knitting on the front lines of life

Month: June, 2011

In reality, this doesn’t suck.

I went to my favorite LYS (local yarn shop) today to accomplish a few necessary tasks. I went to pick out yarn suitable to the knitting group’s new project (baby vest!) to take to the group tonight. I figure it’s easier to take the suitable yarns from the shop to the knitters than to get the knitters to the shop or to refigure the pattern for the various yarns they were sure to bring to the project. I also wanted to sweet talk Carol, the LYS owner, into letting me shoot the youtube videos for the pattern I’m working on in the shop (with her). My main purpose was to take some 500g hanks of undyed cotton down to 100g hanks using some of her heavy duty equipment.

The shop had lots of suitable yarns, Carol was down with the videos, but the re-hanking was a total pain in the butt. I think it took us 2.5 hours to create 25 hanks, some over weight, some under weight, and lots of yarn cut into ties because it was no longer suitable for dyeing. It was horrible. I am meticulous about yarn, so I’m slower than is necessary. 500g hanks are huge. They’re more than a pound, and contain 820 yards of yarn. Every piece of equipment squeaked under the weight, we had to count the turns on the wheel, and the original hanks were looped back on themselves in ways that left us both yelling. Halfway through the hanking, when both of us were hands-on, and I had already hit myself in the face with one of the swifts, Carol looks at me and says, “In theory, this totally works.” (See: And then she asked me about the meaning of “Onanism” (See:, and the discussion that followed left me snorting in laughter as I turned the handle of the wheel we were winding onto, counting silently in my head, holding the stool that held the wheel in place with my foot, trying not to hit myself in the face with the wheel (again), and making it clear that my vocation is much more likely to be something involving theory than athletics.

In theory, it’s difficult (but necessary) for pastors to make friends outside of their congregation. When you’re friend/pastor, you have to actually be pastor/friend. The pastoring always comes first, which often jeopardizes friendship, which means we should probably just find our friends outside the pews. Don’t get me wrong… I love my parishioners. I’m blessed to be a part of their lives. If I could choose a group of parishioners, it would be them. But that’s just it… I’m their pastor, and I’ve learned the painful lesson over six years of ministry that they have to be parishioners first and foremost for the relationships to be healthy. They need me to be the pastor, not to be another friend.

If you run a shop like Carol does, you have some similar issues (minus the midnight phone calls, family funerals, and having to remain neutral in marriage issues of your parishioners/friends). We both have almost no control over who walks in the door during the hours our “shops” are open. We both have to walk the line between providing what people want and what they actually need. We both have to have a great poker face, iron skin, and more grace with difficult people than our minds naturally offer.

When Alex jumped into the yarn industry, I got to cross into new territory of being “in the industry” instead of Carol’s customer. Hers was the first shop to carry Ale’s yarn and she was our guide into the challenging world of the LYS. Now that Ale has lots of stores to worry about, and I knit mostly Yarns of Italy sample pieces, we GET to be friends instead of being friends by proximity or need. Our friendship is not Cascade 220, the basic go-to yarn when you have to knit something cheap and fast. Instead, it’s Cashmere Queen, the luxury that may sit on the shelf for a few months but is something you love to pick up and knit together.

Carol told me once that if I ever wrote about her, she better not show up in my writing as some angelic figure. She’s real, and I get to be real around her. Together, we can say what we want, be who we are, and share what we think without concern that we will offend a customer/parishioner. We get to choose to like each other because of what we say, who we are, and what we think. I’ll never say she’s an angel (or that I’m an angel), but I will say that she’s a blessing. Even jobs that in theory should totally work but turn out sucky (like re-hanking heavy, tangled, dirty cotton) actually don’t suck when they’re done safely anchored in reality and choice.


In theory, this totally works.

