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Blocked Issue 4

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ISSUE 4<br />

Size Inclusivity<br />

Fleece to Yarn<br />

The Process, Pt 2<br />

Lazy Knitter’s guide to<br />

Becoming a Master Knitter


Editor<br />

Neil of Uknitted Kingdom<br />

For all enquiries:<br />

blockedmagazine@gmx.com<br />

Cover Illustration<br />

© 2022 Uknitted Kingdom<br />

Illustrations<br />

Abby D<br />

Neil of Uknitted Kingdom<br />

Contributors<br />

BeauNoze<br />

BS Designs<br />

D. Marie Prokop<br />

Erin W<br />

Lady Jennifer<br />

The Laziest Knitter<br />

Uknitted Kingdom<br />

Proofreading<br />

Cezanne P<br />

Denise P<br />

Laura N<br />

BS. Studio<br />

Unless otherwise indicated the information,<br />

articles, artwork, patterns and photography<br />

published in BLOCKED Magazine are subject<br />

to copyright ©2022 BLOCKED Magazine.<br />

All rights reserved.<br />

BLOCKED Magazine permits the online<br />

distribution of the magazine in it’s entirety.<br />

Distribution of any of the contents of this<br />

magazine are for purposes of sale or resale<br />

is strictly prohibited.


?<br />

Dearest readers,<br />

It’s been a few months since the release of issue 3, and, contrary to the hopes<br />

of some of the ‘knutters’, I’m not going away anytime soon! I’ve been quite<br />

amused to read that those most irritated by the delay, exclusively consisted of<br />

our most vocal critics. "He’s already late” whined one. “Is that ‘magazine’ still a<br />

thing?” queried another. “I knew he wouldn’t last!" exclaimed a third.<br />

Meanwhile… still here!<br />

It's crucial that small publications, such as <strong>Blocked</strong>, continue to be circulated<br />

and read in spite of those that wish to curtail free speech, opinion, and thought.<br />

To date, every issue of <strong>Blocked</strong> has been reported for hate-speech, and every<br />

issue of <strong>Blocked</strong> has subsequently been vindicated of all charges. It’s an amusing<br />

merry-go-round that informs everyone that <strong>Blocked</strong> is still relevant, and still worth<br />

reading. It’s a small victory against hatred that I look forward to winning every<br />

issue. By the time you read this, <strong>Blocked</strong> will have won, again.<br />

This issue welcomes an author to <strong>Blocked</strong>’s virtual pages. Each issue D. Marie<br />

Prokop will write a short piece of knitting related fiction. The story genre is likely<br />

to change, so if this issue’s sci-fi tale doesn’t sail your boat, a future crime or<br />

romance yarn might. If you have any ideas or requests for stories feel free to let<br />

us know.<br />

Thank you for your continued support.<br />

Yours faithfully,<br />

Neil<br />

Uknitted Kingdom<br />

3


The Lazy Knitter’s Guide to<br />

by the Laziest Knitter<br />

Becoming a MASTER KNITTER<br />

Do you want to learn the secret to elevating your OK<br />

knitting into masterful knitting with virtually no effort?<br />

Have you dreamt of learning a simple trick that will allow<br />

you to knit gorgeous custom garments in just a couple<br />

of hours? Ever wished you could effortlessly take a<br />

beautiful sweater design from your imagination and<br />

transform it into reality? Get in line. Me too!!<br />

The hard truth about knitting is that it takes time and<br />

practice to become a proficient knitter. According to<br />

Malcolm Gladwell in his popular book Outliers, it takes<br />

10,000 hours to become a master of any craft. If you invest<br />

4 hours a day and 5 days a week in mastering your<br />

craft, it will take only 9.6 years to meet this standard.<br />

Thankfully, the 10,000 hour idea has been debunked<br />

many times. Although<br />

it’s true<br />

that mastery<br />

takes time and<br />

practice. How<br />

much time?<br />

That’s difficult to<br />

say but there are<br />

tips and tricks to<br />

speed up the<br />

process.<br />

TRY NEW<br />

THINGS<br />

A great way to expand your skill set is to try something<br />

new. Look for projects that have new-to-you techniques<br />

then Google them and watch videos. My second<br />

ever knitting project was socks. From the cast on to the<br />

stretchy bind-off, I had to do an internet search and then<br />

watch and rewatch videos to understand what I was supposed<br />

to be doing. I learned A LOT on that project. Determination<br />

and a simple desire to make my own socks<br />

got me through my fear of the unknown. I was surprised<br />

and delighted that my second pair of socks did not take<br />

over a month to finish! So, take a class, online or in person,<br />

or find a mentor and push beyond your comfort<br />

zone. Improvement and learning occur outside of your<br />

skill set.<br />

BETTER TOOLS =<br />

BETTER OUTCOME<br />

Have you ever<br />

watched an artist challenge<br />

themselves by<br />

using inexpensive materials<br />

to create something<br />

beautiful? These<br />

videos are among some<br />

of my favorite YouTube<br />

videos. The idea is to<br />

see if skill or materials are more important. As you can<br />

probably guess, a masterful artist can take an ordinary<br />

ballpoint pen and create a beautiful image. However, as<br />

the tools improve in quality, so does the artist’s work.<br />

If you’ve used those plastic circular needles that<br />

Hobby Lobby used to carry, you know what a difference<br />

tools can make. Sticky needles and a stiff cable ensure a<br />

miserable knitting experience. For my very first socks, I<br />

attempted to use those needles. The curl in the cable<br />

made it almost impossible to knit and my stitches clung<br />

to the plastic needle making it difficult to slide them off.<br />

I noticed that the tutorial videos did not suffer from the<br />

same frustrations and I quickly ordered better needles.<br />

Patterns are similar. A clear and detailed pattern that<br />

is free from errors will give you a much better and less<br />

frustrating experience. It’s worth doing a little research<br />

and starting with quality instructions. I’m a terrible test<br />

knitter because mistakes in patterns that eat up my time<br />

and energy make me crazy. I do not enjoy finding pattern<br />

mistakes.<br />

4


Master Knitter Continued...<br />

SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS<br />

No one wants to hear me say this but the easiest way<br />

to ensure a favorable outcome is to knit the dreaded<br />

gauge swatch. This type of pre-planning doesn’t come<br />

naturally to lazy knitters like myself but swatching is part<br />

of a set of “best practices” that masterful knitters employ<br />

to ensure success.<br />

Another useful knitting habit is reading through a<br />

pattern before casting on. It ensures you are familiar<br />

with the construction, techniques, and materials<br />

needed. You can research unfamiliar terms and skills<br />

and even practice them before you get started.<br />

QUANTITY VERSUS QUALITY<br />

One of my favorite parables on mastery of a craft<br />

comes from the book Art & Fear:<br />

Observations on the Perils (and<br />

Rewards) of Artmaking by David<br />

Bayles and Ted Orland. As the<br />

story goes, a ceramics teacher divides<br />

his class into two groups:<br />

one tasked with producing the<br />

most pottery possible, and the<br />

other with producing the best<br />

possible single work. The quantity<br />

group was not graded on quality<br />

but only on the volume of the pottery produced. Conversely,<br />

the quality group was required to submit only<br />

one piece that was graded on perfection. Who made<br />

the best work at the end of the class? It may surprise you<br />

to know that it was the quantity group. It turns out that<br />

as they were busy producing tons of work, they were<br />

learning from their mistakes and improving along the<br />

way, while the quality group spent time agonizing over<br />

perfection and learned little.<br />

WHO GIVES A RIP?<br />

Mastery is hard to define and perhaps even impossible.<br />

The “10,000 hour” standard could be used and<br />

you can declare yourself a master knitter in just a few<br />

years. Or, you could complete the three levels of the<br />

Master Handknitting program offered by The Knitting<br />

Guild Association and receive a certificate of knitting<br />

mastery as well as an official pin.<br />

Nonetheless, not everyone wants to explore the ins<br />

and outs of stranded knitting and some couldn’t care<br />

less about the color dominance that occurs in different<br />

yarn holds. You may be perfectly happy to knit only hats<br />

and do not want to invest time in learning the benefits<br />

of seaming versus seamless sweater construction.<br />

Personally, I enjoy diving deep into<br />

the different aspects of knitting. It’s a<br />

satisfying combination of art and architecture.<br />

But the thing that brings me<br />

back time and time again to this craft<br />

isn’t the intricacies but the rhythm of the<br />

needles and the meditative quality of<br />

the movements.<br />

So what defines a master knitter?<br />

Well, what brought you to knitting in the<br />

first place? Was it to find enjoyment and satisfaction in<br />

making things with your hands? In a world full of division<br />

and vitriol, where even knitting spaces are used for<br />

promoting agendas, if you can still find joy in the act of<br />

knitting, to me, you have mastered knitting. After all, isn’t<br />

that the point?<br />

We can apply this idea to our own work. Do your<br />

knitted socks have a weird hole in the ankle where the<br />

heel meets the foot? Perhaps you produce uneven<br />

stitches and a wonky fabric. Or maybe there are ladders<br />

on the side of your sleeve where the DPNs meet. All of<br />

these “mistakes” are where the learning happens. Push<br />

ahead in spite of imperfections and you may find that<br />

your knitting improves dramatically in quality.<br />

5


NEEDS YOU!<br />

WE’RE LOOKING FOR:<br />

• Test Knitters/Crocheters<br />

• Podcasters/Vloggers<br />

• Designers<br />

• Writers<br />

• Artists<br />

If you are interested in<br />

being a contributor<br />

email: blockedmagazine@gmx.com<br />

© 2022 Conley Olson, @NantucketStudios<br />

6<br />

Yarn Snobbery Continued on page 5


SIZE<br />

INCLUSIVITY<br />

by Uknitted Kingdom<br />

Knitters and crocheters present in all shapes and<br />

sizes, needle-thin, cake-of-yarn-wide, ball of wool fat,<br />

and ‘how long is a piece of yarn?’ tall. No two of us are<br />

alike. Yet for some unfathomable reason there is an expectation<br />

that we should all find off-the-peg clothing to<br />

perfectly fit our unique bodies. It is impossible to cater<br />

for everyone and, to this end, mass manufacturing has<br />

categorized us into XXS, XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL, 3XL, 4XL,<br />

