One passage near the end of Stephanie Pearl-McFee’s memoir, Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter, struck me as a poignant reminder that stories are in the very air we breathe. In this scene Stephanie and a friend are dividing up the yarn stash of a friend whose rheumatoid arthritis has made it impossible to continue knitting. Story itself becomes an essential element:
… Lene tells us the story of each yarn as we take it, and slowly, we start to feel better. For the moment we are soothed, lost in the tale each yarn has to tell us.
We pay attention to Lene’s wishes. That blue mohair, the one the color of baby eyes, it was supposed to be a shawl for Lene’s friend Michelle. I take that one. I lay it in the bin and make a mental note: Shawl for Michelle. Ken gets the discounted Aran-weight tweed. Lene had planned an intricately cabled pullover for herself with that yarn. I watch Ken; he’s making the same note-to-self, recording carefully what Lene’s intentions were. The chocolate milk alpaca (a scarf for Lene’s mother, Bea) goes into my bin … .
Stephanie doesn’t mention writing these stories at the time, but telling them soothed Lene, and hearing them soothed the friends. Writing about it in the memoir surely soothed Stephanie again and surely most readers are moved by the touching account. She returns to the subject several pages later when she reports that she did, in fact, knit many items Lene had been unable to complete, and that each time she knit a gift from yarn she received from Lene, the gift tag said, “From Lene.”
This section was a tender counterpoint to most of the book, which was rollickingly funny and laced with evocative sensory imagery. I have dubbed Stephanie Pearl-McFee the “Erma Bombeck of the Knitting World,” and even though I am only a very occasional knitter, I look forward to reading her newly released book, All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin
In a previous post I told about a friend’s tea pot collection and the advice I gave her on how to write the stories they held. Not long ago I saw her again and asked if she’d done any writing.
“Yes. I work on it every now and then, and it’s great fun. I make an extra copy of each and stick it in the pot to keep them together. That way whoever gets the pot next – not soon, I hope! – will know its story, adding value to the pots. I’ve taken pictures of each to put in the computer files. It makes quite an album. Stop by sometime and I’ll show it to you.”
Whether you need a writing prompt for practicing description skills or want to record the stories of your treasured possessions, you too can be soothed with memories as you write the stories of your stuff, and your family will appreciate having them later. You may find it useful to have those details at hand if you later write a more comprehensive memoir.
Write now: Look around the room where you sit. Find some object that’s meaningful to you and jot down a paragraph or few of memories about it. When and how did you get it? What has it meant to you? How have you used it? What memories does it hold? You might want to take a picture to put with the story and make it part of your legacy of family history.
Image credit: Katherine