On Saturday night, Ale and I went to a fish fry, and I was immediately pulled aside by Beverly, my dear friend, parishioner, Ale’s beloved test knitter, staff member for the TNNA booth, and my general co-conspirator in all things yarn-related. “What are you doing right after this?” she asked sweetly, and then followed more seriously with, “I need you to come to my house. The sock… the sock.” Last Sunday, I’d left at Beverly’s Sunday School class seat two horrificly difficult sock patterns and 2 balls of sport weight merino. She knitted on one of those socks all week, and then run headfirst into an oddly turned heel. We went to Beverly and Charlie’s house following the fab fish fry, I glanced at the pattern, picked up the needles, and started working that odd heel.

“Oh, so you’ve done this before,” she said.

“No,” I answered, “but I’ve read the theory of this heel turn.” She watched me do one knit pass and one purl pass, and she had it.

“I’ve read the theory,” she mumbled.

Monday morning found me on the phone with my parents, arguing with Dad about whether a $9.99 scale from Ebay could really measure hundredths of a gram, and talking salt with my mom as I worked up dye recipes for an upcoming vacation. Ale and I are going to my parents’ home to use (GASP) chemical dyes (GASP) on undyed cotton. For this little “vacation,” we’ve had to obtain 5 pounds of Procion dyes, 15 pounds of washing soda, and a whopping 131 pounds of salt. All of this will dye 56 pounds of cotton yarn. 56 pounds.

Mom has been dyeing her yarn 100g or 200g at a time using homemade extracts from native Missouri plants. The colors are exquisite. Each hank takes hours. We are sitting on 10 kilos (22 lbs) of one kind of chunky weight undyed cotton and 45 kilos (99 lbs) of worsted weight undyed cotton. Cotton season is at its high point. We want to play with color on a quicker timeline. We’re going to dye until we feel like we’re going to die.

Two dream vacations in one year… the first to Italy to pick the yarns and the second to handdye a line of hand-painted cotton. I don’t know if I can take it. “Vacation” may actually be an idealization of this upcoming time at the Lake. 56 lbs of yarn = 250 hanks (137 of which still have to be made into hanks). Wind hank. Tie. Soak. Wash. Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. Mix dye bath. Dye yarn (or hand paint yarn). Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. Rinse. Final rinse with softener. Rinse again. 250 times. In theory, though, it’s still a vacation because I will be working at my hobby instead of in my vocation.

So I’m talking to Mom while I’m figuring out these recipes for colors, and my mother made the mistake of asking me where I got the recipes. “I’m making them.”


“I found the Pantone colors I love, and then I took the Pantone color concentration for CMYK for each color, considered them as percentage concentrations for each basic dye color (also CMYK) instead of ink color, and then multiplied that percentage times the grams needed to produce a solid color dye for that individual color, and… voila! Recipe for the dye for one pound of yarn in that shade.”

(long silence)

“Kim, does that actually work?”

“In theory, this totally works.”

“In theory,” she mumbled.

I love theory. Favorite class in undergraduate work? Political theory. Favorite class in seminary? Apocalyptic literature (theoretical feast on the eschatological feast).

There is room for theory in knitting and crochet (it’s just math worked in softness), in Biblical interpretation, in Political Science, and, I hope, in dyeing. But there are lots of places where theory just doesn’t work. Faith? Lose the theory. Marriage counseling? That couple will quickly tell you where you can stick your theory. In so much of my work, theory just doesn’t fly. I have this theory that in times of crisis, theories don’t help. Crises are usually when the pastor gets the first call, and crises need to be met with love rather than theory. When someone is dying, theory doesn’t help. When someone is dyeing, well… I’ll save my faith for Jesus and hope for the best with the yarn.

The Much Discussed (Or Much Disgust) Sermon

Here it is. Why in the name of all that’s moral and good would I preach about Genesis 38 this Sunday? Well… because God’s message of love is actually much greater than morality and “goodness” AND I’m writing a book on fiber in the Bible. Each week, I’m researching a story that involves fiber, writing a draft chapter for the book and a separate sermon on the same fiber story. Writing to preach and writing to be read in silence are two very different types of writing. The sermon is a bit more euphemistic than the chapter, believe me. Here’s the semi-scrubbed version of the very gritty Bible story found in Genesis 38.