5XL, and so on. Although most of us fit loosely or tightly<br />

somewhere within the sizing parameters above, those<br />

on either end of the scale often have a limited range of<br />

options. The choices enjoyed by the majority are not always<br />

available to the outliers. Any choice available can<br />

be as basic as "does it fit me or not?" Rather than "do I<br />

like it or not?"<br />

I have empathy for those that struggle to find clothing<br />

that fits. I too sit on the wrong side of ‘average’. Very<br />

few (I can’t name any in the UK) high-street stores sell<br />

men’s clothing above size 2XL. Plus-sized clothing for<br />

women seems to be a little easier to obtain and, in the<br />

UK at least, there are nationwide stores (Evans for example)<br />

specifically for larger sizes. For plus-sized men, the<br />

internet is the only option. Not seeing the item(s) beforehand<br />

can lead to disappointment.<br />

Before the string quartet begins, and the tissues are<br />

passed around, there are a few uncomfortable issues to<br />

discuss.<br />

Fat, flabby, fluffy, round, rotund, stout, plump, podgy,<br />

plus-sized, bootylicious, big-boned, buxom, boxy,<br />

blobby, wobbly, large, lardy, heavy, thick, obese, curvy,<br />

chubby, and [insert your own adjective here], which descriptor<br />

is acceptable? Every word in the above list is offensive<br />

to somebody. The language-rules imposed on<br />

us by the Left change regularly enough to keep us all off<br />

balance. No one is certain how to describe a person that<br />

we once would have recognized as ‘fat’. If the wrong adjective<br />

is used to describe your size you have no one to<br />

blame but the language-gatekeepers on the Left. For<br />

the remainder of this article I will use ‘fat’ to describe fat<br />

people. If that offends you then go and grab a tissue.<br />

You’re going to need it.<br />

For several years *some* fat people have promoted<br />

‘The Fatness Spectrum’ to categorize fatness. In an attempt<br />

to label fat sizes in a less offensive manner, the<br />

spectrum has, arguably, achieved a far more offensive<br />

labelling system than the XL, XXL system ever did.<br />

Despite the obvious difference in the amount of<br />

material used, and any difference in time taken to make<br />

it, XS to 5XL items of clothing in the UK are often sold to<br />

the customer at the same price. Whilst researching, I<br />

learned that this isn’t always the case in the USA and<br />

other countries. Although there is a price range, this is<br />

usually divided into petite, standard, and plus sizes.<br />

Luckily, for fat people, and unluckily for thin people,<br />

where the price is the same across all sizes, the manufacturers<br />

are able to absorb the cost difference rather than<br />

passing it on to the consumer. The retail price equality,<br />

despite the material inequality, is now so mainstream<br />

that any difference in price (based upon size) would be<br />

met with anger<br />

and disbelief.<br />

Where this isn’t<br />

the case is with<br />

handmade clothing.<br />

Anyone that<br />

sews understands<br />

the reality of size<br />

differences. A 3XL<br />

shirt is going to<br />

need more fabric,<br />

more thread, and<br />

more time to con-<br />

Size Inclusivity - Continued on page 8<br />

7


Size Inclusivity - Continued from page 7<br />

by Uknitted Kingdom<br />

struct than a S shirt. Knitting and crochet is much the same. You<br />

might be wondering why I’m stating such obvious facts.<br />

Those on the ‘identity politics’ Communist-train complain that<br />

fat knitters need to purchase more yarn to complete a project.<br />

Dyers and small yarn stores are being pressured into giving fat<br />

people huge discounts so that the 10 skeins of yarn needed for<br />

the XXXL size costs the same as the 5 skeins of yarn required for a<br />

L. How far does this expectation go? Is it fair that an adult size uses<br />

more yarn than a child’s? That a man’s size uses more than a<br />

woman’s? Don’t get me wrong, I love a yarn discount as much as<br />

the next knitter, but I also live in material reality. Would this concept<br />

work when buying food? ‘I eat more because I’m fat but I<br />

want to pay as if I’m eating less.’ ‘I drink more alcohol because I’m<br />

an alcoholic but I want to pay the rate of a teetotaller’. For any<br />

dyers/yarn stores that are offering fat discounts: will you demand<br />

proof of fatness? A public weigh-in? Or will you trust that your<br />

midfat customers won’t pretend to be infinifat just to get a great<br />

deal?<br />

There is a small group of loud, visible, fat knitters/crocheters<br />

who have taken it upon themselves to police the design of knitwear<br />

and crochet wear. Well-known and experienced designers<br />

are being pressed to design sweaters in every conceivable size.<br />

The issue these size-inclusive caretakers seem to have is twofold.<br />

The prohibitive cost of yarn for larger size patterns, and the scarcity<br />

of larger sized patterns in styles that suit fat bodies. How long<br />

will it be before designers are cajoled into designing hump-back<br />

cardigans, conjoined twin sweaters, and elephantiasis socks?<br />

Knitters such as Danielle La Framboise-Dodd, AKA @Yelleyknits<br />

on Instagram and @Yelleydodd on Pinterest is one of several<br />

gatekeepers who feel empowered and privileged enough to<br />

hound and harass any designer who hasn’t designed for the fattest<br />

amongst us, apologised and promised to "do better," and/or<br />

given an acceptable excuse for not doing so (none exist). As part<br />

of the harassment process, Danielle, and others like her, name,<br />

shame, and encourage weak-minded knitters to boycott the designer<br />

until he or she acquiesces to the demands being made. To<br />

be fair, Danielle is not alone. There are several people doing the<br />

same.<br />

I focus on her simply because, at the time of writing, the evidence<br />

of her bullying is proudly displayed for all to see on her Instagram<br />

page.<br />

Please don’t be like Danielle. Yes, it would be wonderful if<br />

every pattern design included instructions to create the garment<br />

in sizes ‘Ant-Man to Giant-Man’ [exchange gender to suit your current<br />

whim]. However, most knitwear/crochet designers are tiny<br />

businesses operating from the kitchen table. It is the rare knitwear<br />

designer who has graduated from fashion school or been mentored<br />

by a Rowan veteran. Often, designers are just knitters with<br />

an idea, like you and me. They start by designing garments for<br />

S<br />

L<br />

1X<br />

M<br />

2X<br />

8<br />

Yarn Snobbery Continued on page 5


Size Inclusivity - Continued from page 8<br />

by Uknitted Kingdom<br />

their children and then progress to designing for his or herself in one size.<br />

This makes sense as the designer may want to wear the original prototype<br />

rather than knitting it again. Novice designers may rely heavily on pre-published<br />

patterns or design books to calculate 2 or 3 sizes either side of the prototype.<br />

These books and instructions rarely have information on sizing for the<br />

largest sizes (smaller adults can sometimes use child sizes). For the average<br />

designer these sizes may not be viable financially (is there enough demand<br />

for these sizes?) or viable from a creative viewpoint (does the design look<br />

good on a fat body?) or viable from a knowledge and experience angle (is resizing<br />

a pattern into the high Xs something the designer is capable of<br />

doing?).<br />

There are many things to consider when knitting for a fat body. The seamless,<br />

in-the-round, drop shoulder with plenty of positive ease, might be easy<br />

to knit, cozy, and comfortable to wear, but often leaves the wearer looking like<br />

a sack of potatoes. Simply covering the lumps, bumps, curves, and rolls, doesn’t<br />

necessarily look good. If one has a poor body image it can be very tempting<br />

to use clothing as a means to hide. Conversely a garment that is ill-fitting<br />

and too tight around the belly, chest, and/or upper arms can leave the wearer<br />

feeling uncomfortable, self-conscious, and looking like a sausage bursting its<br />

skin. As an example, the raglan neck/arm shaping can be very tight and restrictive<br />

for some larger men, and women with a large bust. If this is the case<br />

might Gansey-style underarm gussets be included to give more room?<br />

Seamed sweaters with set in sleeves definitely give a better structure to a<br />

larger body and the front/back panels make the knitting easier to contend<br />

with. Yet set-in sleeves can sometimes be too tight, and the front of sweaters<br />

may need to be longer than the back to accommodate a belly. Often the allowance<br />

for necks is calculated with the same percentage increase as the rest<br />

of the sweater, leaving huge neck openings that slip down a shoulder or gape<br />

in an unflattering manner. Even colorwork or stripes can make a fat person appear<br />

bigger or rounder (It isn’t necessarily horizontal stripes either, see<br />

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-superhumanmind/201502/what-makes-you-look-fat-vertical-or-horizontal-lines<br />

.)<br />

These are all considerations that make designing for a fat body difficult for<br />

a fat designer, let alone a slim designer working within his/her own limited<br />

tried and tested size calculations.<br />

When you see a pattern you like, there is nothing wrong with politely asking<br />

the designer if it might be available in your size. But if the designer says<br />

“no”, then as disappointed as you may be, you should accept that answer. No<br />

one is owed a pattern in his/her size. No one. By all means approach a designer<br />

and ask if you can commission them to design a pattern in your size, or<br />

to adapt an existing pattern to your size, or, better yet, learn to design and/or<br />

adapt patterns to fit your own body. Start by making a prototype for yourself,<br />

and then calculate to include 2 or 3 sizes above and below. You don’t have to<br />

design for small or medium sizes. Leave the multi-sizing to the big brands and<br />

