We all know knitters have their own language. People talk about how confounded they are by knitting and crocheting patterns all the time, and while yarn crafters are like, “Pfft, it’s just an abbreviation–it comes with a legend, it’s no big deal.” Still, it just lends another layer of mystery to taking a single strand of wound fiber and ending up with something serviceable and, quite often, beautiful.
Anyway– fiber artists tend to be an irreverent bunch, and in addition the standard abbreviations and knitting terms (don’t get me started on gauge. Just don’t. No no no no) there are some knitting terms that we either make up ourselves or gather from other people, or sometimes, we “un-vent.” “Unvention” is a knitting term coined by one of our heroes, Elizabeth Zimmerman. She said once that nobody really “invented” anything in knitting–millions of people had been doing it for thousands of years, whatever you think you invented had to have been thought of by somebody at some point in time. But that doesn’t mean an individual knitter can’t come up with something unique and clever and possibly forgotten by time just by thinking outside the box–this is called “unvention.” For instance, there’s this irritating kind of decrease–I think it’s the SKKPO– that involves turning the work around and knitting two stitches together and then passing the resulting stitch back to another needled and OMG IT’S A PAIN IN THE FUCKING ASS. Anyway–I’ve got a way to do this that’s a lot easier than that. I blew my LYS (Local Yarn Store) Proprietess away because she’d never seen it done that way before. Does this mean that I, Amy Lane, looked at two sticks and string and saw something so completely original I reinvented the entire craft?
Of course not.
It means I thought outside the box and discovered a technique that had been there all along and hundreds of others had probably figured out before me, it just didn’t make it into a book.
So that’s the way it is with terms like these. Some of them have been around forever. Some of them I’m pretty sure I coined. Some of them were unventions made not just by me but by dozens of other people across the webs.
Let’s start with the easy ones–
WIP–Work In Progress–something we’re currently working on
UFO– UnFinished Object –something we started but never finished and now we can’t look at it for shame
FO–A particularly irritating finished object that you are glad to see the back of
FUBAR–A military term that means Fucked Up Beyond All Repair
Frogging–to rip back a project when you realize it’s FUBAR and you have to start again. Some people believe we call it “frogging” because you have to “rip-it, rip-it”.
Stash– Yarn with no pre-planned project, it’s just waiting in your house to be discovered and used
Stash diving–going through stash either with the hopes of deciding on a new project, or with the object of fixing a project you’re already working on.
De-stashing–Sending your yarn to somebody else. Although it appears as though knitters are the basest of hoarders, destashing actually makes us really happy. We get to see other people–friends–who might be a little low on yarn funds at the moment–happily engaged in one of our favorite activities. And being the recipient of a destashing is also a delight, even if you have the below-listed condition.
SABLE– Stash Accrued Beyond Life Expectancy– this is, I think, a Yarn Harlot term. It means you could knit 24/7 for the rest of your natural life and you probably wouldn’t make a dent in your stash. For the record? I’ve been SABLE for nearly 20 years.
Yarnchives–This is one of my unventions– places in your stash that house UFOs, and also track time. “Oh, those were the socks I was working on in 2014 for Susan before I found out about her unfortunate wool allergy. Ah, Susan–what’s she doing now, and would she enjoy something in a nice cotton blend? Oh! And this is the yarn I bought on my 10th wedding anniversary when we visited the alpaca farm in Colorado. Ah, Mate–he does let me buy yarn.”
Bi-Craftual– in the fiber art world, this means I knit AND crochet. The thing is (and fiber artists know this) there is a weird bias against crocheters in the yarn world. Part of it is that crocheting uses more yarn and tends to go a little faster, and when the yarn is hand spun and hand dyed, there’s a sort of insistence you savor every stitch. The other part is that while knitting can be dated back to ancient Egypt and the Coptic Sock (*snicker* This is a real thing) and Roman trade routes through Europe before it appears in Renaissance paintings as something the Madonna is doing so Christ has teeny socks (again–real thing), crocheting wasn’t actually considered a part of the womanly arts ala Jane Austen and putting feathers in hats or making bonnets etc until the late 1800’s. So, crocheting is a new, fast art, with a lot of flash and bling, and knitters don’t trust it.