Moral Fiber

This is not a popular Bible story. If you’ve heard it before outside of a Bible study I led, it was probably just part of the story. It’s not something most pastors would want to preach from the pulpit. There’s not much spiritual edification in its words. It interrupts another story that’s more “decent.”

So the story goes that Judah’s sons were married to a woman named Tamar under the guidelines of Levirite marriage. If the first son died (and he did because he was wicked), then the next son had to marry his wife, but any children born of their union would be credited to the original husband, the older son. This helped with issues of inheritance and birthrights. The issue with Levirite marriage (beyond the possible yuckiness of marrying your brother-in-law or sister-in-law) was that these folks were tribal, and it was hard to justify raising a kid that wouldn’t be your own.

Judah’s son Onan is married to Tamar, and because he doesn’t want to give his brother a son, he onanized. Let’s just leave it at that. God didn’t like Onan’s onanism, so God smited Onan, and Tamar was now a black widow in Judah’s sight. He had lost two sons while they were married to her. He was not going to put his third son, Shelah, in her clutches.

Tamar gets sent home to “wait” for her next husband which Judah actually has no intention of providing. She’s a woman without status in her world. She’s a young widow (twice) with no children. She has no one who is required to provide for her, and she will have no one in the future if she remains childless. She could even have been considered somewhat dangerous because no man had overt responsibility for her behavior, although we later learn that Judah has authority over her life and death if she is caught behaving in ways he didn’t like.

The third son (Shelah) grows up to become a man, and Tamar is not invited back into Judah’s household to marry him. Then Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, passes away, and Judah grieves.

And here’s where the tale gets really weird and even less familiar. Judah gets over his mourning in time to head out to a massive sheep-shearing in Timnah, a ways away from his home. He takes his buddy Hirah with him. This was probably a time of feasting and revelry with the shepherds and others who cared for the sheep. They were heading out on a road trip to celebrate.

Tamar hears it through the grapevine that her father-in-law is on his way to Timnah, and she puts into motion a simple plan that will possibly provide her with a change in status. Tamar takes off her widow’s garments and puts on some color and a veil. She goes to sit by the road in a place Judah is sure to pass, and when he sees her, he stops. He’s a widow; she’s dressed like a prostitute. They strike a deal.

Although he leaves her with his staff and signet, those symbols of his identify are given to this (in many ways) identity-less woman as a substitute for the real cost of the tryst: a goat. The goat could provide potential income and/or security for this woman by the road, but it is actually what the Hebrew law considered incestuous relations between Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar that will provide her with a future.

When Judah’s servant tries later to find the Judah’s “prostitute,” he finds that the place Judah named is not a red light district, so to speak. They hardly want to make a huge deal out of finding her. Judah then discovers through the grapevine (maybe even the same one that provided news of his imminent arrival near her home) that Tamar is pregnant with some man’s baby. Judah is ready to have her burned, but she is able to produce his seal and staff and the festive activities of his road trip with Hirah are brought to light.

This is an important, though often delicately overlooked story of the Hebrew Scriptures. It comes up again in the New Testament. Tamar is one of the four women named in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ. Women were seldom named in Jewish genealogies contained in the Bible, so these names in Matthew stick out, especially considering that Matthew’s gospel was most likely written by a Jewish author for a Jewish audience. There, almost at the beginning of the tale, is Tamar’s name because one of the twins born to her and Judah’s interaction on the side of the road would become the line through which Judah’s heirs were traced. After all, his first two sons had died while married to Tamar.

This means that both the morally-questionable, promise-breaking, prostitute-buying Judah and the rule-breaking, incest-making, risk-taking Tamar are ancestors of King David and of Jesus.

In attempts to squeeze spiritual guidance out of this story, the content and depth of the story are overlooked for matters of moral fiber. The first part of this story has been used as a moral warning against birth control or… other things. Or it was used as an explanation of Levirite marriage, even though original hearers/readers of the tale would have understood the concept.