those that have chosen that particular size-inclusive hill to die on.<br />

FIRE THEM!!<br />

9


By The Bunker Member Formerly Known As BeauNoze<br />

Ravelry Banning.<br />

THE FIRST PART.<br />

On June 23, 2019, Ravelry made a sweeping<br />

statement that anyone who supported Donald<br />

Trump, the duly elected President of the United<br />

States, was no longer welcome on their platform.<br />

Shock waves were sent across the world. This was<br />

“unprecedented.” This was like “Gamergate.” Arguments<br />

pro and con regarding censorship and platform<br />

vs. publisher were bandied about across the<br />

internet. Meanwhile, a group of knitters shrugged<br />

because they’d been here before.<br />

In anticipation of the 2008 presidential election,<br />

a number of groups emerged on Ravelry supporting<br />

various candidates and parties. There were a<br />

number of groups before the primaries that were<br />

pro-Hillary Clinton, pro-Barack Obama, pro-Libertarian,<br />

pro-Green Party, etc. There were a number of<br />

groups on the other side of the political spectrum as<br />

well, but the one we’re going to focus this article on<br />

was the John McCain/Sarah Palin group. This group<br />

was not solely for strictly conservative people; there<br />

were women who were moderate or conservative<br />

Democrats, independents who held some conservative<br />

values, and people somewhere in the middle. As<br />

the election cycle continued, some wonderful<br />

people joined who were also Hillary supporters, but<br />

had moderate views that went against the party’s<br />

chosen candidate.<br />

We all know that politics can be controversial<br />

and discussions can get heated quickly, but that<br />

was not necessarily true in this group. The joy of this<br />

group was that there was a zero-tolerance policy. It<br />

was clearly stated that the board was strictly for supporters<br />

of McCain/Palin. Ravelry has many, many<br />

areas where political debates are the focus (such as<br />

the “Big <strong>Issue</strong>s Debate” group) At this point, there<br />

were a number of groups dedicated solely to the<br />

supporters of Obama in which members could voice<br />

whatever they wanted, but this group was OUR<br />

space. Any posts that attacked members for their<br />

stated beliefs were deleted. Any “educational”<br />

posts were deleted. Any rude posts from nonmembers<br />

were deleted. There were many guests<br />

in the group who were polite, and while they did not<br />

share our beliefs, were able to engage in dialogue<br />

that was mature, informative, and respectful.<br />

Keep in mind this was before a number of features<br />

that have since been put in place by Ravelry to<br />

allow the admins of groups to protect and monitor<br />

their groups. Features that many members begged<br />

Ravelry’s owners to implement as a way of creating<br />

spaces where people could have dialogue without<br />

the interruption of people looking to create chaos,<br />

which some people now call “safe spaces.” We were<br />

unable to ban anyone, block anyone from posting,<br />

require membership for posting, etc. Moderators<br />

could post rules and “Terms of Service” for their<br />

groups, but there was no way to enforce them other<br />

than constant vigilance by the moderators.<br />

After the 2008 election, the group’s name obviously<br />

needed to be changed. We did not want to<br />

disband our group but were not comfortable posting<br />

in other groups, so the name was changed to<br />

“The Bunker.” A forum where people felt comfortable<br />

discussing ways to navigate daily life while<br />

holding certain points of view was a matter of selfpreservation.<br />

Again, similar to the “safe spaces”<br />

which became much more widely touted a decade<br />

later.<br />

You would think that people would be satisfied<br />

that their candidate had won and they would move<br />

on and go about their usual business of knitting and<br />

sharing their projects. This did not happen. Many<br />

“sore winners” continued to come into the group<br />

and “troll” the members. Things got so bad that in<br />

January 2009, the group was closed with only 24<br />

hours’ notice. Ravelry only notified one moderator,<br />

and when the group was informed, there was an out-<br />

10


Ravelry Banning - Continued From page 10<br />

cry. We wanted to know why. What had we done?<br />

The moderator of the group had been informed<br />

that we had created a “culture of anger.” However,<br />

behind the scenes, the mod had been informed<br />

that the trolls had complained about the group so<br />

much that the owners were siding with them to<br />

keep the peace. This one group was simply taking<br />

up too much of Ravelry’s resources, so they were<br />

shut down. Eventually, one of the group members<br />

(a Hillary supporter, by the way) used her own funds<br />

to secure a message board off of Ravelry and that<br />

was The Bunker’s new home. This site was not only<br />

known of but APPROVED by the Ravelry<br />

admins.<br />

There were other groups on Ravelry that were<br />

not politically based. Groups for read-a-longs of the<br />

book Atlas Shrugged or for a particular group of<br />

friends, for example. Those groups were infiltrated<br />

as well and reported to Ravelry as being “exclusive.”<br />

The question was never asked why anyone would<br />

want to join a group for a book they didn’t want to<br />

read or a group for people they didn’t know.<br />

On March 14, 2009, many members of the<br />

offsite Bunker message board logged into Ravelry,<br />

only to find an “Error 403: Forbidden”<br />

message. No warning, no message, nothing.<br />

Friends trying to find our accounts found only<br />

“User No Longer Active” messages. Patterns<br />

purchased through Ravelry and stored in on-site libraries<br />

were no longer accessible. Any patterns designed<br />

or modified by members of The Bunker,<br />

their own intellectual property, were no longer<br />

available to them.<br />

In the interest of brevity, the aftermath of this<br />

can be condensed down to members asking for<br />

clarity and reasons for their being banned, and Ravelry<br />

admin holding firm on their decisions and refusing<br />

to explain. There have been rumors of both<br />

attorney and FBI involvement, but at the very least,<br />

much of what happened was extremely unprofessional.<br />

At some point, people just moved on to<br />

avoid being continually dragged through the mud.<br />

The bottom line is that in 2009, Ravelry declared<br />

that the owners could accept or ban whomever<br />

they wished. They demonstrated this again in 2019<br />

when they banned all Trump supporters. In 2021,<br />

they modified the website, leaving many members<br />

unable to access it due to serious physical problems<br />

caused by the new graphics. Rather than listening<br />

to members’ concerns about real medical<br />

problems, Ravelry’s owners just doubled down on<br />

their obvious lack of regard for their own members.<br />

It should be obvious by now that Ravelry’s<br />

owners do not care about its members, regardless<br />

of their ideology, unless they are part of a very select<br />

group of people, which doesn’t seem inclusive<br />

at all. None of this is meant to persuade anyone to<br />

use or not use Ravelry or any other site. We all have<br />

free will and can do what we want, without repercussions.<br />

This is just a historical account.<br />

Ravelry made a statement on their main board<br />

that this banning was due to members of The<br />

Bunker clicking through links on their offsite board<br />

to Ravelry somehow causing a “disruption.” Clicking<br />

links to go to another site is an everyday occurrence,<br />

even in 2009. Of the more than 600 people<br />

in the original Bunker group, approximately 110<br />

were members of the offsite board. Ravelry claimed<br />

to have over 300,000 members at that time, and<br />

even in the unlikely event that all 110 Bunker<br />

members were to click through from the off-site<br />

board at the same time, that would hardly constitute<br />

a “disruption” to Ravelry.<br />

11


DISHIDENT #5<br />

by UKnitted Kingdom<br />

PATTERN DESCRIPTION<br />

Each issue of <strong>Blocked</strong> will contain a ‘secret’ pattern.<br />

The design will only be revealed as you knit. The<br />

instructions might uncover an image; a design, or a<br />

word/message.<br />

When using cotton these secret squares make<br />

excellent dishcloths. If you make 4 or 5 of each square<br />

in wool or acrylic they can be seamed together at the<br />

end of the year to make a small Afghan or lap blanket.<br />

GAUGE & MATERIALS<br />

Each dishident uses approximately 41 to 43g of<br />

worsted weight 100% cotton. Follow the yarn<br />

manufacturer’s recommended needle size.<br />

RECOMMENDED NEEDLES<br />

Adult Medium<br />

3.5mm circular, or dpn or size to knit gauge<br />

5.0mm circular or dpn or size to knit gauge<br />

Adult Large<br />

3.75mm circular or dpn to knit gauge<br />

5.5mm circular or size to knit gauge<br />

Stitch markers<br />

DIRECTIONS<br />

→ R1 [WS]: k45<br />

← R2 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R3 [WS]: k45<br />

← R4 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R5 [WS]: k5, p8, k2, p3, k5, p4, k5, p8, k5<br />

← R6 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R7 [WS]: k5, p3, k7, p3, k4, p6, k4, p3, k10<br />

← R8 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R9 [WS]: k5, p3, k7, p3, k3, p3, k2, p3, k3, p3, k10<br />

← R10 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R11 [WS]: k5, p3, k7, p3, k2, p3, k4, p3, k2, p7, k6<br />

← R12 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R13 [WS]: k5, p3, k7, p3, k2, p3, k4, p3, k2, p3, k10<br />

← R14 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R15 [WS]: k5, p3, k7, p3, k2, p3, k4, p3, k2, p3, k10<br />

← R16 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R17 [WS]: k5, p3, k7, p3, k2, p3, k4, p3, k2, p8, k5<br />

← R18 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R19 [WS]: k45<br />

← R20 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R21 [WS]: k45<br />

12


← R22 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R23 [WS]: k6, p3, k5, p3, k2, p3, k2, p7, k2, p3, k3,<br />

p3, k3<br />

← R24 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R25 [WS]: k6, p3, k5, p3, k2, p3, k2, p3, k6, p3, k1,<br />

p1, k1, p3, k3<br />

← R26 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R27 [WS]: k6, p3, k5, p3, k2, p3, k2, p3, k6, p9, k3<br />

← R28 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R29 [WS]: k6, p3, k5, p8, k2, p6, k3, p4, k1, p4, k3<br />

← R30 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R31 [WS]: k6, p3, k5, p3, k2, p3, k2, p3, k6, p3, k3,<br />

p3, k3<br />

← R32 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R33 [WS]: k6, p3, k5, p3, k2, p3, k2, p3, k6, p2, k5,<br />

p2, k3<br />

← R34 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R35 [WS]: k3, p9, k2, p3, k2, p3, k2, p7, k2, p1, k7,<br />

p1, k3<br />

← R36 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R37 [WS]: k45<br />

← R38 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R39 [WS]: k45<br />

← R40 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R41 [WS]: k6, p10, k3, p9, k5, p5, k7<br />

← R42 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R43 [WS]: k6, p10, k3, p9, k5, p5, k7<br />

← R44 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R45 [WS]: k6, p5, k8, p4, k10, p5, k7<br />

← R46 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R47 [WS]: k6, p5, k8, p4, k10, p5, k7<br />

← R48 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R49 [WS]: k6, p5, k8, p8, k6, p5, k7<br />

← R50 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R51 [WS]: k6, p5, k8, p8, k6, p5, k7<br />

← R52 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R53 [WS]: k6, p5, k8, p4, k10, p5, k7<br />

← R54 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R55 [WS]: k6, p5, k8, p4, k10, p5, k7<br />

← R56 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R57 [WS]: k6, p5, k8, p9, k2, p11, k4<br />

← R58 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R59 [WS]: k6, p5, k8, p9, k2, p11, k4<br />

← R60 [RS]: k45<br />

→ R61 [WS]: k45<br />

← R62 [RS]: k45<br />

ABBREVIATIONS<br />

CO<br />

k<br />

p<br />

Cast on<br />

Knit<br />

Purl<br />

TIPS<br />

If preferred, slip the first OR the last stitch of every<br />

row to create a neater edge. When purling a stitch<br />

immediately after knitting a stitch; pull the excess<br />

yarn out of the purl stitch before knitting or purling<br />

on. This helps to reduce loose/baggy knit stitches.<br />

NOTES<br />

Occasionally a dishident or secret square might not<br />

be suitable for children and ‘polite company’. Where<br />

this is the case it will be made clear. This month the<br />

designs are all child friendly and polite.<br />

If you would like to receive notifications of our next issue!<br />

Check out our Patreon!<br />

www.patreon.com/join/<strong>Blocked</strong>Magazine<br />

13


Illegal to<br />

be Me...<br />

©UKnitted Kingdom<br />

14


Dropped Stitch of the Month...<br />

Olympic gold medallist diver Tom Daley, recently<br />

presented a BBC documentary titled, Illegal To Be Me.<br />

The focus of the documentary was the Commonwealth<br />

Games and the small number of ‘out’ gay and<br />

lesbian athletes.<br />

Early in the documentary, Daley states, “There are<br />

56 member states in the Commonwealth, in over half<br />

of them [35] it is illegal to be gay. In many you can get<br />

life imprisonment, and in three you could even be<br />

sentenced to death.” These are startling and concerning<br />

facts.<br />

I’m certain Daley’s intention was, and continues to<br />

be, clearly aimed at helping lesbian and gay athletes<br />

around the world.<br />

Daley has always been a popular figure in Britain.<br />

He is remembered for being the shy young boy with a<br />

bright sporting future ahead of him. Brits, especially<br />

the English, supported him through his father’s untimely<br />

death, his public announcement of being gay,<br />

his significant diving achievements, and even through<br />

his failed celebrity diving TV show. Just when we<br />

thought we couldn’t warm to him more, he began<br />

knitting and crocheting, and quickly (seemingly overnight)<br />

became adept. He released how-to videos and<br />

patterns sponsored by a well-known yarn brand and<br />

knitters across the globe were delighted to call him<br />

‘their own’. It is because Daley is a knitter, and because<br />

of his high profile, that his comments are relevant<br />

here.<br />

It took Daley several years to accept his sexuality,<br />

stating, “Growing up I fought my own sexuality, and I<br />

hated myself for that… When I won bronze at the London<br />

Olympics I was still struggling with who I was.”<br />

When Daley told his paternal grandparents about<br />

his sexuality, he said it didn’t go well. “It’s taken them a<br />

long time to come to terms with me being gay.” He<br />

even said (paraphrased) that they were disgusted by<br />

him.<br />

This is something that I’ve noticed before. When a<br />

gay, lesbian, or trans person ‘comes out’ it is usually<br />

after several years of grappling with their feelings and<br />

situation. However, it is a rare LGB or T person that allows<br />

friends and family any time to come to terms with<br />

it. Immediate acceptance and validation isn’t just<br />

hoped for, it is expected, even demanded. When a<br />

family member doesn’t immediately wave a Pride flag<br />

and start LGB & T coffee mornings, accusations of homophobia/transphobia<br />

can be levied. Give friends<br />

and relatives the same time you gave yourself!<br />

However, the issue with Tom Daley’s documentary<br />

isn’t his coming out story. The issue is his spreading of<br />

anti-British mistruths.<br />

When Britain and other Europeans first colonised<br />

the world, there existed a level of lawlessness, cruelty<br />

and barbarism that shocked them. For example, in the<br />

Americas some women had their noses sliced or<br />

bitten off for adultery. The women were treated as little<br />

more than packhorses to carry things for the men.<br />

They had no autonomy over their bodies or lives. In<br />

South America, the sadistic rituals and sacrifices are<br />

too numerous and horrifying to list.<br />

In India, widows were burned alive on the husband’s<br />

funeral pyre. Widows were expected to do this<br />

by choice, but were forced onto the pyre by family if<br />

attempting to escape.<br />

In Australia, upon a girl reaching puberty, she was<br />

taken into the bush by an older woman. Once there, a<br />

gang of men would hold her down as her genitals<br />

were “ripped open”, and then she was gang raped by<br />

every man in the tribe, including her own father, if<br />

present. Any blood resulting from the girl’s gang rape<br />

was collected and ingested by any sick members of<br />

the tribe.<br />

In Africa especially, but also on other continents,<br />

cannibalism was common. Throughout Africa, and almost<br />

every indigenous population, slavery was common.<br />

Incidentally, Britain was the first nation to make<br />

the trafficking of slaves illegal.<br />

In all countries colonised by Europeans, rule of law<br />

was imposed to stop the depravity and cruelty that existed<br />

beforehand.<br />

The most contentious law was the Buggery Act,<br />

first implemented by Henry VIII in 1533. Regardless of<br />

our modern sensibilities, and contrary to popular belief,<br />

this was not a law to criminalise homosexuals,<br />

rather it was to criminalise the act of ‘buggery’. The<br />

law criminalised anal penetration of men, women, and<br />

children, or any sexual penetration of an animal, by a<br />

male human.<br />

Heavily influenced by the religiosity of the period,<br />

rightly or wrongly, until 1861, transgressors were executed.<br />

The law remained in place until 1885. The<br />

‘Buggery Act’ was enforced in Britain and her colonies<br />

equally. British men were subject to the same law as<br />

they were throughout the British Empire.<br />

By 1931, the British Empire had devolved into the<br />

15


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Knitting Patterns<br />

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16


Dropped Stitch Continued...<br />

Amigurumi/Crochet Patterns<br />

http://www.yankeerose.etsy.com/<br />

Fabrics, Sewing Patterns,<br />

and Tutorials<br />

littleragamuffin.com<br />

Knitting Patterns and Tutorials<br />

https://www.ravelry.com/stores/birdie-beanie<br />

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Knitting Patterns and Tutorials<br />

