Every knitter has experienced it. The beginner swears that every yarn is possessed by its evil. Lace knitters consider it to be a state of being. Spinners come across its hateful spite when trying out new yarns or fibers. It is resistentialism, a word that has sadly fallen from our lexicon.

Fiber has a mind of its own. It can't be blamed of course. After months of living outdoors on the back of a dirty sheep, being scoured with harsh chemicals, put through medieval torture devices designed to beat out any vegetable matter, pick it apart, lay it in neat little rows and twist it into tight strands any creature would have a bitter heart.

Of course, the knitter tries to remedy this troubled upbringing through proper stashing but even the best efforts sometimes fail. A yarn may simply be resistential.

The symptoms are obvious. It starts when the ball is first wound. The yarn may refuse to even start winding, slipping repeatedly from the notch supposedly designed to hold the yarn in place. Once it finally does start to wind, it might come from the skein onto the ball winder in fits and starts. This troubled yarn has done it's utmost to tangle itself in the skein despite being carefully tied during dying. Particularly resistential yarns won't even ball properly, making ugly and twisted balls that are guaranteed to be filled with tangles.

Finally being tamed into an organized cake, the yarns next expression of anger is to swallow up the center strand. This crucial bit of yarn then becomes all but impossible to find. The knitter is then forced to grab a great fistful of yarn from the middle, hoping against hope that the center strand might be contained somewhere in the tangled mess.

The yarn continues to express its troubles as it is worked. The outsides of the once pretty yarn cake start to collapse, making it look like a disheveled child who hasn't combed their hair in weeks. Occasionally, a great pile of yarn vomit will emerge, forcing the knitter to spend precious time untangling the mass.

Once on the needles, the yarn finds even more ways to get back at the world that has treated it so poorly. It splits across needles, doing its best to look like two stitches instead of one. It tries to crawl its way off the needle tips, usually when the knitter is not looking. Angry yarn is a master of dropped stitches.

If the knitter is an expert, they may finally be able to coerce the troubled fiber into something resembling a finished object. Feeling quite please with themselves, the "master" then sets out to block the final project. Herein lies the yarn's next diabolical plot.

A silk shawl might stretch to only two thirds of the expected diameter. A super wash sweater might grow to three times its original size. Socks that seemed to fit perfectly during knitting are suddenly two sizes too small.

Finally, if the yarn ever makes it through blocking, it begins its final protest. Ends that were woven in with the greatest care will start to work themselves to the finished surface. Seams will loosen and begin to look as if they are held together with more air than yarn. Colors that were once bright and cheerful will become sullen and dull.

Then there's the pilling. If it can find no other way to fight back, the yarn will simply begin to self destruct, doing everything it can to work its way back into original fiber form. Try as one might, the yarn will continue to degrade into ugly little balls of fluff.

Beware resistential yarn. If it is angry, give it lots of love and patience. Stash it with care. Let it know it is loved and with some luck, it may turn into a finished object without damaging the sanity of those who made it.


hamimono's picture

Sage words! I have encountered this entity. Also called "The Yarn that is Not" ("Knot"?!!). Like the common tale of the parents who wrongheadedly try to force free-spirited Farley to become a company hack, or male-loving Malcolm to marry the girl next door, it all ends in heartache and misery.

But, perhaps, this fiber has another identity? Maybe this isn't Yarn at all. Maybe it is Twine, destined to encircle gifts with hugs and shine against lovely backdrops of wrapping paper before slingshotting into the wide wide world. Sad but true: if you really, deeply love someone, set them free!

(This is what I do with splitty, lumpy, resistent yarn . . . )

chicquette's picture

Resistentialism----always looking for new vocabulary, and you made my day. Perfect. Such a great post!

Kerry's picture

Witty, erudite and thoroughly enjoyable.

daveballarat's picture

Thanks Jonathan,
A lovely distraction, now i must get back to work and of course, i look forward to your next distraction.