Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Knitting by the Numbers"

This poem came out of the June 1, 2021 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] fuzzyred, [personal profile] erulisse, and Anonymous. It also fills the "Knitting / Sewing / Crochet / etc." square in my 6-1-21 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Knitting by the Numbers"

[Tuesday, April 26, 2016]

Shiv caught a bus to the Arts Room
over at the Papillion Community Center,
where the Silver Knitters gathered.

What had started out as a knitting club
for old people had branched out into
other fibercrafts and slightly wider ages.

Edie Deering had invited him, and
Shiv dropped by when he had time.

It was relaxing, especially after
all the crap that happened this year.

Today, Shiv had stuffed a bunch
of his craft supplies in a backpack --
a dozen colors of yarn, knitting needles
and crochet hooks, stitch markers, and
projects in varying stages of completion.

He had several hyperbolic planes going,
including a jumbo pseudosphere in neons,
and a set of corals he was making with Aida.

He also had a pair of socks started for Mrs. Wu,
all in unbleached yarn, but the pattern was
usually done in different colors as well as
different stitches. It had ten different parts
per sock that had to be joined together,
but Shiv loved all the interesting textures.

When he reached the meeting, people
were scattered around the Arts Room
chatting about each other's projects.

There were a bunch of blankets,
a couple of booties, and one person
knitting what looked like throw pillows.

Most of the members were old women,
a few younger, and only one other guy.

Shiv plopped down next to Edie
and showed her his projects.

As usual, everyone was
fascinated by the math knits.
They'd seen the hyperbolic planes
before -- he recommended that folks
start with a pseudosphere because
it was easy -- but the socks were new.

"That looks like an interesting pattern,"
Edie said. "I haven't seen anything like it."

"Yeah, I got these off a website that
has math knitting," Shiv said, showing
them the patterns he'd printed off.

The one for the socks was actually
a whole booklet because there were
so many variations to choose from.

"My word, that looks complicated,"
Edie said, shaking her head.

"Nah, it's easy if you use
stitch markers to keep track
of the numbers," Shiv said.
"Huh, never thought I'd say that.
Look at what I'm doing, though."

He pointed out the numbers
in the booklet, then the markers
that identified each section of sock.

"Then when I get them all done,
I just put them in order like it says
and knit them together," Shiv said.
"The modular pattern means you
can mix and match the stitches,
like if you want a family set that
go together but aren't identical."

Several people promptly grabbed
their phones to look up the website.

The clink of a knitting needle hitting
the table snagged Shiv's attention.

Looking up, he saw a middle-aged woman
wrestling with her knitting needles and
yarn, her red hair hiding her face.

She had probably come with
her mother and might be a novice.

Then she shifted, and Shiv noticed
that she had a pig snout and ears.
Her hands were warped too, fingers
stuck together so that she only had
two and a thumb on each hand.

No wonder she dropped stuff.

The erratic pattern of her work
was distracting, and the next time
she dropped a knitting needle, Shiv
leaned over and said, "Problem?"

"Oh well, it's a little tricky having
to relearn this," she said. "I used
to be a lot better at it, before --"
She waved a hand at her face,
then smiled. "But I'm alive and
my baby is alive, so I can't complain."

That wasn't completely sincere,
but it wasn't faked either. She
had the slightly desperate air
of someone clutching at
the familiar to cope with
the new and strange.

"Have you tried using
adaptive equipment?"
Shiv said. "It can help."

"Like what?" she said.
"By the way, I'm Jennie."

"I'm Shiv," he said. "There
are things that can help grip.
I work in a restaurant, and we
have these little tube doodads
that you can slip over the handle
of forks and stuff to hold better."

"I have some things for writing,
but they don't help much," she said.

"Try some different stuff," said Shiv.
"Not everyone needs the same thing."

"It would pretty much have to stick
things to my hand," Jennie said.

"Sure, no problem," Shiv said.
"There's this tacky gel that dries
like rubber and makes things
extra grippy. I've also seen
like a strap that goes around
your hand to hold things."

"A strap might work," she said.

Shiv looked around the room,
but didn't see anything that
might make a good strap, and
he didn't want to rummage in
the cabinets because you
never knew who might bitch.

Instead he pulled out one of
his spare knitting needles.

"Don't freak on me, but you're
not the only soup in the room,"
he whispered. "Hold out a hand
so I can fit this thing to it."

He used his superpower
to make a loop of metal
with a point on one end.