www.wiseowlknits.com<br />

British Commonwealth of Nations. At this point, most,<br />

if not all, member nations possessed complete selfgovernance.<br />

Britain no longer dictated the nations’ law<br />

for them.<br />

In Britain, the Buggery Act, and all later amendments,<br />

was finally repealed in 1967. Any of the Commonwealth<br />

nations could have repealed the law at the<br />

same time. In fact, they could have repealed it before<br />

Britain, any time after 1931. Many, to this day, choose<br />

not to.<br />

The blame for continuing to enforce an antiquated<br />

law should not be directed at the long dead<br />

lawmakers of yesteryear. Rather, the blame should<br />

be placed squarely on the shoulders of modern<br />

lawmakers and their voters.<br />

There is an avoidance of facts, in order to perpetuate<br />

the myth that these nations would be living in a<br />

homosexual paradise, if not for the evil British. It’s too<br />

uncomfortable for the Left (particularly the BBC) to<br />

acknowledge that these non-white-governed nations<br />

are not LGB & T friendly.<br />

Daley was led to believe by a Jamaican university<br />

lecturer (specialising in race and sexuality), that the<br />

British introduced anti-homosexual laws to Jamaican<br />

slave plantations simply to ensure all sex between<br />

slaves produced a child slave. Although children of<br />

slaves were considered property, this is not the reason<br />

for the law. Anal sex was illegal for slave owners and<br />

slaves alike, and anyone else governed by British Law.<br />

Upon hearing more of the lecturer’s assertions, Daley<br />

exclaims, “It honestly makes me feel sick to be British”.<br />

If not for the British, had Daley been Indian, his<br />

mother would have been burned on his father’s funeral<br />

pyre.<br />

Britain, like all colonising nations, introduced great<br />

things to the world. They, like EVERY culture, also<br />

performed atrocities. The British Empire’s atrocities<br />

pale in comparison to those of the Ottoman Empire,<br />

yet only the British are demonised.<br />

People in our past, in every culture, in every<br />

country, led harder, more brutal lives.<br />

As a Brit, whose ancestors didn’t colonise<br />

anywhere (I wouldn’t be in Britain if they had!), I’m<br />

extremely proud of what Britain gave to the world.<br />

Arguably, every country Britain touched was left a<br />

much improved place.<br />

To Tom Daley, if you’re so ashamed of Britain,<br />

stop competing under her banner.<br />

17


Growing Pains:<br />

by Erin W<br />

How Yarn is Born<br />

Part 2<br />

PILLAR 4: CLEANING AND ANALYZING<br />

Once the animal has been sheared and the fleece<br />

has had time to dry out, you can proceed with the<br />

next steps: skirting, sorting, and grading. Skirting is<br />

the same for both alpacas and sheep, but sorting and<br />

grading look different with sheep than with alpacas.<br />

Since sheep are much more genetically stable, you<br />

can have much larger herds of very similar sheep. An<br />

alpaca farmer usually has to manually sort and grade<br />

their fiber, whereas there are more mechanical tools<br />

available to one working with sheep so the process<br />

can be faster and more efficient.<br />

Skirting time is also when a farmer can truly get a<br />

complete picture of how their nutrition, management,<br />

and breeding programs are performing. It is much<br />

easier to assess an animal’s physical makeup when<br />

they aren't covered in fleece or wool. Some animals<br />

can carry so much dense fiber that it can make them<br />

feel fatter than they really are when the farmer tries to<br />

check their body condition. It is also much, much easier<br />

to truly examine the fiber of each animal when it's<br />

no longer on a squirmy animal that really just wants to<br />

be left alone.<br />

Skirting itself is a simple process but it requires<br />

skill and experience. The first step is gently transferring<br />

the fleece to the skirting table. The next step involves<br />

carefully feeling every inch of the blanket fiber<br />

to feel what is consistent with the whole. Skirting firsts<br />

goes a lot faster than seconds or thirds because you<br />

mainly have to check the perimeter of the fleece. For<br />

firsts and seconds, the skirting process is very similar,<br />

anything that doesn't look or feel the same as the rest<br />

goes into the next grade down. With thirds, it's simply<br />

a matter of removing any debris and shaking out dust<br />

since by nature they are dirtier.<br />

The most time-consuming part of processing alpaca<br />

fleece is the sorting and grading process. We researched<br />

several existing protocols for sorting and<br />

grading alpaca fiber but found them to not be stringent<br />

enough for our needs, so we developed our<br />

own. We created a rather extensive set of parameters<br />

to give us an idea of which animals produce the<br />

amount and type of fiber we want and then selectively<br />

breed more animals that give us those<br />

qualities.<br />

Fiber testing is important to provide information<br />

on how soft, uniform and elastic a fleece is. The vast<br />

majority of alpacas have a lot of variation in how consistent<br />

their blankets are. Fiber testing is just part of<br />

the analysis process since ideally, at the end of the<br />

process, that fiber is going to be worn by someone.<br />

Hence why both fiber testing and manual examination<br />

are absolutely critical with alpaca fiber. Sheep are<br />

very stable and consistent, so simply testing their<br />

wool is enough.<br />

Sheep farmers with larger, more genetically similar<br />

flocks sort each similar fleece into a bale and core test<br />

with a machine. Mechanical fiber testing is destructive,<br />

and a typical core test would destroy almost all<br />

of the 60-pounds of fiber my herd produces. Between<br />

the inherent problems that alpaca fiber has and how<br />

little fiber my herd produces, we simply could not resort<br />

to mechanical testing, so we had to develop our<br />

own test. Using a jeweler’s glass, I check fiber samples<br />

from 6 different sites on each blanket to see how<br />

similar the fibers are in each sample and across the<br />

entire blanket. The process is very useful and successful,<br />

but the drawback is that it takes me 2-3 hours to<br />

skirt, sort, and grade each fleece.<br />

Once you know how soft and uniform each fleece<br />

is, they can be sorted<br />

into runs with similar<br />

fleeces. Each run of<br />

similar fleeces is a<br />

different grade.<br />

There are several<br />

grading systems for<br />

wool and we developed<br />

one of our own<br />

18


How Yarn is Born, Part 2, Continued...<br />

for alpacas. The Bradford count system (aka English<br />

Count System or Spinning Count System) describes how<br />

many 560 yard hanks of single yarn can be spun from<br />

one pound of worsted top. If it is 64 hanks, that wool<br />

would be classified as 64s. The modern USDA grading<br />

system is based on the Bradford count system.<br />

Note: You can find the full US standards for grades of<br />

wool here:<br />

https://www.apparelsearch.com/wool_grades_procedure_1968.pdf<br />

With wool, there is classing as well. This describes the<br />

conditions where the sheep lived and the age of the<br />

sheep. While lamb's wool is very fine it can also be weak.<br />

Lambs are under more stress than adult sheep and their<br />

immune systems are still developing, leaving them more<br />

susceptible to disease and parasites. Between weaning<br />

and being at the low end of the herd hierarchy and therefore<br />

pushed around more, lambs have surprisingly stressful<br />

lives.<br />

Once the wool has been skirted, sorted, graded, and<br />

classed, it is baled in baling machines, making a compressed<br />

cube of raw wool. Alpaca fiber is not consistent<br />

enough for this, so individual farms have their own<br />

methods of handling skirted fiber. Regardless of whether<br />

we're talking about bales of wool or bags of alpaca fiber<br />

the next step is the same: washing or scouring.<br />

Wool contains a lot of greasy lanolin, while alpaca<br />

fiber contains some natural oils but the biggest issue is<br />

dirt and dust. How each fiber is washed is different as a<br />

result. Scouring trains are designed for wool, with different<br />

basins for each step, each one containing a scouring<br />

agent or clean water for rinsing. Alpaca contains a lot<br />

more dust and dirt which is difficult to remove, is more<br />

prone to felting, meaning it requires more delicate handling,<br />

and it is not possible to get commercial quantities<br />

of alpaca fiber. Sending 60 pounds of fiber through a<br />

scouring train that’s designed to handle thousands of<br />

pounds of fiber isn’t feasible.<br />

The lanolin in wool sticks to any dirt. So it’s pretty simple<br />

to clean using a scouring agent that is designed to<br />

clean wool, the correct temperature water, and minimal<br />

agitation. Alpaca has no lanolin and the animals really<br />

love taking dust baths, so even with careful cleaning and<br />

the correct scouring agent, there is still quite a bit of dust<br />

and natural oils in alpaca fiber. There are essentially small<br />

washing machines for cleaning alpaca fiber, and cleaning<br />

the machines is a critical part of maintenance. From a<br />

commercial perspective, time is money. Cleaning these<br />

machines is a very time-consuming process, with different<br />

brushes and dental picks used to remove fiber or any debris.<br />

Build-up happens much more quickly with alpaca<br />

fiber because it is much harder to clean properly. Wool is<br />

much easier to process than alpaca because it is so easy<br />

to clean.<br />

Following washing, the fiber is then dried, and once<br />

dry, goes through a machine called a picker. A picker is a<br />

rotating drum with large, widely spaced teeth to help fluff<br />

up the fiber after it is washed and dried.<br />

PILLAR 5: PROCESSING PATHS<br />

The next step depends on what processing path the<br />

fiber is best suited for. If the fiber is coarser with a shorter<br />

staple length, it is better suited for woolen processing.<br />

Woolen processing produces yarn containing fibers in<br />

different directions so the final yarn is lofty and warm. A<br />

woolen yarn's strength comes from how many plies it has<br />

and the larger fiber that it is spun from. Alternatively, very<br />

soft and uniform fiber is best suited for the worsted process<br />

since these yarns are very smooth and strong as the<br />

fibers are all parallel.<br />

In the woolen process, the next step is carding. A<br />

woolen card has a set of drums covered in differently<br />

spaced and sized teeth that can create either carded<br />

sliver or a batt. A carding machine can be set up so the<br />

fiber comes off the machine in the same web it was in on<br />

the machine. This is a batt. A drum carder produces<br />

something very similar. The other delivery from a card is<br />

card sliver. The fiber goes through a mechanism that<br />

elongates the batt into a continuous tube of non-parallel<br />

fibers. If you’re hand carding and creating rollages, card<br />

sliver is similar just much longer. Either batts or card sliver<br />

can be used in the woolen process. Only card sliver is<br />

used in the worsted process, since the end goal is a continuous<br />

tube of uniformly parallel fibers, combed top.<br />

Some people will also call card sliver roving, which is not<br />

how that word is used in commercial processing, but that<br />

is a topic for a future article.<br />

The worsted process is more complicated, and the<br />

entire process is very time-consuming, but it really sets<br />

worsted-spun yarn apart from woolen-spun yarn.<br />

Worsted process yarn has nothing to do<br />

with the “worsted” yarn weight category.<br />

Much of the fiber world’s terminology can<br />

have multiple meanings and many<br />

processes have multiple names.<br />

HOW YARN IS BORN<br />

CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE<br />

19


How Yarn is Born, Part 2, Continued...<br />

The next step in the worsted process is the same as in the<br />

woolen process; carding. However, a worsted card is set<br />

up differently than a woolen card, which is a matter of<br />

how the pins and teeth are arranged on the drums. Very<br />

fine wool that is best for the worsted process can be<br />

damaged by a woolen card, producing little neps of<br />

broken fibers, which are dense, tangled clumps and are<br />

not desirable for any use. This fiber will make it through<br />

the worsted process, but there will be more waste than<br />

if the wool had been carded with a worsted card.<br />

A worsted card delivers carded sliver at the end,<br />

like some woolen cards.<br />

If you have ever hand-carded fiber,<br />

you've seen that there are hooks on<br />

both ends of the fiber coming off your<br />

hand cards. A carding machine,<br />

whether woolen or worsted, does the<br />

same thing. The next machine in the<br />

worsted process, the pin drafter, helps to<br />

straighten out these hooks. A pin drafter has<br />

a set of rotating combs at the top and bottom and a set<br />

of rollers before and after the combs. These straighten<br />

the fiber as well as thin the carded sliver out, so it is<br />

important to make sure there is enough fiber entering<br />

the machine. The fiber goes through the pin drafter three<br />

