Soft Horizons



There is a world of plant and animal to twist into fiber: comb bamboo, gather the underbelly tufts from an Arctic Ox to spin into light thread, stroke away the hair of a rabbit and knit. The cottonwood wisps of spring would make fine garments. The harvest of fibers does no harm to any living creature, except perhaps the cut bamboo cane. Yarn tells its story through the fingers of women.

The shop is closing, the one on the ground floor of an old house bordering campus. It is painted soft green with a deep porch wrapping around the front overlooking rose bushes. Inside the small rooms were shelves spilling over with merino, silk, and wool in all colors and none. An antique oak table in what was once a dining room hosted knitting classes. I came to learn late in life, but my beginner’s class was canceled. Not to be dissuaded. I taught myself to knit watching videos on the internet. Long-tail cast-on, yarn over, purl, make two-together, cast off—a coded language of loops and knots akin to conjuring.

Angora is coaxed from contented hares and spun around a core of silk thread. Cashmere comes from the belly hair of goats. Alpaca is strong and warm and soft. I abandoned my needles for many seasons. Projects languished in baskets and paper bags, which often happens in summer until they’re taken up again at Samhain when the days grow dark. I left much undone.

I sat at the table for a day with a mill-end ball of wool and cast-on a thousand stitches and ripped them out again. I knitted and purled a dozen rows, binding off but for the last stitch and ripped it out again. Join in the round, left slanting decrease, each knot recalled in the hand. I unraveled the unfinished cowl and wound it up again. In the telling of the yarn, nothing is ever lost.

Author: Kim K. McCrea

Kim K. McCrea earned her BA in English before embarking on a career in technology and public service. Kim won Oregon Writers Colony 2018 essay award, Treefort’s 2017 Wild West Writing Prize, and was named runner-up in Cutbank 2018 Big Sky/Small Prose contest. Her creative nonfiction is featured in Cutbank, Tishman Review, Cagibi, and elsewhere; she is the author of the novel Pandora's Last Gift. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Kim lives in Oregon, where she studies the moon and stars and wanders with her Labrador in the rain.

11 thoughts on “Soft Horizons”

  1. I used to spin the from our Afghan Hounds—very soft. I groomed about once a week and the process was in no way abusive or exploitative of the dogs. Some of them even liked being groomed, though I mostly didn’t. What I cleaned from my brushes was the best part. I made a granny-square afghan out of Afghan yarn.

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  2. From the belly hair of goats! Gosh I love cashmere, didn’t know that. An intricate piece here, as they all are! I actually sometimes imagine I can write (or try to) with your voice, and love that…for as bombastic and weird as that may sound, I love the frequency you’re tuned into. What do they say about imitation? Well in any case, thanks for this Kim! To soft horizons for sure

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      1. Words on screens like this are hard, thanks for maybe reading between the lines in my clumsy attempt at a compliment. Be well!

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  3. On Lake Inle in Myanmar is a spinning studio, on stilts in the water. They weave from yarn made from lotus plant fibers. One of the most extraordinary spots on the planet. You approach by boat and the clackety clack clack of the hand looms echoes across the lake….

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  4. I, too, loved to wander in Soft Horizons among the colors and textures of the spun yarns. I will miss them. I never learned to knit really, a few strips of experiments, but lefties are sometimes thought to be challenged by knitting–and even though I think it not true, I fell for it much of my life and have settled for only crocheting and some weaving. Eugene Textile Center still provides a lot of options, but the other yarn shop on S. Oak Street, behind the hardware store, with so many organic yarns is also gone.
    Spinning, it’s not too late to learn to drop spin, like a proper spinster crone with her cosmic spindle whorling–the axis from which our twisting tantric spun world spins, a ribbon of sinuous texture infinitely weaving unending wholeness.

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    1. Thank you for your lovely touching comment. Soft Horizons was a refuge on stormy winter days such as today, to wander and touch so many exquisite textures and see through the fingers. I learned to knit when threading a needle for beading, embroidery, or trapunto became too difficult and tedious. Your words inspire me to consider spinning


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