Admitting to loving both crafts is an act of courage.
Kniteronormative– This is one of my unventions, made up as a portmanteau of “knitter” and “normative”. It means that when people see yarn or fiber, they never assume crocheting or needle felting or tatting or crewel work–they assume knitting. As I said, there’s a sort of friction between the knitting world and the crocheting world, so yes, crocheters feel slighted, needle felters and tatters feel ignored and I don’t know anyone who does crewel work, but I’m going to assume they wish the rest of us wouldn’t hog all the pretty yarn.
Yarn chicken– this is the act of taking a limited amount of yarn and making a project with it that doesn’t leave a lot left over. You are playing chicken with having enough yarn for your project–and it doesn’t always end well. You know you’ve lost at yarn chicken if, say, you end up not having enough yarn to finish the end of your scarf in the same way in which you began it, or if you have to switch to another yarn as you’re casting off. At the moment, I’m playing yarn chicken with a type of yarn that has not only been discontinued, but every yarn substitute I’ve found for it has been discontinued too. I only bought two skeins, because that’s supposed to be enough to make the project.
Trust me, for knitters, this is sitting on the edge of your seat sort of stuff.
Dead dinosaur–this is acrylic yarn. Now, some people–particularly people who don’t like wool and who have seen some of the really lovely, soft acrylic yarns out there, will know that this is a yarn slur. But people who have ever bought super bright, super scratchy wool from Walmart (they used to have their own brand) or knock-off Red Heart (who originated the process–I THINK– for acrylic yarn that resembled wool but could be washed ad infinitum) will understand exactly what this means. I am a yarn snob–I need at least a little natural fiber in my yarn, or I feel like I’m not doing my craft justice. My son’s SUPER DAMNED BRIGHT sweater/scarf combo is done in Plymouth Encore–75% dead dinosaur, 25% live sheep fur. And the pink parts of Chicken’s goth sloth are made with 100% dead dinosaur.
Dead muppet– I got this one from the knitosphere. Yes, I know “dead muppet” sounds like poor Ernie, who looks like he died in the middle of a failed parachute jump and ended up strapped to Squish’s back, but, in fact, “dead muppet” is novelty yarn. Some novelty yarn can be lovely–Lion Brand Homespun is a bunch of loose acrylic fibers wrapped in a nylon cord, and while it tends to be splitty for knitters, crocheters love it. Some novelty yarn is just… big fraying clumps of nylon and polyester that is hilariously fuzzy–and can be super impossible to work with. Sometimes you have to use a “carrying” yarn with it–a single strand of plain serviceable yarn that will give it body and form. Chicken used “dead muppet” for the body of this goth sloth in progress. Dead muppet is often a deal breaker–“What are your yarn preferences?” “Oh, I like all fibers and all weights–but no dead muppet. God no. The nerve.”
Whoopty-12s– I’m pretty sure this is one of mine. Knitting needles are sized super small–I think 0000 (or quadruple-ought) to super big– 50’s. Anything bigger than a size 11 I tend to refer to as a “Whoopty-12”–because they’re huge and ungainly and look like vampire stakes.
One of my classes in college was an “American Folklore” class–and one of our assignments was to put together a “niche vocabulary” list for a specific group. People as a whole tend to unvent vocabulary for the work they do–they get creative with it, and funny, and their terms reveal something about the nature of the people working. Most of these terms I’ve borrowed from elsewhere–from the knitosphere, as it were–and I think they say wonderful things about fiber artists as a whole. Our language–down to our specific words–reveals all sorts of things about us, both the good and the bad.
And the quirky and the knitty and the yarny as well 🙂