times, then the pin drafted sliver goes to the next<br />

machine, which is the one that sets the worsted<br />

process apart: the comb.<br />

The comb is a very complicated machine that<br />

mechanizes the process of hand combing. Each run<br />

requires twenty-four feeds of pin-drafted sliver entering<br />

the comb. Then the rotary comb, which is covered in a<br />

series of specially designed teeth, individually combs<br />

every single individual fiber that passes through the<br />

machine. If there is any vegetable matter, weak fibers,<br />

inconsistent fibers, neps, etc, they are removed so that<br />

only the longest, strongest, and best fibers remain.<br />

Next, the combed sliver needs to be prepared for<br />

spinning. For this, you go back to the pin drafter to make<br />

the combed sliver thicker or thinner for different weight<br />

yarns. After the last two passes through the pin drafter, it<br />

can finally be called top sliver or worsted top. At this<br />

point, the top can either go directly to spinning or be<br />

blended with top made from other fibers.<br />

The beauty of worsted top is that different types of<br />

spinning mills can work with it. Top is the standard in<br />

many commercial spinning mills, but it is also very well<br />

suited to mini-mill spinning frames. For mini-mills,<br />

however, it needs to be pin drafted to exactly the weight<br />

that the mini-mill needs to spin from because of how<br />

limited mini-mill equipment is in general.<br />

IN CONCLUSION<br />

This is a very general overview of the fiber process<br />

from animal to yarn, and each step is really much more<br />

complicated than this simplified outline. For anyone who<br />

is interested in more information on fiber properties, I<br />

have two blog posts on my website that discuss the topic<br />

in more detail.<br />

Exploring the Technical Side<br />

https://mainetopmill.com/blog/exploring-the-technical-side<br />

Building on the Basics (Skirting fiber)<br />

https://mainetopmill.com/blog/building-on-the-basics<br />

For all of the problems and issues we have<br />

encountered with both raising alpacas and the industry<br />

as a whole, the entire experience was worthwhile.<br />

My dad and I never would've started the mill we now<br />

run together and we never would've learned just how<br />

wonderful and amazing the world of wool truly is. Every<br />

fiber has its place, and I definitely love and appreciate<br />

wool a lot more now. I am also endlessly frustrated by the<br />

alpaca industry because, quite honestly, the direction that<br />

it is moving in is not one of true commodity-producing<br />

livestock. I believe that the Chiribaya people would be<br />

shocked to see just how far their careful breeding program<br />

has fallen, and just how unrecognizable the modern<br />

alpaca is. Applying the same level of dedication the<br />

Chiribaya applied when they created alpacas really is<br />

something most modern humans should be capable of.<br />

To create is to be human, and there is nothing quite<br />

so uniquely human as to create with fiber. Fiber arts<br />

should bind us together and allow us to express the<br />

“infinite diversity in infinite combinations” that is the<br />

most accurate representation of humanity as a whole.<br />

If you have an interesting article idea or<br />

contribution you think may be of interest.<br />

You can submit your contribution to:<br />

blockedmagazine@gmx.com<br />

20


Bloggers<br />

& Vloggers<br />

1<br />

Adventures With Yarn - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbFHj9k5Uxc44g1pnlgiQjg<br />

2<br />

3<br />

4<br />

5<br />

6<br />

7<br />

8<br />

9<br />

For all the latest drama in the fibre world – including what didn’t make it into the magazine!<br />

Anna Knitter - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkE2h6s400fRkasl6zyX_jg<br />

A podcast about knitting and crocheting with glimpses of a roman-catholic life.<br />

<strong>Blocked</strong> Magazine - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAY880IYHF8gJ8b-UdEWAxQ<br />

For all the latest drama in the fibre world – including what didn’t make it into the magazine!<br />

Deprogrammed - https://www.youtube.com/c/KeriSmithDeprogrammed/featured<br />

Interviews intended to better understand and make sense of her old belief system, Social Justice ideology. Including those in the crafting community.<br />

Herd knitunity - https://herdknitunity.locals.com/<br />

Shepherd and ‘woolfluencer’, a sheep to sweater kinda gal.<br />

Knitty McPurly - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCyIInmPUQGqoohNgUj0Zmow<br />

A virtual saint!<br />

Little Ragamuffin - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaogzXKmOJ9FO8fsjurrEcw/videos<br />

Sewing tutorials of both slow paced and quick speed styles, fun random sewing oddities, Ragamuffin news, and problematic interviews & conversations.<br />

Murder Knits - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbrSeXmJuT0_BglI_pzi1jg<br />

If your children watch, they'll become serial killers!<br />

Politically Incorrect Knitters - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm8CME6h72cFfQ7ZBNGCj5w<br />

Topical, informative, and fun!<br />

10<br />

Skeinz Diaries - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCswGNOSxnHlPZsQMCC2YHxQ<br />

Take off your ‘gummies’, put your feet up and prepare for a ‘tiki tour’ of yarny goodness!<br />

11<br />

High Fiber Diet - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzQ4cCawQzD6RDfwLhlZ0hQ/featured<br />

12<br />

Thick skinned with no “F’s Given!”<br />

Two Sisters & Some Yarn - https://www.youtube.com/c/TwoSistersAndSomeYarn<br />

Two sisters and some yarn – is exactly what it says on the tin!<br />

13<br />

Wise Owl Knits - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg8N6NhDdKf44_HigLiP4Ug<br />

14<br />

Knitting Tutorials<br />

ShaunaStitches - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCOfV6wkBgB6288iVQ1V9Ww/videos<br />

Knitting, spinning, crochet, quilting, and many other crafts are shown and discussed.<br />

15<br />

AStitchInTheSky - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCxq6HphzSbjU2lb7t8c6Ww/videos<br />

Knitting, sewing and all the things in between!<br />

21


ROSE CITY<br />

By Lady Jennifer<br />

Yarn Crawl!?<br />

Like most people, Jen doesn’t have a whole lot of<br />

money to throw around, so when the 2022 Rose City<br />

Yarn Crawl was announced, she started saving her<br />

pennies so she could splurge on some nice yarn for herself.<br />

Like most knitters and crocheters, she already had a<br />

plentiful stash at home, but she wasn’t just looking forward<br />

to buying more yarn, but to the entire experience<br />

of getting to look at, touch, and purchase new yarn<br />

among other “yarny” people. Knowing how much she<br />

was looking forward to the yarn crawl, her fiancé also<br />

gave her some money to spend as an anniversary gift<br />

and she spent the next few weeks in happy anticipation<br />

of the upcoming experience. Unfortunately, that entire<br />

experience was refused her.<br />

After the last two years, most of us have become accustomed<br />

to keeping an eye out for whether things like<br />

masks or “vaccine passports” will be required at any<br />

event we want to attend. Since neither Jen nor her fiancé<br />

is vaccinated, due to both medical and personal<br />

reasons, she checked the website for the one store she<br />

was most interested in heading to, Starlight Knitting Society,<br />

to see if proof of vaccination was required. Since<br />

she didn’t find anything, she thought she would be okay.<br />

As Jen doesn’t drive, on the first day of the crawl, she<br />

got an Uber to take her to The Starlight Knitting Society,<br />

but when she arrived, she found a table blocking the<br />

door with a blonde woman sitting behind it. At first, she<br />

thought the purpose was to keep the number of people<br />

inside the store under the recommended limit, and<br />

when she got to the front of the line, she gushed that<br />

she was looking forward to shopping for some fun, new<br />

yarn. The woman at the table, later identified as the<br />

shop owner, Melissa Nelson, asked for her proof of vaccination.<br />

Jen replied that she didn’t have one and Ms.<br />

Nelson replied that under the rules of the Rose City Yarn<br />

Crawl, no one would be admitted without proof of vaccination.<br />

She also stated, very rudely, that if Jen was let<br />

in she would get everyone in the crawl sick.<br />

By this time, Jen was very upset and not especially<br />

happy at being told she was some kind of walking disease<br />

vector and admittedly, lost her temper a bit with<br />

the rude woman behind the table. More Starlight employees<br />

had shown up and the group was growing increasingly<br />

rude. By the end of the incident, Jen had<br />

been barred both from entry to the shop that night, as<br />

well as being threatened with refusal from participating<br />

in the 2022 Rose City Yarn Crawl entirely, which effectively<br />

banned her from almost every yarn store in the<br />

Portland metro area. At this point, Jen left and walked<br />

up the street to the corner to avoid letting the crowd<br />

which had gathered to see what the commotion was<br />

about see her tears.<br />

After pulling herself together and wiping the tears<br />

from her face, Jen took the bus to Ritual Dyes. She<br />

wanted to shop there, but it was also on the way home,<br />

which was where she now wanted to return as the magic<br />

and excitement of the day had disappeared after the<br />

treatment she had received at her first stop. When she<br />

got to Ritual Dyes, there was a sign in the window declaring<br />

that proof of vaccination was required to enter,<br />

so Jen just called another Uber to take her home. When<br />

she got there, she checked the Rose City Yarn Crawl<br />

page to search out any indication of vaccines being required<br />

to attend. As she had initially intended to just hit<br />

one or two shops, she hadn’t bothered to check the<br />

page for the whole crawl. After a long search, she finally<br />

found it on the crawl’s page, but there was nothing on<br />

the page for Starlight.<br />

22


With wounded feelings<br />

and far too much money<br />

wasted on Uber rides to nowhere,<br />

but the rest of her<br />

saved pennies still burning a<br />

hole in her pocket for want of<br />

pretty new yarn, Jen turned<br />

to the internet for comfort.<br />

She was aware of multiple<br />

yarn dyers who had been<br />

“canceled” for “wrong think”<br />

by many in the knitting world<br />

and had patronized a few with<br />

excellent results. So instead of<br />

wallowing in her misery, she<br />

sought out those yarn sellers<br />

and spent her money at<br />

Chicken Lady Fiber Arts, Knitty<br />

McPurly Yarn Co., Potion Yarns,<br />

and Tusken Knits instead.<br />

Jen had been a fan of the Politically Incorrect<br />

Knitters for a while and they were the ones that led her<br />

to Chicken Lady Fiber Arts. Since the PIK usually have<br />

a discount code for Chicken Lady’s shop, she decided<br />

to use that and try out a new yarn shop. She included<br />

a note to each “canceled” shop she patronized stating<br />

that she was using the money she had intended to use<br />

at the Rose City Yarn Crawl, as she had been refused<br />

entry to the event. The owner of Chicken Lady Fiber<br />

Arts was so sympathetic toward Jen’s bad treatment<br />

that she shared the note with her followers on Instagram.<br />

After Chicken Lady drew attention to the abysmal<br />

treatment Jen had received at the yarn crawl, the<br />

non-woke side of the knitting community sent an outpouring<br />

of love toward her and let her know that she<br />

was not alone.<br />

based on the perceived “wrongness”<br />

of their thoughts, words, or<br />

actions. We all, as human beings,<br />

need to remember that each of us<br />

is doing the best we can with what<br />

we’ve got, and we don’t always<br />

know what someone else is dealing<br />

with. Maybe the unvaccinated<br />

person has a medical reason they<br />

can’t receive any vaccine. Maybe<br />

the person still wearing a mask in<br />

the local Walmart has a condition<br />

that makes them more susceptible<br />

to transmittable diseases.<br />

Maybe the person in a dress with<br />

a 5 ‘o clock shadow is actually a<br />

mother who gave birth to two<br />

children but has a hormone<br />

problem. Maybe that big white<br />

guy in the red MAGA hat is married to a black man<br />

with three adopted multi-racial children and not racist<br />

in the least. You never know what is going on in someone<br />

else’s world. Whether it is vaccination status, political<br />

or social views, religion, sexual<br />

orientation/identity, or anything else, we all have to do<br />

our best to treat each other as well as we can and just<br />

#bekind.<br />

While the love and support Jen got online wasn’t<br />

what she had been looking forward to, it was exactly<br />

what she needed and exactly when she needed it. “It<br />

wasn’t the same as in person, but it sure did restore<br />

some faith in my fellow knitters when I really needed it<br />

the most.”<br />

Especially in the past few years, it has become<br />

commonplace for people and even businesses to feel<br />

it is their right or even their duty to treat others badly<br />

23


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24


Stay tuned<br />

for <strong>Issue</strong> 5!<br />

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pattern or article. Reach out to us!<br />

