Brasher that get stuck in her throat, and every static bit of anxiety that had pulsed through her in the past months making her weary and restless. With every knot her needles tied, one inside her loosened. When she was done, it was the ugliest scarf she’d ever seen in her life. She laughed out loud at it, grateful for how good she felt. Wrapping the monstrosity around herself, she snapped a picture and sent it to Caroline. Quickly her phone beeped back with a text.
Don’t post that horrid thing anywhere, people will think it’s me 😉
The second scarf was actually quite beautiful. It was a pearlescent teal, the colors of impossibly calm waters she wished would well up inside of her. That morning she’d gotten a phone call from her father, thrown any t-shirts without paint or grease stains into a bag, and picked the closest craft store on route to the airport.
But once in the store, her feet felt a bit frozen to tiled floor. She begged her body to get a little further into the journey before the shock started in, but her toes were stone in her sandals.
“Ma’am, looking for something soft today?”
She decided the kind gentleman in the yarn aisle had to be some sort of guardian angel, as he appeared out of nowhere to lead her to the correct yarn weights, and then quietly checked her out at the back counter with the frames so that she could skip the long line at the front.
“Try a sand-stich,” he commented, as he wrapped her yarn in paper so it wouldn’t go frizzy in her carry-on.
“The what?” Calliope’s mind refocused from fussing with her wallet. Always pay attention when the universe speaks, even if it feels random.
“The sand-stich,” he said again, handing over the parcels for her to stuff between snacks and extra shoes, “it’s calming, and comes out like a little wave. I think you’ll like it with this color.”
After a smooth sail through TSA and boarding, thanking the spelled labradorite and shungite corded around her neck for the assist, she sent a quick text to her sister that she was on the way:
“Boarded! Be right there, how is she feeling?”
“Stable for now. Won’t lie, not looking good. Will give you more doc details when you land”
“How you feeling? My own worry is spiking too bad to get a read”
“If I weren’t the family taxi between house and hospital, I’d be 6 mojitos deep. Neal keeps texting me to update on the bar, I know he thinks it’s reassuring but I’m about to scream. Want to sit with her but everybody needs something”
“Block Nate’s number, explain to him later. We can split chauffeur duty when I get there. How’s Dad?”
“Acting strong, snuck him a moscow mule in a thermos lol, he’s nursing that while playing cards with Nonnie whenever she’s awake. Seems to have calmed him”
“Rum with coke and cooking snacks at house. We have enough chex mix to feed the coast guard :P”
“You and your drink magic ;)”
“Ha. Ha. See if yours will get that plane here faster”
“Will do :* Love you!”
With her last minute of wifi before takeoff, she googled the sand-stich. Calliope was very pleased with the four inches of tiny waves she had knitted by the time the plane landed, and when she was able to wrap her arms around her twin, felt those calm waters start to move within her and ripple across to her sister.
“She’s leaving soon, isn’t she?” Calliope whispered, still tucked tightly into her sister.
“But she waited for you. Uncle Frank even tried to pretend I was both of us and Nonnie was so furious, they had to sedate her!” Caroline tried to laugh but it was more of a hiccup, “I’m just glad you’re here. I feel like I’ll survive this now.”
The third scarf… wasn’t done yet.
Calliope had to admit that after losing her grandmother, she’d had a hard time picking up knitting needles again. She focused on other aspects of her practice: teas, candles, massage. She also had her actual work. Having graduated from her apprenticeship with Brasher’s rare blessing, Calliope was welcomed into an artists’ workshop where she could continue learning from experience professionals while getting a few of her pieces on the market. So she had a good excuse for not picking back up on the habit.
Then Caroline’s calls became more frequent. It wasn’t their usual monthly check-ins with random dailyish texts- Caroline had called Calliope in the middle of the night for the first time ever, after having been so careful about the time difference for years. With no hello, she was suddenly ranting about a rough day at the bar as if she was 19 again with her first fake ID.
“I mean a spritzer?! At The Swan?! Did I work this hard to still be wasting good wine watering it down?”
“Wait, what?” Calliope gulped from her water bottle, barely realizing this wasn’t a dream, “You’ve had rough days at bars before- can we get to the point? I have to wake up for work in like…” she pulled back the window curtain, checked the sky, “just 3 hours!”
“Fine, so Neal put all the highballs where I couldn’t reach them tonight and I may have overreacted because you know I’m still upset about Nonnie, and then he was so weird when we were doing shut down EVEN THOUGH I showed him that cool way to juggle shakers but then he tried to do it with soda in them which you can’t do ’cause it goes everywhere and so I-“
Such were the calls for weeks. Caroline would ring with some nonsense about the grocery store being out of the color grapes she liked or that one of her regulars wasn’t feeling well, but really it was about Neal. Calliope recognized it was less of a “would they/won’t they” thing and more of a “who has fewer trauma scars to take a risk” thing. Enjoying more of a buddy-system herself, she wasn’t able to offer much advise, and she knew Caroline wouldn’t take it even if she had it. Their mother had never really been one for romantic advice, having nabbed their father by accident in the second grade. They needed their grandmothers. Oma had studiously picked the best of six suitors to start her family, and Nonnie had run away from her family to marry their Papap and refused to come home until the family accepted the marriage.