When we call the Bible a guide for morality, we are surely revealing that we have never really read it. I remember my Old Testament professor telling us that she drove past a church one day who had on their sign that the “Bible times are not the way things were. They are the way things should be.” She had to pull over and let her nausea pass. I’m not knocking or disrespecting the Bible in any way. It is God’s holy word. But it may not reveal what we think it reveals. It’s deeper than simple morality tales. It simply is not a book full of tales of the way things should be.

There’s a lot of bad stuff going down when considered from the moral perspective of today, but also from the laws that defined morality in the time of its writing and/or telling.

People were murdered, hospitality was withheld, genocide happened, rapes were committed, and many, many laws were broken by people we consider heroes of the Bible. The stories don’t always read like “bad people did this and they were punished.”

We may hear that the Bible champions morality, but the people in its pages were real people like us, with moral fiber that sometimes unraveled, with problems that we couldn’t surmount alone, with more issues than National Geographic. The Bible is not really a book with saints marching across its pages. It’s about real people and their real relationship with God as they understood it. To consider it as a collection of morality tales is to diminish its worth.

The story of Judah and Tamar can hardly be labeled as a morality tale (because no one was behaving themselves), but that does not mean that it lacks spiritual truth. What comes to my mind again and again in contemplation of this story is sacrifice. Tamar sacrificed her time, possibly her dignity, and any pride in keeping the law by choosing to share herself with her father-in-law. She may have only come out of the encounter with a goat. Instead, God’s will was worked through this audacious, law-breaking woman and she became a named part of the line of David and Jesus. Because of her boldness, we have her story in scripture. She wasn’t one of the thousands of women who stood unnamed next to their named husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. I mean look at Judah’s wife, daughter of Shua. What was her name? Who knows? But we know Tamar’s name.We know her name because she was bold enough to take action. She trusted in God and God’s promises to her. She trusted enough to act. She trusted enough to sacrifice parts of herself she held most dear to get the promise God had given her through the rite of Levirite marriage.

We all make little sacrifices all the time. We sacrifice our wants for our needs. We sacrifice our needs for others’ needs. We sacrifice for our children, for our spouses or partners, for our family, for our friends.

But what about the really big sacrifices, the life-changing ones? The bold, get your name out there kinds of sacrifices? The “I love you God, and I’m gonna put myself out there for you” sacrifices? I am not challenging anyone to knock over a convenience store, stroll the streets as a prostitute to see if someone will trade them a goat and a future for his satisfied need, or sleep with their father-in-law. Most of us aren’t called to sacrifice our good names or clean records for God’s will to be done, but Tamar was. We are often called to sacrifice what we consider our personal dignity. And maybe we have been, are being asked, or will be asked to do something in love for God  or for the good of the world that is a bigger sacrifice than we’ve considered making.

When we’re prompted to go bold, when we’re asked to do something BIG, we can remember Tamar, who, when she had nothing less to lose, gave up her pride for an encounter that almost cost her her own life by a morally-lapsed father-in-law. Her boldness, her sacrifice, mattered. It continued God’s plan for her and for generations after her. It made her scripture-worthy, genealogy-worthy, worthy of being named.

Trust in what God has promised you. Trust that God is behind you, in front of you, beside you, and around you. Trust that evil and immorality do not, ultimately, win… in the Bible or in real life. Trust that God’s truth is deeper than morality. Trust enough to do. Trust enough to sacrifice even what you hold dearest in yourself to see God’s will done for this world. Amen.

Little Niece’s Favorite Dress

Little niece has refused to wear anything but pyjamas (must be washed EVERY night), a swimsuit, or dresses since she showed up at my parents house for the girls’ yearly summer stay at Nana & Papa’s house. Big Niece and I, standing around in tshirts and shorts, just rolled our eyes, but Little Niece does have some seriously cute little summer dresses.

When we sat in front of my MacBook and looked at together, Little Niece found a rainbow dress on the first page of kids patterns. I didn’t like the silhouette and I realized quickly that all Little Niece cares about is color scheme and object (DRESS), so Mom (a.k.a. Nana) and I took out a measuring tape and the dress we think is most adorable on Little Niece and started making notes. Ale has the perfect cotton for this (Rubino) in loads of colors that I could combine for a rainbow, but it’s a little light for me to use for my first design for kids. Off to the yarn store!