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consideration in the next issue to:<br />

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25


KNITTING &<br />

by Uknitted Kingdom<br />

MATHEMATICS<br />

No matter how hard one tries to avoid it, knitters at<br />

all levels of experience have to use math (maths in the<br />

UK) to knit. Identifying the needles to use, reading the<br />

yardage/meterage of the yarn, counting the stitches<br />

as you cast on, calculating a gauge swatch, measuring,<br />

even the simplest of knitting tasks uses math.<br />

Many of us break out into a sweat when math is<br />

mentioned, our inner critic telling us that we are “rubbish<br />

at math!” Contrary to your inner monologue, if<br />

you have knitted a project, with or without a pattern,<br />

you are probably pretty darn good at math.<br />

Yes, there are some complicated mathematical<br />

concepts that some of the knitting trailblazers have<br />

used. Knitters such as Virginia Woods Bellamy and<br />

Elizabeth Zimmermann and mathematicians Steve<br />

Plummer and Pat Ashforth, (to name a few) did all the<br />

hard thinking for us. In these cases, it doesn’t always<br />

matter how Zimmermann’s Pi shawl calculation works,<br />

or her percentage system, or how Plummer and Ashforth’s<br />

“Octopush/Octocube” works. All that matters is<br />

that you follow the directions, using the mathematical<br />

formulas provided.<br />

Virginia Woods Bellamy’s opus Number Knitting<br />

(1952) influenced the works of Zimmermann,<br />

Plummer, and Ashforth, and is now so highly sought<br />

after that, at time of writing, a print copy can not be<br />

found on Amazon UK for less than £262.07. A digital<br />

pdf copy is available for $74.99. As you can imagine, I<br />

have been hesitant to buy either version.<br />

As a process knitter, (I enjoy the experience of knitting<br />

more than the finished piece) I’m drawn to techniques<br />

and innovative designs rather than the look of<br />

a garment. I’m the kind of knitter that wants to try<br />

every version of short rows, and try (and often fail!)<br />

new ways of knitting that pesky left-leaning decrease.<br />

Some would say I am trying to “reinvent the wheel.” I<br />

agree. However, I would argue that it’s fun to come up<br />

with an alternative wheel that might, or might not, be<br />

better than the original.<br />

Following is my mathematical adventure into discovering<br />

a new wheel. In this instance, a dome. Before<br />

getting to the apex of the dome, I’ll take you back to<br />

the beginning.<br />

The Golden Ratio<br />

Since art school, I’ve been fascinated by<br />

‘The Golden Ratio’<br />

In simple terms, this is a mathematical formula to<br />

create the most pleasing composition for paintings<br />

and architecture. It has been used by artists and architects<br />

in almost every culture, for centuries.<br />

In the examples following, you can see that the<br />

Golden Ratio appears as a curved line spiraling to pinpoint<br />

an area that seems to naturally draw the eye of<br />

the viewer. The ratios used to draw the spiral are<br />

based upon the Fibonacci Sequence.<br />

The Fibonacci sequence was named after Leonardo<br />

Bonacci. Fibonacci (“son of Bonacci”) was an<br />

Italian mathematician in the 13th Century. By observing<br />

nature and calculating the breeding rate of rabbits,<br />

Fibonacci discovered that much of nature could<br />

be measured by the same sequence of numbers. The<br />

pattern and number of seeds on the head of a sunflower,<br />

the number and formation of petals on a rose,<br />

and the number and formation of the scales of a pine<br />

cone, for example, can all be calculated using the following<br />

sequence of numbers:<br />

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377,<br />

610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711,<br />

28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811, and<br />

so on...to infinity.<br />

26


Knitting & Mathematics, Continued...<br />

Once aware of the pattern and the sequence, it becomes<br />

difficult to avoid it. The pattern, when seen in<br />

life, is pleasing to the viewer and often an uninitiated<br />

viewer will not be aware of why the image, scene, or<br />

architecture is pleasing to them.<br />

Almost every great work of art has a focal point situated<br />

at the centre of a spiral that can be drawn using<br />

the sequence. Great movie directors use this spiral<br />

focal point liberally in scene composition.<br />

It’s as easy as 1,1,2,3<br />

How does the sequence work?<br />

If you take any two adjacent numbers in the<br />

sequence and add them together you will calculate<br />

the next number in the sequence. For example,<br />

1+1=2, 1+2=3, 2+3=5, 3+5=8, or later in the<br />

sequence, 233+377=610, and so on ad infinitum.<br />

Try it and see.<br />

Cast on 55 (or any other number from the Fibonacci<br />

sequence) and knit 1 garter stitch ridge (2<br />

rows) for each corresponding number. For example,<br />

Fibonacci number 1 would be 2 rows, Fibonacci<br />

8 would be 16 rows, and so on.<br />

For a truly impressive scarf: knit the sequence<br />

using 2-colour brioche. 1 Fibonacci number per<br />

brioche double-pass.<br />

The Golden Ratio Blanket<br />

Another popular Fibonacci pattern involves the<br />

use of The Golden Ratio to knit a log-cabin style<br />

blanket. Using multiple colours and using the diagram<br />

below for placement, continue as follows:<br />

1. Knit a small 10 stitch x 10 ridge (20 rows)<br />

square in garter stitch. Cast off.<br />

1. Pick up and knit 10 stitches. Knit 10 ridges<br />

(20 rows). Cast off.<br />

2. Pick up and knit 20 stitches. Knit 20 ridges<br />

(40 rows). Cast off.<br />

3. Pick up and knit 30 stitches. Knit 30 ridges<br />

(60rows). Cast off.<br />

5. Pick up and knit 50 stitches. Knit 50 ridges<br />

(100 rows). Cast off.<br />

8. Pick up and knit 80 stitches. Knit 80 ridges<br />

(160 rows). Cast off.<br />

And so on...<br />

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89,144, 233, 377,<br />

610, 987, 1597, etc.<br />

The Fibonacci sequence isn’t new to knitting and<br />

crochet. A simple search of “Fibonacci Knitting” will return<br />

thousands of patterns that use the sequence in<br />

one form or another. The vast majority use Fibonacci<br />

numbers as a striping sequence. For example, in the 2<br />

images on either side of this text:<br />

The scarf template on the left has 2 colours in<br />

sequence, one going upwards and the other going<br />

downwards.<br />

The scarf template on the right uses 2 colours in<br />

the sequence alternatively.<br />

Both produce an interesting and pleasing stripe<br />

pattern and the scarf can be made longer by introducing<br />

the next numbers in the sequence.<br />

27


Knitting & Mathematics, Continued...<br />

But how do these patterns and<br />

sequences apply to a dome?<br />

So many aspects of knitting rely on<br />

dome-like shapes. For example, sock toes<br />

and heels, mittens, hats, and even halfdomes<br />

for sleeve caps or shoulders. For<br />

the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on<br />

hats.<br />

A smaller-scale Fibonacci striping<br />

sequence from the previous page would<br />

work well on a traditional hat. However, I<br />

wanted a way of using the actual mathematics<br />

of the sequence to shape a hat.<br />

I was initially stumped as to how to<br />

achieve my aim. Then I saw the Duomo di<br />

Firenze referenced in The (Fabulous) Fibonacci<br />

Numbers (Posamentier and Lehmann,<br />

Prometheus Books, 2007) and The Golden<br />

Ratio: The Divine Beauty of Mathematics<br />

(Meisner, Race Point Publishing, 2018).<br />

The Cathedral dome was designed by<br />

Filippo Brunelleschi. Construction took<br />

over 15 years and was completed in 1461.<br />

The dome was designed using the Fibonacci<br />

sequence.<br />

At this point, I was still unsure how to<br />

apply the sequence to a hat construction.<br />

The Dome proved to me that it could be<br />

done but my mathematical ability wasn’t<br />

quite up to the task.<br />

Then I came across a single image in<br />

Meisner’s book. It is a photograph of the<br />

1970 art installation, Igloo Fibonacci by<br />

Mario Merz.<br />

Igloo Fibonacci is a structure formed with straight metal rods. Each rod joins the next at a<br />

ratio based exactly on the Fibonacci sequence. All I had to do was replace those joins with a<br />

short row turn and the pattern was formed.<br />

There are several ways in which the sequence could be used to shape the crown of a hat.<br />

