Sunday, May 16, 2010

Passing batons

So there I was. Saturday morning. Coffee in one hand, newspaper in the other. It was late in the morning; too damned late. I had overslept. I had a huge list of things I positively had to get done. The new boxes were being built by my excessively-supportive and handy spouse, I had corn and onions to plant, herbs to start, a house in dire need of elbow grease, bread to bake – you know, the usual lazy weekend list.

In a pathetic attempt to avoid getting to work While frugally finishing my coffee to the last drop, I glanced through the yard sale advertisements in our local paper. Toddler clothes, scrapbooking, {yawn} shoes, knickknacks, ‘too much to list here,’ yarn machine and lots of yarn, gardening supplies, estate sal-…wait…what?!

I looked at the words.

I read them three more times.

My first thought was, It’s probably one of those Ultimate Knitting machines. I already have one. And I hate it. Well. Hate is a strong word. I just kind of find it to be…somewhat limited. And fiddly. And it always seems to me that I could have knit whatever it was by hand in far less time than it took to get the yarn to feed through the carriage correctly. (Which isn’t actually true I’m sure, but it feels that way at the time.) Mine has the simple narrow bed that can’t even quite manage a sweater for a robust male figure without fudging, three size-adjusting cartridges and every time I use it, I end up cursing at it.

And my second thought was, What if it’s one of those absolutely unbelievable electric machines? You know, the computerized ones where you just show it the stash and it takes things from there?

Then I had a good laugh because I had a vision of the knitting machine clunking across the floor pulling out every ball of yarn I own and muttering to itself while it tried to program sweaters out of them.

And also because even at an estate sale, such a thing would be way out of my league.

Then I looked at the time and compared it to the starting time on the yard sale and knew – knew mind you – that I was too late. Whether it was a stupid old Ultimate Sweater Mac-phooey or a $10,000 Passap, some other knitter had probably aced me out. Yarn too. Probably all gone.

Well. Maybe not.

But it would probably be all acrylic.

Still. Possibly not all acrylic, possibly not all gone and I had to go to the farmer’s market anyway and I suppose there couldn’t be a whole lot of harm in stopping by.

Oh. My. Stars. And. Garters.

I walked up to a yard sale that had lots of people already shopping away. My wool-senses tingling, I walked straight through the dishes and the clothes, the beautiful furniture and cedar box, and threw open the metal lid emblazoned with Toyota.

One Toyota KS 901, in beautiful condition. Being the owner of a lousy Ultimate Sweater Machine, I’m hardly the go-to expert in all things knitting machine – but I do have a basic idea how they work and what kinds of things render them inoperable.

This thing was beautiful. It had been used, clearly, and loved, and its previous owner had taken very good care of it.

And beside it, still in their boxes too, a tilt-table stand and a ribber and a Knit Tracer. Wow.

Now considering that a new Ultimate Sweater machine is running about $150 at our Michael’s store, I’m looking at something with a bit more functionality and a lot more in accessories. Something that is probably way out of my price league, especially with all those accessories. All still in original boxes, with their manuals still tucked inside.

Yeah. Out of my league. Probably shouldn’t even bother to inquire. Because it’s got a knit tracer and a lace carriage and an Intarsia carriage and holy smokes, the ribbing transfer and a bind-off carriage?!



They’ve got to be asking a good five hundred bucks for this thing.

About the point I was thinking I should probably consider asking what they were looking for, you know, for all of it, the lady of the yard sale came over and started talking to me about it and oh yeah, the yarn.

The bags and bags of yarn. The cones and balls and skeins of it. The ha ha ha, you’ll never believe what she had in every corner of the house stash that we knitters know so well. (A thousand years from now, archeologists will unearth balls of yarn on the site where the Den stands now, still snug and safe in their Space Bags or Ziplocs, and wonder what strange religion was practiced here, when in truth it was just that I managed to hide put away that particular bit of stash extremely well.)

And then her daughter began bringing out Grandma’s yarn. And more yarn. And more yarn. In totes and garbage bags and boxes. And her husband began saying, “Hang on a second, there’s more to that machine over here…” and he’s dragging out a big old Rubberneck tote full of yet more cartridges and manuals and books.