We went to the Yarn Basket in Osage Beach, MO (my favorite shop away from my favorite shop). I kept thinking: lightweight, cool, drape, hard-wearing, thicker than Rubino. And there she was: my go-to yarn. For a yarn snob like me, it’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that when I need to knit something quick, light, soft, and washable, I turn to a yarn with 75% acrylic content, but my LYS owner turned me onto Berroco Weekend. I still grab it early and often. Sure, it splits because of its construction, but splits are easily repaired in this yarn and tiny snags in inconsistencies disappear. I grabbed 5 100g skeins just to be sure I’d have enough for some colorwork.


On Sunday evening, after the hustle bustle stress joy of Sunday worship and Sunday school had faded, I picked up hooks, needles, and the yarn wound into center-pull balls. I used Tunisian Simple Stitch to make the top piece of the sleeveless little sundress for which we had drawn a schematic, and then kicked myself over and over again as I tried to cast on the body of the dress around the Tunisian edge. Ale said, “What are you doing? You’re in your own world over there.” When I replied, “I’m trying to create a way to combine Tunisian crochet and knitting,” he told me that perhaps there is a reason you don’t see a lot of patterns with that combo. Body cast on. Top frogged, but cast-on edge saved.

Monday. The day I insist is my “day off” even though there is always something work-related to accomplish on Mondays. I knitted ferociously, and managed to complete 3.25 of the 4 body stripe repetitions between phone calls and emails. Went to the hospital for a visit; took my knitting. Picked up the top stitches again and started knitting up (good thing this is just a test piece). I became wound up in the conversation, and now that piece is too long and looks like a bib. Crap. Prepare to be frogged, top piece. Again.

Little niece’s test dress looks a little weird so far, but so did the dress we used as a template. Hope skinny Little Niece doesn’t look like Piglet when it’s done.

Peace, Niece, Fleece

We just got back from the second trip to The Lake with Emily and Fu. There were a few issues in the car, and all of them revolved around Fu. He wigs out when we get in the car, he wigs out if anyone opens a window, he wigs out if we stop, and he wigs out every time Emily moves away from him. Pleasant. I vote that we leave him at his house, but Ale insists that we bring all animals along each time we go to see my parents.

Here’s some pics of Em and Fu figuring out how to hang out in the backseat. It seems like it works if Emily lays on the Fu, but as soon as the cat snuggles up to the dog, we have to spend a couple of moments figuring out if this situation is acceptable. The dog is giving peace a chance.

I was able to spend some time with Big Niece and Little Niece. Little Niece picked out the dress she’d like me to knit her for Christmas. I’m going to design the dress, but the color scheme has been decided: RAINBOW. Big Niece always takes a little more time to decide what she wants, so after several Ravelry searches, I showed her designer Emma Fassio’s patterns, and she picked her fave kid sweater and asked for it in Navy. I was impressed at her decisiveness. Since it was designed in Gaia, one of Ale’s yarns, the yarn choice is simple.

Now I have to start designing and knitting something other than the Colourmart cashmere that just arrived from the UK. It drives Ale nuts, but I have to buy yarn. It’s what I do. I decided to check out all the Colourmart hype and just buy some yarn, so it was acid green cashmere for me. I took it to Mom’s so she could wind it on her new Niddy Noddy, and we had oily, cashmere string. Then we washed it with some samples of Unicorn Fiber Wash and Rinse that I picked up at the TNNA show, and… holy crap. We have cashmere. Acid. Green. Cashmere.

So, yeah, it’s not as nice (the twist is a little off and there are some broken strands) as the cashmere Ale sells, but it is Incredible Hulk green and >150g for $24 including postage. AND it arrived via Royal Mail, so even though it sat in my mailbox for approximately 3 minutes, I felt snazzy all day long. I’m knitting up a sample, so I can show before, after, and knitted photos.