28


Knitting & Mathematics, Continued...<br />

For top-down hats, the increase rounds<br />

would be the same as the sequence.<br />

Round 1 increase, round 2 increase, rounds 3 & 4<br />

plain, round 5 increase, rounds 6, 7, & 8 plain, round 9<br />

increase, and so on until the hat is your desired<br />

circumference. The stitch count between increases on<br />

the increase rows would require further calculations.<br />

Where the sequence works best is when knitting<br />

sideways-constructed hats. The sequence gives a<br />

foolproof guide for inserting a short row turn. After<br />

working out the length of the hat, it works as follows:<br />

Row 1 (RS): Knit until 1 stitch remains, turn using<br />

your favourite short row method and knit or purl back<br />

(1 stitch unworked).<br />

Row 3 (RS): knit until the next last stitch (1 stitch<br />

before the previous unworked stitch). Turn (short row)<br />

and knit or purl back. (2 stitches unworked).<br />

Row 5 (RS): Knit until the last 2 stitches. Turn (short<br />

row) and knit or purl back (4 stitches unworked).<br />

Row 7 (RS): knit until the last 3 stitches. Turn (short<br />

row) and knit or purl back (7 stitches unworked).<br />

Row 9 (RS): knit until the last 5 stitches. Turn (short<br />

row) and knit or purl back (12 stitches unworked).<br />

Row 11 (RS): knit until the last 8 stitches. Turn (short<br />

row) and knit or purl back (20 stitches unworked).<br />

At this point, the curve will be enough. Each set of<br />

stitches before the short row turn (in bold) corresponds<br />

with the Fibonacci sequence.<br />

Row 13 (RS): knit all stitches including the short<br />

row turns.<br />

Repeat these 13 steps until the hat is the<br />

circumference required.<br />

The Sieve Head pattern, featured in issue 3, is<br />

constructed using the Fibonacci sequence.<br />

You might never need, or want, to consciously use<br />

the Fibonacci Sequence in your knitting. However, it is<br />

worth remembering that the solution to most knitting<br />

obstacles lies with mathematics.<br />

One area of crafting I haven’t applied Fibonacci to<br />

(yet) is amigurumi. Crochet amigurumi is created in<br />

spirals. Fibonacci creates spirals. It seems to be the<br />

perfect pairing!<br />

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21,<br />

34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377,<br />

610, 987, 1597, 2584,<br />

4181, 6765, 10946,<br />

17711, 28657, 46368,<br />

75025, 121393, 196418,<br />

317811<br />

29


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No BS. Just Design.<br />

30


‘Therapy’<br />

Knitting is better than Therapy<br />

As stitches are created<br />

Knit, purl, yarn over, decrease one<br />

They do not analyze me, force correct answers<br />

In therapy, I am an actor in an office,<br />

Yes, I feel guilt<br />

No, I haven’t slipped<br />

Yes, I love myself<br />

No, I haven’t contemplated suicide<br />

But when knitting, I do not dwell<br />

On what is unworthy of contemplation<br />

I obey the pattern or rebel with improvision<br />

As I speed knit Continental style or English throw and flick<br />

31


Fiction<br />

By D. Marie Prokop<br />

The Angel from Mars<br />

"Cough, please."<br />

My forced bark reverberates in my skull.<br />

“Well, I’ve never seen a case of this in all my twenty<br />

years as a practicing physician. It’s psy-cho-gen-ic a-<br />

phon-i-a,” the doctor declares, over-emphasizing each<br />

syllable.<br />

Aunt Kathy stares at the doctor, mute. Like me, but not<br />

like me.<br />

“Ms. Sorensen?”<br />

Aunt Kathy’s head begins to nod. She understands his<br />

medical terminology better than I do; after all, she's a<br />

nurse. It's her fault I'm here. When she insisted I see a<br />

doctor, Mom was in no position to argue.<br />

“Yes, doctor, I understand. Jenny's loss of speech is<br />

psychological. I don’t know what I expected to hear. But<br />

it's been eight days. I promised Natalie I'd get her<br />

checked out.” Her green eyes studied me, as if I were a<br />

rat in a cage. She turns away and continues, “Jenny was<br />

with Robert, watching the fireworks, that night. When Natalie<br />

found him… found his… body… Jenny was passed<br />

out beside him.”<br />

“Yes, ma’am. I understand your concern.” He glances at<br />

me. “You poor thing.” He looks back to Aunt Kathy and<br />

whispers. “I saw the body in the morgue.”<br />

The doctor clears his throat, avoiding my eyes. I glare<br />

at him. The body? His name is Robert!<br />

I’m not surprised that he knows, just at his insensitivity.<br />

This is a tight-knit community. When the kindest farmer<br />

in the county dies mysteriously, everyone wants to know<br />

the details.<br />

His stethoscope thuds against a thick plastic button on<br />

his white coat. His expression brightens artificially. “The<br />

good news is, she shows no signs of physical injury. I believe<br />

her voice will return in time, but I do suggest setting<br />

an appointment with a psychiatrist as soon as<br />

possible.”<br />

They don't understand. Even if I were capable of<br />

speech, I wouldn’t tell them what happened that night. I<br />

don't want to. Then they’d definitely lock me in the loony<br />

bin.<br />

The doctor sits on a stool and turns to me, furrowing<br />

his eyebrows. He leans in closer, addressing me in the<br />

overly kind tone of a kindergarten teacher. “You must<br />

have been very frightened.”<br />

I shiver and pull the thin gown snug around my<br />

shoulders. I feel as vulnerable and helpless as the day<br />

Dad died. I stare past the doctor, over his thick gray<br />

hair, at a poster describing the Heimlich maneuver.<br />

I’ve almost memorized Step #1 when the cartoon choking<br />

victim on the poster stands up and marches<br />

out of the paper. He peeks around the doctor and walks<br />

toward me. As he approaches, his appearance morphs.<br />

The comic man’s brown hair lightens to a sunny blonde.<br />

His pale skin darkens to reddish-tan.<br />

Dad. He stands tall, grinning goofily, wearing his favorite<br />

faded-purple Vikings T-shirt and raggedy blue jeans.<br />

Light bursts through the dark sky. Sheep bleat and<br />

scatter. A high-pitched hum hurts my ears. Puffs of gray<br />

clouds float in the midnight blue sky, littered with<br />

clusters of red and blue sparks. “Wow, look at that one!”<br />

I exclaim. I turn to Dad. He’s clutching his throat. Blood<br />

speckles the violet cotton of his T-shirt. I spy a red<br />

line across his neck just before he collapses onto the<br />

grass. High-pitched whining engulfs my senses. I close<br />

my eyes and rub my ears. When I finally open my eyes, I<br />

search for Dad. He’s on the ground. His head is no<br />

longer attached to his body. I pass out.<br />

I try to scream but wheeze pathetically.<br />

I can’t breathe. Following the poster’s instructions, I<br />

clasp my hands over my throat, displaying the universal<br />

sign for choking.<br />

“Jenny!” Aunt Kathy yells. The doctor smacks my back<br />

with his cold palm. I gasp for air. Huge breaths at first,<br />

each one shallower than the last, until I’m breathing normally,<br />

though I doubt I’ll ever feel normal again.<br />

The strong smell of peroxide in the room burns in my<br />

nose. I can't seem to escape the annoyances of being<br />

alive: bad smells, illness, doctors, pain.<br />

Dad liked to say, “When you want something, all the<br />

universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” It’s a quote<br />

from his favorite book, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.<br />

