Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
How To Knit A Nest
by Liza Prunuske
Start with the sheep. My favorite wool comes from the Shetland Islands where the sheep graze on seaweed when the tide is out. Sticky and coarse, the yarn stays true in the most complicated patterns.
Then you cast on. You have to watch me. There is no other way to learn this. Neither written directions nor the finished product can help. The name comes from a spell. This is true magic we cast with our own hand. Remember that I who have the coordination of a wounded sloth learned how to do this. Have faith.
Push your work all the way to one end of the needle. Run your hands along the stitches to make sure they are aligned in one direction. One twist now will set you on an entirely different path. True, it is a useful one, but not the one you said you wanted.
Wrap the yarn loosely through your fingers exactly like this. The truth is that this matters more than anything. The tension has to be just right. Too much and your piece has no give, no room to forgive the mistakes you will inevitably make. Too slack and it will not have the strength to serve its purpose.
The first row is the hardest. I would never lie to you. Poke the free end of the needle through the first stitch, grab the yarn, and pull it through. Now again. Now four thousand, one hundred and fourteen times more. I know it sounds like a tedious chore, but the work is satisfying. Blood pressure drops when knitting and after a while, one is given visions of truth. One understands exactly what one peregrine is calling to the other and also what happened to the men in Lifeboat 36542. My grandmother said a sip of warm beer is helpful at this stage.
Now the exciting part. Find a calm room with sunlight pouring in. Bar the door. After every 12 stitches, knit two together. Knit a plain row. Then after every 11 stitches, knit two together. Repeat this pattern until only seven stitches remain. Break the yarn. Slip the seven stitches off the needle. This is truly dangerous. You could lose everything. Your house. Your five best clients. Focus. With a darning needle, pull the tail through each stitch and cinch tight.
You need a warm coat for this next step. Head up near the top of the ridge and find a dense clump of Baccharis. It should face true east for early morning sun and for protection from the west wind. Lie on your belly, reach your hand at least eight inches under the edges of the branches, and scrape out a shallow depression. Settle your nest into this cup. Hide the entrance with sticks and grass. Leave. Remember to take your scent with you.
Lisa Prunuske is a Sonoma County writer.
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