The Yarn Troll

A year or so ago I went through a yarn-acquisition phase during which I seemed to fall over great deals every time a breeze blew somewhere in the world. Among those acquisitions were a big bag of flax yarn that when knitted will become something of linen; another was a big box of olive-green hemp yarn, which I decided a few weeks ago would become a top for me—a novel thought all by itself, knitting something for moi‘s ownself.

I’ve enjoyed fondling hemp fabrics and often wished I had something of hemp, since I can’t wear synthetics, but it’s pretty expensive. With such a good deal on this yarn I was looking forward to this project. The only drawback is that it’s fingering weight, which is very light—suitable for knitting lace, but at probably 7-8 stitches per inch on little needles, not too attractive time-wise, given the expanse of corpus that needs to be covered. Combining two strands of yarn to make a larger yarn, about DK weight, appeared to be a good alternative.

I combined two strands and wound up knitting, I think, four swatches before I got everything right. This by itself surprised me; I’ve not had so much trouble getting gauge before. And I discovered the yarn, while naturally stiff and not at all stretchy, also has a light starchy coating on it that makes it slick and uncomfortable to handle. So I wound one ball into a hank (like winding a rope around your elbow and wrist), washed it, and dried it. This helped a little, but not much, and I won’t even talk about the frustrations of just trying to wind this stuff around my arm to make a hank except to say that I had to cut it a couple of times and tie it back together. I was beginning to think it was inhabited by a Yarn Troll.

After learning that it’s a good idea to make a double strand of small-gauge yarn by using both ends of the same ball rather than two separate balls, I decided to take the hank I wound from this unruly stuff and make it a center-pull ball. That would allow me to pull the two strands and build in a little twist, which in this case is a good thing. Didn’t have anything majorly handy around to do this with, so I picked up a wooden fan and started winding the yarn around that.

Despite great care and caution, this yarn, which by now I was quite sure was inhabited by a Yarn Troll, snarled and growled and tangled until I had to cut it a couple more times. Yeah, yeah, I’m not the most patient person on earth, but I really tried hard to untangle it before I gave up and severed it. It took a very long time (about 180 yards per ball) and was not particularly good for the shoulder that’s in physical therapy, but I got it done, and had the inside and outside ends poking out on the same side. That took probably an hour—a ridiculous amount of time—and I was absurdly pleased with myself for completing this obviously complicated (!) task.

Last night, I sat down to take the center-pull ball off the fan and place it gently over something on which it could rotate freely so I wouldn’t have to fight tension enough to support a suspension bridge. Boring, I thought, but still better than watching the State of the Union Address, and much less likely to make me angry…

Clever readers have already realized the problem that I, normally a woman of reasonable intelligence, had yet to recognize: A fan has a trapezoidal shape. It is larger at one end than the other. At the small end, a metal pin goes through it to hold the individual blades together and leaves sticky-outie bits on which yarn will hang up if one tries to push it off over that end. Therefore, the yarn could only be removed by pushing it off the larger end. . .

I began, optimistically thinking I could compress the fan blades sufficiently to remove the ball, to work the yarn down the length of the fan toward the large end. It got tighter… and tighter… and… sigh.

I’d wound it so it was impossible to get the yarn off without tearing up the fan or making great wodges of the yarn useful only as pillow stuffing. About half the ball was off the fan, the other stuck tighter than a tick to a dog in June. I could hear the Yarn Troll guffawing.

“OK,” I said to myself through mentally gritted teeth, “I’ll unwind it off the dang fan and onto a toilet-paper tube. That’ll show it who’s boss.” The roll, I reasoned, would squish easily, dishearten the Yarn Troll, and thus allow me to get the center-pull ball off and onto said minimal-tension item, which turned out to be a wooden size 19 knitting needle.

Picked the cardboard roll out of the trash, pulled off a few tendrils of tissue still clinging to it, and commenced. Shortly realized that this process, which is beyond my skill to describe, was going to delight said Troll, because the part of the “ball” that was hanging off the end of the fan was flopping in and out and twisting around the bits I was trying to wind onto the cardboard roll.

I poked the floppy bits into the hole in the end. No good. I held the whole assembly upside down. I discovered that with only two hands, it wasn’t physically possible to unwind with one hand, wind with the other, and keep the floppy bits from twisting into the equivalent of anchor line on a three-masted schooner.

I glanced around the house, but didn’t see any spare hands. I, too, snarled. The Yarn Troll was slapping its knees and howling.

Once again, I had to cut the yarn. Twice. Eventually, I ended up with about 50 yards of hemp piled in my lap. Ever observant, I noted to myself: “Self, if you try to turn this pile over and wind it onto the ball from the underside, it’s going to tangle again. Better to wind the pile from this end into a little ball, then wind that onto the cardboard tube.” With a smug smile at my cleverness, I began to wind the loose yarn into its own little sphere. Er, ovoid. Once that was done, I picked up the cardboard roll with the little (and ever-more-little, what with all the knots) ball on it and began to wind the teeny little ovoid onto it. I even had the courage to watch a little TV in the background… and the Troll pounced: THIS stuff got all tangled up, too!

I won’t repeat what I said or how long it will take until the air cools down enough that my furnace will come back on. Suffice it to say that the Yarn Troll has been subdued, albeit temporarily, and the center-pull ball, placed carefully over said size 19 needle, rests delicately on a cushion soft enough and isolated enough to prevent the untimely explosion of nitroglycerin.
And I have ordered a swift and a ball-winder.

Posted by wordsmith

Leave a Reply