Then he wrapped yarn
around it for a cushion.

"This is just a kludge,"
Shiv said. "If I had
more stuff, I could do
a proper sponge grip.
See how this works."

Jennie slid the loop
over her hand. "It works!"
she crowed. "I don't even
have to hold onto it."

"Just remember that
with this style, you have
to knit with your wrist
instead of your fingers,"
he said. "I'll make another."

Jennie waited eagerly
while he made the second,
then tried both together.

"Yeah, the motion is different,
but at least now I'm not dropping
things!" Jennie said. "Thank
you so much. This helps a lot."

The metal tips clicked together
in something almost familiar.
She'd get the hang of it.

"That was kind of you,"
Edie murmured, tilting
her head toward Jennie.

"Anybody could've done it,
well, come up with something
similar," Shiv said, shrugging. "I'm
used to making accommodations at work."

"Must be a nice restaurant," Edie said.

Shiv chuckled. "It's a jazz joint
called Blues Moon. Not fancy,
but we try to take care of folks."

"Well, you're doing a fine job,"
Edie said. "It's good to see that
you don't spend all your time
with your nose in a book."

"Heck no," Shiv said.
"I can hardly even read."

Edie raised her eyebrows.
"As smart as you are?"
she said. "Hard to believe."

"Oh, believe it," Shiv said.
"I can read pictures, though --
that's one reason why I like
knitting, I can get the pattern
in a picture, see it all at once."

"Then you're ahead of me,"
Edie said. "I try to find patterns
that spell out all the words, and
not many of them do that."

"I guess it takes all kinds,"
Shiv said. "Some folks like
knitting by the numbers,
some by pictures, and
others all written out."

"Think how boring
the world would be if
we were all the same,
though," Edie replied.

Shiv looked at Jennie
determinedly making
her way down a new row.

"Yeah, that'd suck," he said.

* * *


Jennie Griswold -- She has fair skin, hazel eyes, and straight red hair cut at shoulder length. She has the snout, ears, and tail of a pig. Her fingers have fused so that she only has two fingers and a thumb on each hand, making it difficult to manipulate things. Her toes have fused similarly. She is short and fat. Jennie lives in Omaha, Nebraska. Sometimes she goes to the Silver Knitters club with her mother.
Origin: After contracting gestational diabeties, Jennie received medical treatment derived from humanized pigs, and is now developing pig traits.
Uniform: Jennie prefers comfortable women's wear, often a mix of athleisure and things she has made herself. At work, she wears black and white basics accented with bright colors.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cheerful, Good (+2) Crafter, Good (+2) Mother, Good (+2) Office Worker, Good (+2) Visual-Spatial Intelligence
Poor (-2) Dexterity
Powers: Average (0) Pig Traits
Motivation: Relearn how to do things.

Medication from pigs includes things like insulin. Humanized pigs raise ethical issues, but can be used to study human illnesses and produce medical products including insulin.

See the Silver Knitters.

Evie and the Silver Knitters were first mentioned in "Return Pass."

* * *

Papillion is a suburb of Omaha, Nebraska. in Sarpy County in the Stateof Nebraska. It is an 1870s railroad town and suburb of Omaha. A sitemap of the city park with community center includes nature areas, ball fields, playgrounds, trails, and the community center buildings. See an overview and a floor plan of the community center itself.

Read about knitting math.

Shiv is using the Massively Modular Choose-Your-Own-Knitventure Socks pattern. Although they're usually done in multicolor, he is making them in ivory for Mrs. Wu. That way she can enjoy the diverse textures without worrying about anything clashing.

Stitch markers help keep track of counted patterns. You can buy some or make your own. Shiv is using this beaded set of 20.

Adaptive knitting tools include ergonomic knitting needles, cushions, and grips. A universal cuff grip is a fantastic tool for holding onto anything with a narrow handle: knitting needles, silverware, toothbrushes, pencils, etc. Many disabilities result in lower dexterity/grip strength so these tools are widely helpful even though they are often marketed for a single disability.

Primal soups often have limited dexterity and find it difficult to use tools for standard human hands. Compare different types of primal hands and feet to see a range from more human to more animal. Species with cloven hooves (pigs, goats, etc.) tend toward syndactyly with the first two and last two fingers fusing, thus giving two fingers and a thumb. Species with solid hooves (horses, zebras, etc.) tend toward syndactyly with the middle two fingers fusing, thus giving three fingers and a thumb.
Tags: community, crafts, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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