Lessons from a hopeless tangle of yarn

The Olympics are over… but the knitting remains. First the good news. For the record, E completed her project with lots of time to spare. I give you… E’s neck thing:

Yeah, it’s a cowl and she loves it. She snuggles down into it and sighs happily every time she puts it on. It is, however, far more than just a neck thing. She’s been wearing it like a headband all over the house.

It cracks me up to see her like this, but whatever floats her boat. The girl has her own style, I’ll say that.

And my gloves, you ask? Whatever happened to those brilliant iPhone gloves?

Mid-way through the Olympics, I finished one (save dealing with the ends), but I decided to duplicate-stitch the conductive thread right where I needed it on the forefinger and thumb of my glove. I wanted to make sure I really hit those areas well with the magic thread, so that I wouldn’t be standing in the snow, swiping at my phone over and over to make it work. The conductive thread does work — it is a very nifty little trick — and all the genius of it belongs to the clever Laura Nelkin and her Teknika pattern.

I was on track to get the second one done. I was busting a knitting move like no other. And then I left my half-finished glove on an end table where I NEVER put my knitting. Ever. What happened next may be distressing to the knitters/crocheters out there, so avert your eyes if you must. I’ll understand. Here is my second glove in progress:

Apparently, according to all at the scene, the dog somehow managed to snatch down my skein from the table, while avoiding the sharp double-pointed needles sticking out in all directions, and then proceeded to chew it apart — pulling and chewing, chewing and pulling — until the wild tumble of wet, splitty yarn clumped together and cried, “Uncle!”

Since I was out at the grocery store, the kids did what any kids in their right minds would do. They avoided telling their dad, lured the dog away with a treat, discreetly bunched up the yarn, set the untouched glove-in-progress on top, and walked away. I found it the next day when I set about to knit on it, interrogated the witnesses to figure out what happened, and started to work the problem, fortified by coffee and good music.

As I sat in my chair, occasionally getting up to attend to other tasks, I realized that untangling a hopeless mess of yarn was teaching me a lot about who I am as a person.

Lesson 1: I am not the kind of person who cuts and runs when I think the outcome will be worth it. Even finding an end to start unraveling the mess took time. It would have been faster to cut the glove off from the rat’s nest and work the knots free from both ends. Heck, it would have been quicker still to chuck the whole thing altogether, which I have done before on projects I wasn’t wild about. Believe me, I contemplated it, but I just didn’t want to resort to the scissors. I thought it would be more rewarding to stick with it and undo the damage that had been done so that when I eventually untangled it, it would be as though the incident had never occurred.

Miles to go….

Lesson 2: I can find patience by letting go of the question of “why did this happen?” and focusing on the process to fix it. Normally, I am not a patient gal. Messes irritate me — especially messes spontaneously created in a place that I just cleaned up. As the ball of reclaimed yarn grew bigger and the knots clung together more insistently, I stopped worrying about how this tangle could have been avoided. I simply gave over to the zen of following the end of the yarn through each circle, around each twist, loosening the knots as I happened on them.

Almost there…

Lesson 3: I can appreciate the gifts a problem brings if I look at the larger picture. Sure, untangling that mess was not on my to-do list. It took forever. But realistically, it was a blip in the process of making the gloves I want. As I sat there, winding up the yarn I had painstakingly freed, I realized how fortunate I was to even be noodling around with this fiber-glob. It was raining outside, the kids were busy playing some game they had created, and I allowed myself the luxury of sitting down and working out the puzzle of the tangle. After all, a mangled skein of yarn is truly a first-world problem in the grand scheme of things.


Lesson 4: Surprisingly, I find that I revel in small successes the same way I do large ones. And at the end, when I finally stretched out the final length of unbound yarn, a delicious sense of triumph overcame me. Yeah, it’s just unraveling a yarn snarl — but oh, what a feeling! It doesn’t matter that it was an insignificant problem to everyone else but me. I’ve righted a wrong. I’ve put back together that which was hopeless. Untangling that blob made me unreasonably giddy, and if I can take away the same joy from working through other problems — both large and small — I think I may have found the prescription for overall happiness in life.

Now I just need to finish up this glove….

May all your snarls be easy to untangle, may all your dye-lot numbers match, your yardage exceed the requirements, and until we meet again, may your dogs all be allergic to wool.

About thethingaboutjoan

Mom of three who knits a little, bakes a lot, crafts a bit and blogs about it all.
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11 Responses to Lessons from a hopeless tangle of yarn

  1. Epic. It wasn’t all gross with doggie drool? Or did you give it a wash? Good to know the conductive thread works, these might be in my future – but with the duplicate stitch, you can add the thread to any glove pattern, which is a good idea.

    • I found the doggie yarn bomb the next day, so it was mostly dry. A little worn in some spots but at least not wet (ick!).

      I need to find a cheap supplier for conductive thread. I see lots of these gloves in my future.

  2. I find untangling yarn very therapeutic. If there is a tangle and someone else decides to sort it out, I am amazed and almost disappointed.

    • I’m not usually so patient with tangled-up yarn; more often than not, I’ll give up and toss the whole thing back into a dark recess of my closet. But this time, I can understand how untangling the mess could be therapeutic. It’s got to be the mindset of the untangler– don’t you think? Someone who doesn’t think, “Great, here’s ANOTHER mess for me to deal with,” but who rather thinks, “Great! I can unwind and fix this.”

  3. Lynne says:

    Lesson 5: No one was harmed – even the dog! I do like how you knit this yarn tale…. there is a lot of value in knitting, beside the project we are working on 🙂

    • I think I was more shocked that the dog actually got the yarn down and was able to do so much tangling in such a short amount of time. But if it had been a cashmere sweater in progress…. well, I hope we never find that out!

      I think I’d be lost without knitting — what about you? Reading can sometimes soothe my nerves, but if I’m working through a really big problem or I’m upset or worried, I turn to knitting to work it out. Now I just need to figure out how to knit sweaters that actually fit me when I’m finished!

  4. You and my mom have that don’t run, just fix it, thing in common. She wouldn’t run away from that either and I admire that quality. Me, I would look at that and freak out. I tend to run to her to try to get help finding a starting point for the untangle because for some reason I always end up making it more tangled while I’m trying to untangle it ;). She doesn’t even knit and she’s better at untangling than I am.

    • For me, sticking to the untangling process depends on: 1) my patience (some days I just don’t have any); 2) my time (again, sometimes I don’t have any); and 3) my desire to finish it (LOTS of times, I’ll throw the whole thing in a bag and stuff it in my closet). Eventually, I get around to untangling most things — because I can’t bear to see the yarn wasted!

      Oh.. but there’s freaking out on my end when I first see a ginormous tangle. LOTS of freaking… 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and for the follow too! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend.

  5. summerlarson says:

    GREAT blog post! I laughed out loud (or is howled?) in sympathy and delight. I just detangled four skeins for a friend and can totally relate to the lessons learned. I feel so blessed to have two dogs and a young kitty who have very little interest in the yarn strewn all over my house. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Two dogs AND a kitty and none of them want to mess with your yarn? That is a gift, I tell you. It was hard enough to impress upon my kids when they were little that ripping the teeny needles out of Mama’s sock-in-progress was not funny. I didn’t realize I was going to have to worry so much about the dog!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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