In theory, this totally works.

by therevknits

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.