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by Rachael Herron

Ah, what to knit next. Isn’t this a delicious problem? It’s almost a disease if you think about it in the right way—I feel dis-ease when I get the yen to start something new. The treatment is liberal applications of Ravelry right to my brain. I scroll my way through my queue, where I have 13 pages that include 363 projects waiting for me to knit.

When I start to imagine what I’m going to knit next, the item always looks quite similar to the last time I fantasized about adding a project, no matter what I actually end up making. It comes to me like a dream, like a movie slightly out of focus. Celtic music filled with longing pipes through the air as if a melancholy fairy band is hiding behind the gorse. In a long, purple linen tunic woven by a coven of magical seamstresses, I’m leaping lightly from rock to rock on a foggy beach. The air and the stones below my feet are light blue, like my cornflower eyes. My hair is long and red, hanging in waves that match the ones rolling onto shore. I’m searching for my long-lost love who will sail into sight any moment, his sails furling with the power of a thousand winds. While I’m searching, of course, I’m keeping toasty-warm in my thick, coat-length cardigan that’s hung artfully over my magical tunic. The sweater is knit from thousands of cables, ribbons of sea foam, and millions of wishes and prayers for everlasting love, and I have to tell you, the drape is perfect.

I can almost see it.

(And yes, I may have been heavily influenced by Alice Starmore in my formative knitting years.)

So I open my queue and start to scroll.

A screechy voice pierces the air. “HEY, GIRL. What’s on your needles?”

IMG 2174 resizedIt’s him. My wee stash goblin. He’s a devilish creature, and I’ve tried to get rid of him with cedar blocks and shoving him periodically in the freezer, but sadly, he’s not a mere moth. He eats cedar for lunch and pees in the ice cube tray, so I’ve given up.

“Hush,” I say. Maybe the twelfth pullover in my queue will do the trick. Big, luscious cables, and I could extend the length a bit for my longer-than-average torso.

The goblin runs across my roll-top desk and leaps onto my right shoulder. “You have two sweaters, two shawls, a pair of socks, and a blanket on your needles, and that’s just what you’re willing to admit to.”

“One shawl,” I try to knock him off my shoulder, but his hairy little toes grip my sweater tightly. “The grey cashmere.”

“And the red merino.”

Crap. He’s always right. “I’m just choosing what to cast on next.” If I can’t find the right sweater, should I look at shawls next? Grar. I would, if he hadn’t just pointed out I have enough shawls in progress. Good thing he didn’t remember the green one. “I won’t cast on until I’m done with everything else.”   

“You mean until tonight.” His breath smells like Doritos.

“No, way.”

“You always say that, and then you leave the house the same day and buy the yarn for the thing you’ll cast on that night.”

I bristle. “And what, exactly, is wrong with that? I’m an adult.”

He rolls his little pebble eyes. “Like I was saying, you’ll cast on, you’ll knit an inch of ribbing and then you’ll realize nothing has changed.”

The fog-and-castle sweater of my dreams begins to crumble in my mind. “But things might change,” I whisper.  

He crackles a laugh in my ear. “You think you’ll be perfect if you’re knitting that sweater.”

“No, I don’t!” It’s too close to the truth.

“You’ve got this cockamamie idea that you’ll not only look like the model if you knit it, but that you’ll suddenly be living in the picture she’s standing in.”  He peers into my phone screen.

I click the phone off, but it’s too late. He’s seen. “It’s not what—”

He groans. “It’s the Irish beach dream again, right?”

My face gets hot. “Stop it.”  

“Can you hear the foghorns?”

Distantly, I hear the low, sad tone of the horn sounding out to the white-capped sea, protecting my sailor in his—

He flicks my ear. “There are no foghorns in Ireland, you nincompoop. They shut those suckers down in 2011. You ever heard of GPS? And ain’t you pretty thrilled with the person you’re already married to?”

Of course I am. But a little fantasy never hurt anyone. Some women have Magic Mike. I like a little seafaring adventure in my dreams, mixed with a sexy dose of thick and rugged … Shetland wool. “I’m just looking.”

“Think about Sylvana.”

Come on.” My friend Sylvana picks out a knitting project, buys the yarn for it, knits it, finishes it, and then picks another project. She’s a serial monogamist, and I’ve never figured out how she does it, how she stays committed, how she picks what she’ll make next. I once asked her what she would choose from my 363 item queue.

I’d delete the queue and browse until I found something I wanted to make.

When she said that, I had a hard time breathing. I have whole other lives in my Ravelry queue! If I deleted my whole list, then I’d have no chance of ever becoming thin enough to wear that crocheted tankini, no chance to grow tall enough to pull off that barn jacket, no chance to become the kind of person who wears a cloche while riding a black bicycle with a fresh baguette under my arm.

My guilt goblin hops down onto my thigh. “Hey. Look at me.”

I don’t want to because the little creep is right. “Buzz off.”

“You know what?”

I dully recite, “I know—I don’t have to pick something new to knit because I have enough to knit already.”

“Nah.” He snaps his finger, and suddenly I’m really looking at him. He doesn’t look that malevolent, actually. He’s almost kind of cute, with those tiny wrinkles and his Aran made of blue embroidery floss. “You get to choose whatever you want to knit next.”

“I do?” The number 363 glows at me from my screen.

“Sure. But don’t forget you’re still you. What you knit won’t change you.”

I don’t know whether I feel relief or disappointment. “I know.”

“You don’t need red hair or a sheep.”

My face goes red. How does he know about the sheep?

He shrugs. “Lucky guess. Just knit what you have. If you start something new, that’s okay, too. Don’t stress so much about what to pick. Just knit. And remember the most important thing: you’re fine the way you are.”

I feel absurdly pleased. “You think?”

He pulls open a small drawer of the roll-top desk and peers in. “We have got to talk about your problem with Post-its.”

I nod and hope he doesn’t open the Sharpie drawer.

Rachael Herron is the bestselling author of  Splinters of Light, the Cypress Hollow series, and the memoir A Life in Stitches. She's a proud New Zealander as well as an American, and she wishes she could knit and play ukulele at the same time.