Thrifted yarn: (in which I contemplate unraveling, knitting, and redemption)

It’s been a long winter. A desperately long winter. A maddeningly long winter. A (re)learn-how-to-knit winter, because when it’s dark and dreary and snowy for days and weeks on end, there are only so many ways to keep from tumbling over the edge of rational existence.

Knitting helps.

Socks from thrifted sweater yarn (Photo: CKirgiss)
Socks from thrifted sweater yarn (Photo: CKirgiss)

But knitting – unlike me – is not cheap. So I am forced to thrift my yarn, which is to say that I rescue knitted things from the thrift store and then dismantle them into reknittable balls of lovely yarn.

Thrifted yarn (Photo: CKirgiss)
Thrifted yarn (Photo: CKirgiss)

The dismantling is neither fast nor easy.

These are the rules:

1. The knitted things must be worthy of dismantling. That is, they must be so out of style that they have no chance of being bought and worn. Or they must have a noticeable flaw – a big hole, a tragic snag, an irreparable run. Or they must be obviously unusable – a sweater shrunk to smithereens, a pair of socks stretched too large for Bigfoot, a winter scarf worn down to the weight of dragonfly wings – in other words broken, damaged, discarded. Knitted things in perfect condition are best left alone. They don’t want rescuing.

2. The knitted things must be the best of knitted things – “best” referring to how they are formed and made, not to their perceived social value – because only the best of knitted things can be dismantled, unravelled, and unmade with any success, for only the best of knitted things are formed with carefully shaped individual pieces held together with elegantly envisioned and precisely placed sinews.  Knitted things made from violently serged pieces that were cut from larger shapeless swaths are best left alone. They don’t want dismantling.

3. The knitted things must have redeeming qualities (in addition to redeemable faults: see #1). A beautiful color. A pleasing texture. A warm weight. A light caress. A workable thickness. Look beyond the ugly sweater, beyond the misshaped scarf, beyond the worn cap, beyond the tired skirt to see the underlying grace and inherent value. But beware: the most exclusive and haute couture knitted things, if made from stiff, stubborn, and abrasive threads, are best left alone. They don’t want disrupting.

Thrifted yarn (Photo: CKirgiss)
Thrifted yarn (Photo: CKirgiss)

I’ve become an expert unraveller of sorts, which is to say I’ve done a fair bit of unravelling this winter. All of that unravelling has set me to thinking.

These are the thoughts:

1. Unravelling hurts. If my rescued knits had feelings, there’d likely be a whole lot of crying, complaining, weeping, and whining going on. A whole lot. Because being unmade is neither easy nor natural nor fun. Being unmade is neither glamorous nor enchanting nor sexy. Being unmade is not something after which the masses clamor. Rather, being unmade is uncomfortable. Bothersome. Tedious. Humbling. Emptying. This being entirely unmade, piece by piece, row by row, stitch by stitch, thread by thread – entirely, thoroughly, completely unmade – is not the stuff of fairy tales.

2. Some things cannot be salvaged. The process of unmaking reveals things beyond repair. Things that must be cast aside. Things that must be left behind. Things that must be discarded.  Every now and then, the process of unmaking does more than simply reveal things beyond repair. Sometimes the process of unmaking leads to new unsalvageables. Sometimes a thread must be cut – completely severed – in order to unravel and salvage many other threads. Sometimes a whole section must be sacrificed – completely given up – in order for another section to be saved. If the standard unravelling causes discomfort, I suspect the necessary severing and the intentional sacrificing causes pain – deep, biting, shattering pain – that seems beyond surviving.

3. Glory! The uncomfortable, bothersome, tedious unravelling and the deep, biting, shattering pain are not lasting things. Rather, they are the early stages of transformation. The beginning of the new. The start of the grace. Going from broken, damaged, and discarded to beautifully remade requires more than simple rearranging and resorting. It requires restoration. Going from unmade to made new requires more than simple patching and repairing. It requires transformation, re-creation. From the bottom up. From the inside out.

And that is my life. My wholly broken life. My totally unravelled and thoroughly tangled life. My undeservedly, gently, lovingly recreated life.

I am broken, then rescued. Discarded, then chosen. Dismantled, then transformed. Unmade, then remade. Pruned, then sanctified. Dead, then alive.

I am created anew.

(Knitting is indeed a finely spun truth.)


One thought on “Thrifted yarn: (in which I contemplate unraveling, knitting, and redemption)

  1. Melissa Breyette April 14, 2014 / 8:52 pm

    Beautifully written! Thank you.

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