So, well, Calliope had to get the next best thing- the knitting needles inherited from Oma, with the craft last done by the side of Nonnie. Almost like the universe had planned it. She rolled her eyes at herself, while knowing it was true.
In her closet, behind some half-done canvases (why had she thought painting was her thing last year?) and a suitcase with a broken handle, was her carry-on bag from that trip. She’d just thrown it to the back of her closet and hoped she’d be strong enough to deal with it later. Oma’s needles were still there, along with the leftover shining teal strands.
The next morning Calliope stopped by her favorite coffee shop, tipping the barista for the smile and extra shot of espresso in her dirty chai. Then to Stitch & Bitch, where all the local biddies gathered to hook up their grandsons and judge each other.
“What can I do for ya, sweetie?”
Calliope considered for a bit, “I need light pinks. Like almost white pinks. Maybe whites too. And I may need some purples.”
“Mmmm,” the lady behind the counter pursed her lips, “any reds?”
“No!” Calliope insisted, but then paused and considered the older woman, “not yet that I know of.”
There was a smirk growing across the clerk’s face, “Is this project for you or someone else?”
The woman nodded, “I see…” they exchanged a look of knowing, and with a wink, the woman led her to a small shelf of very soft lengths of all different shades ranging from picnic clouds to hot magenta. Some even had all of of them dyed in one bundle. “Perhaps you’ll find what you’re looking for here?”
“Yes, thank you, these…” Calliope was already running her hands over some of the coral threads, “these are perfect.”
She stayed in the shop for hours, long after she’d settled on a rose, silver, and plum set of yarn to make her sister an infinity scarf for Valentine’s Day. The biddies had inserted themselves in her choosing, then after Calliope had paid, they’d inquired to the nature of her project, the stitch pattern, every detail of her work. They knew one of her fellow workshop artists- a husband of a second cousin. She imagined they may collect every detail of the city in this manner from those who wandered through the shop.
Then they demanded she sit with them a minute, and how could she not? But then they saw her cast on and had to correct that immediately. Apparently she’d been doing it the “cheater’s way” her whole life, whatever that meant. As long as she could still do her own work upon the knots, she was happy to abide by more practiced knitters’ rules. Calliope settled in, watching some of the other ladies who had introduced themselves: Joan crocheting her third grandbaby’s new hat, LuAnn making bears for the children’s hospital, Margie knotting a plant-hanger for her husband. Starting into her own rows, each stitch felt more energized than usual. Calliope had always knit alone; this was the first she had ever been in a knitting circle, and she’d never felt such a wave of power like this. Did these women, these nine-to-five-ers and stay-at-home-ers and retirees know what power they wielded? Should she- ?
Calliope shook her head. Of course they did. And maybe they didn’t. But that did not matter. They used it either way it to take care of the people they loved. Just as she would.
Bind (verb): 1. To make secure by tying; to confine, restrain, or restrict as if with bonds. 2. To put under an obligation. 3. To constrain with legal authority. 4. To wrap around with something so as to enclose or cover; bandage.
Knitting is an under appreciated art form. I mean, it’s appreciated, but I still think it’s under appreciated! Many yarn and thread arts are unfortunately still considered “women’s work” which is very silly, not only because putting gender stereotypes on art is literally a waste of everyone’s time, but also because it’s an incredibly soothing pastime with an useful end result. “Oh man, meditative state… and suddenly… BLANKET?!?!” I see no reason men should not have this.
I try not to pull too many super personal experiences so blatantly into my writings. Don’t get me wrong, inspirations happen frequently- things in my life or characters I come across. But this one I’ll admit is pretty “hello, is me.” I did learn how to knit from my Nanna when I was very young. I picked it back up when my Grandma passed and I inherited her knitting needles. And I did make a very ugly scarf that I treasure very much using my Grandma’s needles, while I sitting next to my Nanna as we talked about some silly show on rocks we were watching. But it is one hella ugly scarf- I’d been practicing new patterns and not really paying attention when I dropped stitches. Even though I love it dearly, I actually cannot wear it in public due to its terribleness, haha.
I’m not super into tea/color energy though, so if I got any of that information wrong, I do apologize. Your girl is doing her research but mistakes do happen! I however, do love a good crystal. I’m not sure they have any specialness to them, but I have always LOVED a good rock. I used to steal really nice ones from my grandparents’ pebbled driveway, and I can’t remember who, but some adult threatened that I would have to pay to have the whole thing re-rocked if I didn’t stop. It did not deter me ONE bit! Still have some. Go rocks!
There are lots of cool places to learn how to knit online, like Ravelry. And places like Etsy have lots of beginners kits (hashtag support small and local, yo). And no matter what kind of energy you think is moving around us- it most certainly is within art. We as a society take something like thread and yarn- necessary for so much else throughout history, and make it more than useful, we make it beautiful. I think that’s really cool. And I think if you work with it, you’ll think it’s really cool too. Just a suggestion if you’re looking for a new project 😉
So happy knotting and unknotting, whether it is with what’s inside of you, or if you decide to find some string, and as always- happy reading 🙂