Thursday, March 1, 2007

Black Widow Spider King Shawl

I have basically discarded the original Spider Queen pattern, so, in the spirit of the original, I figured I needed to make up a story about the new design. Those who dislike fairy tales should probably close your browser window now.

A little background...

For part of every year, we live in a small town in Japan about 60 miles southeast of Tokyo. It's a family-owned company called Kurenai Kai (Crimson School) and their business is Japanese embroidery. We stay in two tiny rooms, equipped with a miniscule bathroom, a microscopic kitchen, and an Extremely Large Spider that we named Harry.

Harry is about ten inches from toe to toe and the first time we saw him, we thought we had been transported into a really bad sci-fi movie.

Harry is very smart. He knew, for example, that if he sat on the delicate rice-paper screens, we couldn't attack him, lest we end up spending hours with said delicate rice paper and glue repairing the damage. (Damage to the shoji screen--Harry is way too quick for us to inflict any damage on him).

After a few years or uneasy coexistance, we achieved a precarious balance: We would leave Harry alone to consume quantities of the ferocious mosquitos that inhabit the area, as long as he didn't prance around while we were awake.

So, in honor of Harry and his gargantuan appetite, I rename the Black Widow Spider Queen to Black Widow Spider King and tell this story of Harry...

Once upon a time, in a land far, far, away, there was a spider named Harry. Harry lived in the dormitory of a Japanese embroidery workshop, where the occupants all created lovely works of art on silk fabric.

The problem was, no matter how hard Harry tried, he just couldn't get the hang of embroidery. (You can see where this story is going now, right?)

All the other Kurenai Kai spiders would spend their days busily stitching away at tiny obi and teeny kimono using spider silk and gold thread snitched from the main workshop. But every time Harry picked up a needle and tried to embroider, the head of the workshop would come by and say "Take it out."

Harry spent most of his time in the workshop taking out what he stitched. Then he would go into the dormitory bathroom and sniffle.

All the other spiders made fun of him.

"Harry's a failure!" "Harry's a loser! "Harry can't stitch his way out of a rice cooker!"

One day, a strange-looking couple moved into the rooms attached to the bathroom. They unpacked all their belongings and left for dinner.

Harry strolled around the room, poking at the odd stuff the strangers had left behind. What, for example, was Peanut Butter and why were there four huge jars of it in the kitchen?

Harry stuck a leg into the open jar. Fifteen minutes later, he was still trying to remove the peanut butter from his leg hairs when he spied a basket full of stringy stuff in the corner of the other room.

He scuttled over to the basket and crawled onto a large ball of thin, silky, thread. "Hey, he said to himself," This is almost as nice as spider silk." He yanked out a length and started playing with it.

The door opened and the strange couple came back into the room. They stared at Harry. Harry stared at them. Everyone screamed.

Harry quickly retreated to the bathroom and hid in the light fixture (a tight squeeze).

After a few minutes, Harry peered around the doorframe. One of the humans was doing something peculiar with a circular thingie and the silky thread. As Harry watched, a lovely fabric began to emerge from the circular thingie.

"That's cool," Harry thought. "I wonder if I could do that?"

Fortunately for Harry, the laptop computer on the table contained a formidable compendium of knitting information. It wasn't too difficult for Harry to hop up and down on the PageDown key once he got the hang of loading files into Adobe Acrobat.

"This doesn't look too complicated," he thought. "I just need one of those circular thingies (a 1" circular needle would do). Plenty of yarn here."

Harry scrabbled around Kurenai Kai and decided he could make a decent circular with a short length of soba noodle coated with rice glue and two embroidery needles filched from the workshop.

It wasn't the greatest needle ever made, but he managed a nice scarf with it.

All the other spiders wanted a scarf too. It gets really cold at Kurenai Kai in the winter. They started looking at Harry with a bit more respect. After all, scarves were warm. Kimono were merely uncomfortable.

Some of the other spiders tried knitting scarves and such, but they just couldn't get the hang of it. It took several hours to calm down Kumoko-san after she accidently knitted her leg fur into her Noni bag.

Pretty soon Harry had made some other needles out of bamboo slivers and nylon thread he found in the office and was busily knitting sweaters, hats, and socks. Too bad he needed 8 socks for each set. This got tiresome. And he never really got the hang of turning a heel for a spider foot.

He started flipping through some of the knitting books lying around the room. "Hey," he said "I really like this shawl. The center area could pass for a handsome web."

And he started knitting the center of the shawl. It looked pretty good. In fact, the other spiders thought he was making a new web (His old one was getting tattered at this point, as he spent so much time knitting, he was neglecting his housekeeping).

When he finished the center, he stepped back (way back) to admire it.

"Not bad for a first attempt." he thought. "Of course, I changed a few things around. The original designer didn't have a clue about arachnid society or goverment. She thinks we have a Spider King who hits on fairies. Geez."

Then he sighed. "I don't care much for those borders. The first border looks like a spider-munching bird."

"And the outside one makes me a bit seasick."

