That’ll teach me
Friday October 02nd 2009, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,Spinning

A little bit of greed, a little bit of guilt, a lot of good done anyway. (Random ball of thick handspun dog fur to illustrate it now.)

It was years ago, but a chance conversation last night on my way out of Purlescence reminded me of it.

My audiologist‘s then-receptionist saw me knitting one time, waiting for my appointment, and struck up a conversation with me.  She was a weaver, she told me, although it had been awhile since she’d done anything. But she’d been really wanting to get back into it.

And what was inspiring her, what she really wished for, was some way of getting the fleeces from her four pet alpacas spun somehow so she could weave their fur into blankets.

Okay, you know she had me all ears at that point! I did tell her there were mills that would process the fleeces into roving for handspinning, and I could bring her my Spinoff magazine and show her their ads, but all the way into yarn? That service, I wasn’t sure where to find.


So, with a little trepidation on probably both our parts, we struck a deal: she would give me the fleeces, I would spin them up on my wheel, and I would give her half the resulting yarn.  Seemed fair.

Let me tell you.  Four alpacas? That is a whole lot of fluff.

The result would be a bit rustic–I didn’t have the energy nor the strength to card that kind of volume with my little hand cards, not by a long shot. Fine.

I could only guess what she was envisioning it coming out looking like, so I spun up the first skein from the black and drove down to the office to show it to her to get her reaction–because if she didn’t like it, I was going to hand the whole lot back to her and tell her she needed to find another way to get this done.  Soft and lofty, not fine, is how my wheel was going to produce it.

“Oh,” (and she exclaimed the animal’s name, which I do not remember.) “Look at this!” She held it against her face, she petted it, she stroked it, she told me about her pet that black came from, she was just absolutely thrilled.  It really could be made into yarn! This really could happen!

To me, touching those fibers had left me thinking, this is closer to llama than alpaca; clearly, her animals weren’t babies anymore. I realized, as I left, that there was no way any yarn I could make from her beloved animals was going to mean anything to me like it would mean to her.  She certainly wasn’t going to care about the micron count!

But I did.  If I spun up half for her, agreement or no agreement, the rest would sit around my house, taking up space and accusing me of my own selfishness.  I had other fibers waiting their turn at the wheel that were softer and finer, and I knew I would never get around to using hers.

It took me a month. I allocated an hour of kids-at-school time a day to it, while keeping my knitting projects going for my own sense of gratification at doing what I enjoyed doing.

Pick up a wad of fiber. Pick out the really short random bits where the shearer had hit the hair twice. Fluff it out, don’t get annoyed at wadded-up half-felted parts, spin spin spin.

Spin spin spin.

Spin spin spin.

Absolutely endless.

And I confessed to John-the-audiologist afterwards, I actually did keep one little bit of golden fleece for me, about two ounces’ worth. The very best, the very softest, I was selfish and kept it for all my work.

I felt terrible about that later.  It would have meant so much more to her than me. (I don’t think she ever knew anyway, but still. I cheated myself out of that one last bit of thrill.)

When I at last hauled a large black trashbag full of yarn to John’s office, it turned out she wasn’t there that day. I explained the whole thing to him, and he promised to get it to her.

What I didn’t know was this:

She was in the middle of a terrible, messy divorce.

Oh, poor woman! I asked John, will she be able to keep her alpacas when they get done dividing the property?

He didn’t know. He didn’t think it was working out that way from what he knew.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I never saw nor heard from her again.  She had a terribly long commute, and I guess it got to be too much and her job changed along with the rest of her upended life.  But I was assured she did get her yarn.

And I was so very glad I had given her the whole of it. Almost.  It’s a little thing, but I will always regret that one little bit held back. Those two ounces taught me a lot.

(Added later: she might well not have had any address to send a thank you to, especially at the upended time of life that must have been.   I should have passed on saying I hadn’t heard from her.  To me, the point was, I learned I should put my all into doing something for somebody because you never know what they may be going through, and it feels better by far to give of oneself whole-heartedly anyway.

10 Comments so far
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Since the deal was for you to keep half, and she was going to weave blankets (not fine shawls) from her yarn, I think you should forgive yourself and enjoy the very small bit of soft fleece. It’s too bad she never got back to you to thank you. I hope she did weave a blanket or two and they brought her comfort.

Comment by Madeline 10.02.09 @ 8:13 pm

I have no idea how to comment as I have had no similar experience, either on the giving or receiving end. However, I don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about. And it is too bad that you never got to hear back from the lady.

Guilt reducing humor:


Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow. 

This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin. 

Ladies Bible Study will be held Thursday morning at 10 AM. All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B. S. is done. 

Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door. 

The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” in the church basement Friday at 7 PM . The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy. 

Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

Comment by Don Meyer 10.02.09 @ 9:09 pm

Trust me, the yarn you spun for her is a treasure to her.Different strokes – that’s all.
All is well. 🙂

Comment by Toni Smoky-Mountains 10.03.09 @ 4:11 am

When my ladies and I knit an item to be donated I say it’s ok to love it and bless it with prayers while we knit it, but then when we donate it, we should let it go, with those blessings, not thinking about how it should be worn or washed, just imagining that it will bring comfort to it’s recipient. And if we do not expect thanks, we won’t be disappointed. Plus, we can make up a story in our own heads about how it will be used. I must admit though, that I do keep an eye open when I go out in public just in case I should recognize anything.

Comment by Jody M 10.03.09 @ 6:49 am

Such an insightful post. I love the phrase “cheated myself out of that one last bit of thrill” applied to your awareness that the momentary gratification of keeping the golden 2 oz would be less than the lingering pleasure at providing joy to another. Maybe it would have been selfish to give it, forcing it on her so you could have more pleasure! But I see what you mean – you capture the joy that giving delivers to both giver and receiver.

The Buddha might suggest that you can not know whether your action will result in net loss or gain of happiness. Perhaps your self-learning here will lead to an opportunity to share something of even greater value to you to someone with an even greater need. Not that you need lessons in charity – you are truly an inspiration to all of us.

Blessed be.

Comment by twinsetellen 10.03.09 @ 7:38 am

You have reminded me again of the good that comes from doing for someone without caring about reward

My post today is about you

Comment by Bev 10.03.09 @ 8:58 am

I must admit I have a slightly different view of it.
She wanted you to keep some of the yarn.
Receiving without giving can be good, but an exchange of benefits, I think, feels better sometimes, particularly when self-esteem is rocky (thinking back to my own divorce).
Perhaps in allowing yourself to keep that small bit, it kept the honesty in the exchange, and if you had given it all back to her, and she had known, it might have tarnished it somehow for her.
It IS blessed to give, for the giver.
It takes time and special circumstance to feel the grace of receiving.

Comment by Diana Troldahl 10.03.09 @ 2:27 pm

So many others have already said it, but you have no reason to feel guilty!

Comment by Channon 10.03.09 @ 6:27 pm

I must second Diana Troldahl’s sentiments. She might have felt as if she were taking advantage of you and your skill if she thought you gave it all back. No guilt. You helped her acheive a tangible memory of her beloved animals. No guilt 🙂

Comment by TripletMom 10.03.09 @ 8:20 pm

I must third Diana’s take on this. You have such a generous heart… Please be kind to it!

Comment by Suzanne in Mtl 10.05.09 @ 5:57 am

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