“So, what were you…uh…for the…did you…?” Oh, I am smooth. A salesperson’s salesperson. Suave, sophisticated, butter not melting in my mouth, no indication that I might be the slightest bit interested, ready to bargain the thing down.

“I dunno…I was thinking, you know, because, you know, just the machine would maybe be almost three hundred dollars…maybe three hundred for all of it?”

“Oh, for, so, for the…and the…and…?” Here we go. This is the part where I tug at my chin thoughtfully while making the I dunno… face and point out that we’re talking about an older machine that is no longer manufactured and maybe bring up the issue of replacement parts and such, here we go, my mad negotiating skilz are brought the fore and I say… “Oh, uh, OK.”


I’m a terrible negotiator. I’m one of those people who will set a price inside my head and then just walk away if the price asked is higher than that. Which is undoubtedly extremely irritating to the red-blooded horse trader, who sets his price unreasonably high naturally expecting that I’ll counter unreasonably low and we can argue our way toward the middle where we both want to be.

But all kidding aside, the yarn alone would cost more than $300, even second-hand. At a buck apiece the books would have been nearly a hundred bucks. And Oh yeah, there’s the small matter of a knitting machine with a zillion attachments and extras and the valet that fetches you your morning cappuccino and irons the paper for you.

They helped me load all the stuff into the van. The boxes and bags and totes, the “two men to lift it” box of instructional materials. The yarn, the carriages and cartridges and punch cards and clips and swifts and ohmygah.

I feel like I’m opening a factory or something with all this stuff.

When I got it all home and started going through it all, I just got more and more amazed. This thing is going to take me a long, long time to figure out. It has more bells and whistles than I had imagined. It can do more things than I ever would have thought possible.

And the box of books is a treasure trove of crafty goodness. Encyclopedias of knitting stitches, patterns for both hand and machine, a rug making book, an encyclopedia series of family crafts with everything from glass to leather, bobbin lace to hammock making.

Some of it in like-new condition; some of it with copious notes in neat handwriting in the margins. “Set knob to 1, not 3.” “Gauge too tight, use DK+.” “Put in other side UP.”

When I was going through the yarn I found a baby sweater, beautifully crocheted, all finished except for an end that needed running in.

I ran it in, and eyeballed the skein that made it thinking there was definitely a pair of booties and a little hat left in there, and I wondered – someday, would another knitter come to a yard sale and find herself with a bag of yarn with an almost-finished baby sweater in it?

And would she finish it, and think to herself there was a pair of booties and a hat left in that skein, and then make them and hand off the gift to someone from both of us…freezing that moment in time when the baton left my hand and went to hers?

I hope so. I even trust so. I don’t think knitting and knitters will change all that much between now and then; we’re that sort of breed.

I’ll try to take good care of your things, fellow knitter, and to make warm and loving things from the yarn you left behind.

And thanks for keeping all those manuals. Lord knows I’m going to need them, and badly…


Nessa said...

Oh My Word! What a score! So wonderful when the universe lines things up just right. Enjoy!

Caitlan said...

that is really sweet.

Louiz said...

Oh. Wow. That's the kind of find you get once in a lifetime.

Steph B said...

Sweet. Clearly it was meant for you. Enjoy!

Marty52 said...

Estate sales are THE best! Congrats on the great score... better start knitting faster. ;0)

Another Joan said...

And when you have finished the hat and booties and taken pictures of the Stash Enhancement eXtras for the rest of us to bid on, you will probably come out ahead in the $$$

Quilty bird said...

Photos! Photos!

Anonymous said...

Can I come and live with you?!?!

Science PhD Mom said...

WOW!!! What a great find!! And so wonderful to know that the previous owner would be delighted that someone who will treasure her treasures now has them. Congrats!

JustGail said...

What a find! I'm really happy for you, and jealous. Enjoy exploring your find.

Kate said...

Wow - amazing!


(you know I'm a visual person...sorry...gotta demand 'em :-D)