At that moment, one of the other spiders came into the room to remind him that it was his day to babysit all the young Kurenai Kai spiders.

He spent most of the afternoon preventing 2456 bouncing baby spiders from becoming lunch for some really hungry-looking crows.

Exhausted, he retreated to the bathroom light fixture for a short nap. When he awoke, he saw one of the humans doing something on the computer with graph paper.

"That doesn't look too difficult," he thought. "I'll get those baby spiders to pose for the inner border." After an intensive lecture about discipline, honor, and respect for their elders, he lined up about 40 of the kids and started knitting the first shawl border.

Harry also graphed the border and stored it on the laptop. And he made a hard copy with flyspecks on the bathroom ceiling. The strange couple might take the laptop away and he hadn't had a chance to travel to Akihabara and buy one for himself.

As he knitted away on the inner border, he starting thinking about the outer one. Clearly, it was way too much trouble to knit from a pattern of live spiders--they kept hopping around and demanding fly snacks every ten seconds--so he decided to design a border that incorporated artistic web designs.

Some of his friends and neighbors were way talented that in that respect. Harry's web, alas, was strictly functional. And to tell the truth, half the time, his lunch fell on the floor and scuttled away.

He spent several weeks roaming around town with his minicam, snapping pictures of interesting webwork. After uploading the images to the laptop, he fooled around with Photoshop, and in a few hours had a handsome outer border design.

Harry decided to model the edging after the soba noodle that was sacrificed for his first circular needle.

Pretty soon, Harry's shawl was being admired at the Wednesday Show and Tell that the workshop spiders held to review their previous week's work.

The head of the workshop, Yamakumo-san, decided Harry needed more recognition. "Harry," he said, "It's time to include your knitting in our annual exhibit along with the obi, kimono, and handbags."

Harry spent an entire year knitting masterpieces the like of which had never been seen in Japan (or anywhere else, for that matter).

Knitted kimono!

Knitted Noh masks!

Knitted landscapes...

And a three-dimensional treasure ship that was entirely seaworthy. All the spiders at Kurenai Kai took a cruise on the Sumida River one New Year's evening on Harry's takarubune.

Harry's fame grew and grew, and pretty soon, he was winning awards everywhere.

Harry soon established his own workshop, acquired hordes of apprentices, became a National Treasure, and lived happily ever after. And it all started with the Black Widow Spider King shawl, which he hung in a place of honor in his office.

The End.


Sarah said...

All hail the Spider King! Wonderful tale, Fleegle - I was riveted! I love, love, love your blog! Thanks for the distraction from my Civil War Shawl.

Anonymous said...

I'm not anonymous, just too lazy to make an account. You are hilarious. I LOVE that story. Will you give copies with the Fleegle-ized pattern? This is much more fun than frogging my entire shawl. Who knew they were on-line at the dialysis clinic? Harry did give me pause, but after much consideration, I still want to be Fleegle when I grow up. Or at least Fleegle-ized!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your posts, but Harry Was hilarious! Good pics too.

Anonymous said...

I am new and don't have an account yet, but that was the absolute best story I have ever read! I love Harry! I would love to hear more about him!

Unknown said...

Yes, Harry needs a sequel and perhaps an apprentice!

Anonymous said...

Cute! :)

Lori said...

Hooray for Harry, the only spider I've ever really liked!!! (Seriously, I can be a complete and utter arachnaphobe. But I like knitting spiders.) What a lovely job you did!

KathyR said...

Yay for Harry! Great story. Fleegle!

Lacefreak said...

Dear fleegle,

I love Harry! His is a wonderful story of triumph over adversity and I do think he deserves to have a shawl named after him. Excellent story!

Stickyfingers said...

what a great story!

Very enjoyable -- and what a great personality Harry has!

Holly said...

I love Harry! Whatta guy! He is so creative!

Batty said...

I love your story! Your blog is great, your creativity and your elaborate entries often make my day.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Fleegle, Harry is marvelous. Please please please do more! Thanks for making my evening...


Nurhanne said...

:-) Love it!

Mranthe said...

Go Harry, the Spider King -- please accept this offering of flies and spiders so that you may devote more time to such royal endeavors!
Thanks, Fleegle, for brightening my morning today!

Lynn said...

I love good knitting, and I love good writing. I have a friend who served a mission to Japan when he was younger. I'm sending him a link to your post. And I'm bookmarking you.

Anonymous said...

What a great story! And illustrations, too! Do you really work in Japan, or was that just for the story?

--Deb said...

(sniffle) That was just such a sweet story . . . I love a happy ending!

Laughingrat said...

Harry is so loveable! It's funny how a gruesome creature can become a pal once we choose to give it a name. :)

Hege said...

This is a great story! Is Harry really ten inches across? I don't think I would be able to sleep. :)

osmia said...

Great story. Have you really knit a kimono?

Kathy Kathy Kathy said...

Harry has ESS--8th sock syndrome. I might have to borrow your fairy tale for the kids at my school. It should be a picture book.