Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A storytelling family

One of my favorite Nasruddin stories concerns the time he went to a conference of mystics. Now, the fellow who organized this conference was a very serious man. He liked things to be talked about in a sober and intellectual way, and so he invited some of the most respected experts in one thing and another to come to his town and hold a conference.

Nobody really knows how Nasruddin got an invitation to this sort of a thing, but he did. Well, he showed up, anyway. And he was wearing the robes he wore to teach in mosques instead of the rather more threadbare robe he wore to teach in the marketplace, so the fellow in charge let him in, but made sure he was seated as far as possible from the most learned, most respected fellows at the head of the hall.

Now, it was so serious, and so very intellectual a discussion that was going on there that the sound wasn't carrying far, and Nasruddin couldn't hear a thing. Did he let this bother him? You can bet that he didn't, of course. No, he sat down on the floor in the corner and began telling jokes and stories. In very short order, some of the people who were closest by him and couldn't really hear what was going on either came over to listen to the jokes and stories and they began laughing and slapping their knees, until more people came over to see what the commotion was.

Nasruddin just kept telling stories. And pretty soon, there was a large group of people straining to hear the jokes, while people repeated some of the stories and punchlines for the folks further back. Well, this couldn't be allowed to go on at such a serious conference, and so the organizer came over to shush them, saying "How will you know what is going on at the head of the hall?"

Nasruddin took notice now, and waved his arms at all the people who had gathered to hear his jokes. "From where *I'm* sitting, *this* looks like the head of the hall."

I'm from a storytelling family. Off the top of my head, I can name several writers, poets, and tellers of very tall tales. ("Now, you have to understand that I was glad the UFO landed in the lower field, because it distracted the Canadian invasion force that had come down the Mississippi...") When we all get together, we tell stories, play Scrabble, and eat a lot. In summer, there's fishing and swimming, too.

And that's why, in some ways, the blanket I am helping to make for my dad has become almost as much a thing of myth as a thing of wool, even before it's finished.

There are a gazillion different types of square - knit, crocheted, straight stitches, textured stitches, lace stitches, hand-felted squares, lopsided squares, very straight squares. And the colors: variegated yarns in different shades ranging from a sort of grey with subtle hints of many other colors to an exuberant blend of turquoise and purple, and plain colors -purples, reds, golds, blues, greens, and the black that edges every piece so they will fit together. There is camel hair, alpaca, merino wool, mohair, angora, and a few strands of people's hair that have fallen in. There is commercial yarn and handspun, hand-dyed yarn. There's even a bit of fiber made from soybeans in there.

The crafters range from a woman who professionally knits and crochets shawls to a woman who just learned to crochet so that she could participate. We have people from across the country participating - there are people making squares in Colorado and Kentucky. One square was worked in Boston. My mom came in for a swearing-in for the new Congress and crocheted a square while she was here and my mother-in-law is bringing a square from Chicago to go in. And as we've worked, we've told stories: happy stories, sad stories, stories about storytelling, and stories about music. I've told stories about my dad, for whom the blanket is destined, and stories that he told me once upon a time, and stories that I know he'd like.

And I'd like to think that somehow all those stories are being literally captured and knitted right into the fabric of the blanket itself, that maybe under that blanket, he'll dream of us all, sitting in front of the fire, telling stories and laughing, and all the time praying that he can come back to the head of the hall where we're waiting for him.

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Blogger Kate said...

There's cat fur in mine to be sure...and I could _try_ spinning some of Sara-dog's fur and working that in... ;)


1/18/2007 4:05 PM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Well, this is definitely a multi-species blanket.

1/19/2007 8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd been meaning to offer a square, but I wasn't sure about fiber, size, &c ... I see the blanket's a bit of a mutt. :-) Wanna 'nother square?

1/19/2007 8:58 AM  
Blogger Plain Foolish said...

Yes, please. I've been asking folks to aim for about 7X9 inches and a reasonably dense structure (though we've got a granny square and a bit of fan lace for it - I'm leaning toward putting them on the edge.)

Colors/fiber - this is an opportunity for stash diving to use up those half balls that sit neglected after the project is done. I've found that a ball of worsted about the size of my fist (which admittedly is not big) is about enough to produce a square, depending on stitch and tension. One thing I plan to warn him about is that this is *not* a blanket to toss in the washer.

The majority of the blanket is Patons Classic Wool Merino in the brighter colors (though if you decide to go this route, avoid the variegated with the orange and purple. Buying two balls might have been overkill, in retrospect.)

1/19/2007 10:19 AM  

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