But Dad didn’t want to die. He was never, ever annoyed<br />

by being alive, not like me.<br />

What was the universe conspiring?<br />

***<br />

The drive home is silent except for the chugging truck<br />

engine and the whoosh of air conditioning through the<br />

vents. After twenty minutes, I close the vent in front of<br />

me and blink hard to moisten my dehydrated<br />

eyeballs. Aunt Kathy sighs.<br />

32


Angel from Mars Continued...<br />

She’d given up talking to me soon after she arrived at<br />

our house a week ago. She left her life back in the city on<br />

hold to be with Mom and me. She’d found Mom curled<br />

in a ball in her bed and me unable to speak.<br />

Eight days ago—Wednesday night, July 4, 2017—life<br />

was normal. Dad and I went out to the hill by the red<br />

barn to watch the fireworks. Then I fainted. When Mom<br />

woke me, my dad was dead. I tried to cry, to speak,<br />

to scream, but no sound came out.<br />

I can’t tell anyone what I saw. It's as believable as invaders<br />

from outer-space or brain-eating zombies.<br />

I mourn silently in the backseat of the truck as Aunt<br />

Kathy pulls onto our gravel driveway.<br />

It feels strange to enter the farmhouse by the front<br />

door instead of the usual way, by the side door through<br />

the mud room. Life is strange now, I remind myself. I<br />

hadn't been out doing chores, I’d been at the doctor’s,<br />

finding out that I’m traumatized.<br />

Aunt Kathy hung the truck keys on the hook and forced<br />

a smile at me, “I washed and carded the fleece from—” I<br />

finish her sentence in my mind. From the last shearing.<br />

Right before Dad died.<br />

Spring was extra slow to warm this year, so Dad hadn’t<br />

sheared the sheep until July, which is late, even for<br />

northern Minnesota. Our feistiest ewe, Miss Bennington,<br />

was saved for last. “I want lots of practice before I shear<br />

Miss B,” Dad had said with a chuckle.<br />

I witnessed the comical sight. My strong father pinned<br />

the stubborn, bleating animal between his knees while<br />

rolling the clippers down her belly. Ivory-gray fluff rippled<br />

away from her pink skin. Soon her crinkled fleece<br />

coated the plastic sheet on the barn floor. Mom set Miss<br />

B’s coat outside, on the hill where dad and I watched the<br />

fireworks that evening.<br />

When Aunt Kathy arrived and took over the farm, Mom<br />

was too distraught to function. Still, I’m surprised<br />

Aunt Kathy washed the fiber herself instead of sending it<br />

out, like Mom usually did.<br />

I can’t believe she actually bothered prepping Miss B’s<br />

fleece into workable wool. After all, the world, like my<br />

voice, had just stopped. Hadn't it?<br />

I hate being alive without Dad. Without his laugh, his<br />

stupid jokes, his kind heart, his way of making everything<br />

more fun.<br />

We couldn't even bury him, not that I want to. It<br />

would be final then. Over. Done. But the coroner wouldn’t<br />

release his body until their investigation was over.<br />

What will they conclude?<br />

"Let me show you the wool," Aunt Kathy says, disappearing<br />

around the corner.<br />

Usually, I love spinning yarn. And I’m good at it. It's relaxing.<br />

Not like video games. I suck at those, even<br />

By D. Marie Prokop<br />

though I always said yes when Dad challenged me to a<br />

game of Mario Kart. I prefer to spend my time at the<br />

spinning wheel, twisting fluffy fiber into yarn, not sliding<br />

off Rainbow Road for the thousandth time.<br />

But now the universe is insane, and I hate it. I hate everything.<br />

Even the spinning wheel.<br />

Aunt Kathy disappears and returns with a bag in her<br />

hands. She holds it out.<br />

“Just try,” she says. Her skin looks more wrinkled than I<br />

remember, especially around her eyes.<br />

I gaze down at the wool. The bundle of ivory fluff, Miss<br />

B’s coat, tempts me to pretend all is well.<br />

Get back to normal, it says.<br />

There is no normal, I reply.<br />

But as I stare at it, I see Dad shearing that grumpy<br />

sheep. More than anything, I want to hold onto that<br />

image, so I nod and take the bag from her hands.<br />

A tear trespasses Aunt Kathy’s cheek, and she turns<br />

away from me.<br />

The bag of wool is like lead. My anger at the universe<br />

chokes the nostalgia in my hands. I should chuck this<br />

fleece all the way to the moon. If only I could cast my<br />

pain and anger into outer space, too.<br />

Instead, I hold the bag, and my memories of Dad,<br />

tight.<br />

Shuffling my feet, I eventually reach The Knitting Cave,<br />

as Mom and I call it. The drum carder sits on the big<br />

table in the corner, summer sunlight beaming onto its<br />

blonde wood wheels. In the center of the square room is<br />

a double treadle spinning wheel. A cushioned stool invites<br />

me to sit. I drop the bag on the wood floor beside<br />

the chair and hesitate.<br />

When I sit down, the stool creaks under me. It still has a<br />

voice. Shut up, chair. What do you have to complain<br />

about? I’m handicapped, mute, traumatized—without a<br />

voice and without a dad. All I have left is wool.<br />

It’s no wonder I lost the ability to speak. What happened<br />

was a horror movie, with Dad filling the role of<br />

the unsuspecting victim. An image of him appears in my<br />

head, his throat cut like a slaughtered animal. I force the<br />

grotesque picture from my mind and replace it with the<br />

one of Dad carefully shearing Miss B, the cutting instrument<br />

in his control.<br />

I resign to test-spin prissy Miss B’s fleece. I grab a bobbin<br />

and set it on the flyer, then pull the caution-orange<br />

scrap yarn I use for a leader through the wheel’s orifice. I<br />

rip off a strip of fiber and fold the fluffy end over the orange<br />

noose and grasp it gently. I begin pedaling. The<br />

leader string turns and twists, followed by the white<br />

fiber, tugging it out of my hands and through the orifice.<br />

It winds around the bobbin as I treadle slowly.<br />

Miss B’s fleece is so soft. It’s like butter to spin, I think.<br />

33


Angel from Mars Continued...<br />

I hear Dad's voice in my head. Well, don’t tell her! Miss<br />

B probably already thinks her wool is the finest in Minnesota.<br />

Spinning distracts me from reality, and soon, I'm entranced<br />

by the repetitive motion of my fingers and the<br />

steady pedaling.<br />

A foreign object, a splinter in the cloud of wool,<br />

catches my attention as the roving flows through my<br />

hand. I stop treadling and examine it. The dark piece of<br />

matter sparkles amid the light wool on the bobbin.<br />

When we card fiber, sometimes we add iridescent or<br />

metallic fibers called Angelina or Stellina. I hadn’t noticed<br />

any before now, and I’m a third of the way through<br />

the wool. I bet a stray strand of Angelina was stuck in<br />

the carder. It happens. Like glitter, it gets everywhere. I<br />

continue filling the bobbin and forget all about it.<br />

Miss B’s fleece fills two large bobbins with bulky yarn.<br />

Enough for a couple hats or a small shawl. I’m not much<br />

of a shawl girl. Hats are more of an instant gratification<br />

knit. Besides, Miss B’s wool would make a comfy,<br />

warm hat.<br />

I can hear Dad's voice say, Time to stop spinning your<br />

wheels and knit something.<br />

Dad loved puns. Suddenly my heart hurts.<br />

I decide to leave the newly spun yarn to rest on the<br />

bobbins until morning.<br />

***<br />

A nightmare wakes me at 3 a.m. The barn was a sea of<br />

wool. Dad stood at the far end, calling for help. I swam<br />

through the wool, desperate to reach him, but never<br />

seemed to move closer.<br />

As soon as I opened my eyes, the nightmare dissipated.<br />

I'm relieved it's over. But now I can't sleep. And<br />

I'm hungry.<br />

On my way back to my bedroom from the kitchen, I<br />

notice a light on in the knitting cave, so I decide to investigate.<br />

The light dims. Then intensifies.<br />

I attempt to speak. Hello? Ugh, stupid voice still won't<br />

work. I march loudly, hoping if Mom or Aunt Kathy are<br />

there, they’ll hear me coming and I won’t scare the bejebus<br />

out of them.<br />

Again, the light dims. I enter The Knitting Cave. The<br />

light extinguishes. A lightbulb must be burning out.<br />

I trudge upstairs and curl under my covers again. I<br />

stare out my window at the massive sky, making the<br />

same wish on each sparkling star before sleep pulls me<br />

away.<br />

***<br />

By D. Marie Prokop<br />

There’s a note from Aunt Kathy on the breakfast nook<br />

table. I’ll be in the red barn all morning. We have two<br />

barns—one white and one red. The red one houses the<br />

sheep when they aren’t grazing in the fields.<br />

I decide not to get dressed today. Why bother?<br />

The Knitting Cave is dark when I get there. I flip the<br />

switch. The room floods with incandescent light. Guess<br />

the lightbulb still works. I ignore the jokes in my head<br />

about how many whoevers it takes to change a lightbulb;<br />

jokes dad made a million of over the years.<br />

No jokes! I wind the yarn into balls. Actually, they’re<br />

more cake-shaped than ball-shaped.<br />

I grab a cake of yarn and the strand of stray glitter<br />

greets me. Geez, my eyesight must’ve improved since<br />

my voice quit. Or maybe the Angelina wants my attention.<br />

I find a pattern on my iPad and read through the instructions.<br />

Then I fetch some wooden needles in the<br />

right size to create a swatch. Last time I knit something, I<br />

didn’t make a swatch first and I ended up with a jumbosized<br />

sweater, too big for even Dad, not a pink and purple<br />

striped pullover is something Dad would<br />

wear—would have worn.<br />

This time, my swatch is perfect. I cast on the hat.<br />

Three hours later, my stomach grumbles. I’m starving,<br />

but the hat is done. I try it on. Immediately, a wave of<br />

fear washes over me.<br />

The light in the room intensifies. It hurts my eyes. I<br />

pinch them shut.<br />

I breathe like it’s my job, in and out, in and out, slow<br />

and sure. The dread in my veins lessens. I must have just<br />

had a panic attack.<br />

I scratch my head. The hat’s warm, even toastier than I<br />

expected.<br />

Where am I? What is this place? It’s so bright. It<br />

hurts. Hurts so much.<br />

These thoughts are not mine. But I hear them clear as<br />

a bell. The voice sounds... confused, scared, panicky.<br />

This trauma thing is crazy. I can't speak, even when I<br />

want to. And now I'm hearing a strange voice in my<br />

head. For some reason, I feel compelled to converse<br />

with it.<br />

What? I’ve never been eloquent, even before I went<br />

mute. The one-word question is all I can think to ask<br />

the confused voice in my head.<br />

I was moving. Then I stopped. Where am I?<br />

I stand up and open the window. The breeze cools my<br />

face. I’m not sure. You’re where I am, I guess.<br />

Where are you?<br />

I look around The Knitting Cave. In my house.<br />

What planet?<br />

34


Angel from Mars Continued...<br />

Planet? Um... Earth.<br />

No, no, no! Not Earth! I can’t stay here. They'll find<br />

me!<br />

The breeze wanes. I'm sweltering, but I<br />

don't take off the hat. I turn on a fan instead. Who will<br />

find you?<br />

My enemies. I can’t stay here. I have to get back to my<br />

family. Take me to Mars immediately.<br />

What are you talking about? I can’t take you to Mars.<br />

Then you are useless!<br />

I scowl. Yes, I know that already. I can’t even talk.<br />

I'm traumatized. My dad died—right in front of me. Everything<br />

is so messed up. N-now, I’m talking to a Martian.<br />

I sob fat, heavy tears. A wave of warmth cycles<br />

around my face, like it's stuck in an oven.<br />

I'm sorry. How did your dad die?<br />

I sigh. The memory cuts my heart. We were watching<br />

the fireworks. All of a sudden, his throat was... cut. I didn’t<br />

see how it happened. It doesn’t make any sense.<br />

Cut? Oh no. That’s not—oh my—I didn’t mean for<br />

anyone to get hurt—<br />

I’m sweating profusely now. I rip the hat off. Static<br />

causes my hair to stick up, like the time Dad rubbed a<br />

balloon on his shirt and held it above my head. He<br />

nearly fell off his chair laughing.<br />

Clutching the oppressively warm hat in my hands, I interrogate<br />

the voice. Did you hurt my father? What happened?<br />

No reply. The silence throttles me.<br />

Hello? Did you hear me?<br />

Nothing. I wring the hat in my hands, twisting the<br />

knitted fabric tight. Again, the small sparkle in the wool<br />

glitters, catching my eye. Then it does something Angelina<br />

isn’t supposed todo—it pulsates with light. Soon, the<br />

whole hat is illuminated, then darkens, and repeats the<br />

cycle, like programmed holiday lights.<br />

The voice is coming from the Angelina! I want answers,<br />

so I thrust the hat back on my head. Tears burn<br />

my eyeballs. Did—did you kill my father?<br />

My enemies—they were chasing me. I was<br />

going too fast. I’m sorry.<br />

You’re sorry? I don't care. Bring him back!<br />

The hat flies off my head. It circumnavigates the room,<br />

orbiting me, pulsating with white light. The sight makes<br />

me dizzy. My hand grasps the spinning wheel.<br />

I can’t scream for help. I’m stuck, frozen in the middle<br />

of the room, mute, completely at the mercy of a telepathic<br />

murderer from another planet stuck in the wool of<br />

my hat.<br />

The hat’s orbit closes in on me. I squeeze my eyes<br />

shut, anticipating the worst.<br />

It stops and lands on my head with a gentle pouf<br />

sound.<br />

Can you hear me? Hello? Please listen to me.<br />

Tears cascade down my face. You’re a killer. Why<br />

should I listen to you? Are you going to kill me, too?<br />

No, I’m not a killer—but the death was my fault. I was<br />

going very fast. They were chasing me. It was an accident.<br />

Their ships—are very sharp.<br />

I feel the salty tear tracks drying on my face. My<br />

father was killed by an alien ship? It doesn’t matter if<br />

you didn’t mean for it to happen. My father is still dead.<br />

But it does matter! The enemy ship is very dangerous.<br />

I must leave this place before they strike down another<br />

innocent while pursuing me. I must get to Mars.<br />

I must protect my family. I need your help.<br />

I should throw you into a fire!<br />

The alien is silent for a moment. Hmmm ... that might<br />

work. Fire brought me here.<br />

My fingers tap angrily against the wooden<br />

wheel. What do you mean?<br />

There was an explosion in the sky. It was a mistake. I<br />

was heading for Mars.<br />

So, the fireworks threw you off course? Hmm ... Maybe<br />

it’s like when I use gold mushrooms in Mario Kart. The<br />

boost of speed always makes my kart fly off the track<br />

and I end up in twelfth place, praying for a Bullet Bill.<br />

The alien continues. My enemies are ruthless demons,<br />

wreaking havoc everywhere. I crash-landed in something<br />

soft. I had no energy left to leave. I fell asleep.<br />

I rest my weary body on the stool. My head aches. I<br />

check my pulse as it throbs, loud as a drum. I'm not sure<br />

how comforting it is to know how very alive I am. It reinforces<br />

the disturbing fact that Dad is not. And this<br />

alien is to blame, at least partially.<br />

The voice in my head adds, I too, had a father.<br />

Was he kind and strong?<br />

Another pause. He was quite strong. You are fortunate<br />

your father was also kind.<br />

I wipe the wetness from my face with my sleeve.<br />

Please. I need your help. I promise you will be well<br />

compensated.<br />

Help you? First, tell me your name.<br />

Oh, I am called—<br />

The high-pitched humming that follows—presumably<br />

the alien's name—makes my ears hurt. After massaging<br />

the sides of my head, I reply, My name is Jenny. Why<br />

don’t I just call you Angel?<br />

Angel? I like that. Jenny, I must return home to protect<br />

my family. I promise to reward you for your efforts if you<br />

help me. Will you do it?<br />

I’ll try.<br />

***<br />

By D. Marie Prokop<br />

35


Angel from Mars Continued...<br />

"Where are you going?" Aunt Kathy asks. She shoves a<br />

pad of paper and a pen at me. I scowl but take them. I<br />

scribble in sloppy cursive, "For a walk." After the screen<br />

door bangs behind me, I hear her shrill voice fading.<br />

"Why are you wearing a wool hat in the middle of<br />

summer? It's 85 degrees out there!"<br />

I ignore her and run past the red barn.<br />

In my head, Angel asks, Where's the fire?<br />

It sounds like one of Dad's lame jokes. But this is no<br />

joke. Crazy? Probably. But not a joke.<br />

I answer, I'm taking you to the burn pile.<br />

There’s fire there?<br />

There will be.<br />

The burn pile is located on the edge of the property<br />

line, in a deserted area. Grandpa built it years and years<br />

ago. I helped Dad burn branches last week. My jeans<br />

still reek from the acrid smoke.<br />

The backpack hanging over my shoulder contains<br />

matches, lighter fluid, and packing material from a delivery<br />

box. Reduce, reuse, recycle, send alien home...<br />

Why am I doing this? Why am I helping the alien responsible<br />

for my dad's death? Hmm… I guess if a<br />

stranger had been asked to help save my dad, no<br />

matter how insane the circumstances, I'd want them<br />

to help.<br />

Suddenly, I worry. What if this doesn't work?<br />

Fire will work.<br />

I soldier on. Sweat rolls down my neck as I spy the low<br />

wall of concrete blocks ahead. The sky is pale indigo.<br />

There's a banana moon, as Dad liked to call it, hanging<br />

low, a lunar white against the blue. It looks odd to me. I<br />

always considered the moon as a night thing, not a day<br />

thing. I feel sad for it. It doesn't belong there. Like<br />

Angel, I guess.<br />

I'm trying not to feel sorry for Angel, but I can't help it.<br />

It's not all Angel's fault. He didn't know the fireworks<br />

would send him off course. Besides, I think Dad would<br />

want me to help him. I glance up at the lonely moon<br />

and hope Angel's plan works.<br />

I'm not a rocket scientist, so I have to tell Angel to stop<br />

explaining every tiny detail of his return journey process<br />

to me. From what I could comprehend, it's complicated.<br />

Just tell me what I need to do.<br />

Put me in the fire. I will gather energy from the flames.<br />

Then you'll be able to fly home?<br />

After I refuel, I can go home. And you will be rewarded.<br />

You will be happy, Jenny.<br />

I'll never be happy again, I assure Angel.<br />

Yes, you will.<br />

The burn pile contains remnants of twigs and charred<br />

logs. I reach into my pack and pull out the supplies. I<br />

shred paper in the center of the cinders left from decades<br />

of burning dead leaves and branches and construct<br />

a tepee of twigs over it. Unsure of how much<br />

lighter fluid is necessary, I douse it liberally. When I<br />

strike a match and touch the paper, the flames spread<br />

like applause.<br />

Once the twigs catch fire, I pull off the wool hat and<br />

stare at the flames, twisting the fabric in my hands. The<br />

scene reminds me of a funeral pyre. I swallow<br />

hard and put the hat back on.<br />

What if this doesn't work? What if, when I throw you<br />

into the fire, you die?<br />

I won't die. I will return to my family.<br />

How do you know?<br />

I just know. Don't worry. I won't die. And... I will reward<br />

you.<br />

I shrug. I don’t care about the reward. You can't give<br />

me what I really want.<br />

What do you really want? To speak again?<br />

Sure. I guess. I kick my foot at the dirt. I want my dad<br />

back. But there's nothing Angel can do about that. It's<br />

too late.<br />

I'm sorry I caused you so much pain, Jenny. It was not<br />

destined. It was a mistake. I know it doesn't help to<br />

know that, but it's the truth.<br />

I sniffle, unaware until Angel finishes speaking that<br />

I'm ugly crying. I wipe the tears from my cheek.<br />

The alien's companionship has grown on me. After I<br />

burn this hat, I'll be alone again.<br />

Goodbye, Angel. And—good luck.<br />

Goodbye, Jenny.<br />

I lay the knit hat in the fire gently. The edges curl as it<br />

shrinks away from the flame. It smells like the time I<br />

burnt my hair with the flat iron.<br />

As the creamy wool turns to gray ash, a bright spark<br />

rises from it.<br />

The spark glows like before, pulsing with light. Then it<br />

burns steady, a bright white. I close my eyes. A highpitched<br />

whining sound hits my ears. I assume Angel is<br />

gathering energy. I try to open one eye, but Angel's<br />

brightness is like looking at the sun.<br />

There's warmth all around me. Even under my feet. My<br />

stomach gets queasy, as if I were on that amusement<br />

park ride that spins really fast before the floor drops.<br />

Suddenly, the spinning sensation stops. I fall to the<br />

ground.<br />

***<br />

By D. Marie Prokop<br />

"Jenny? Jenny, are you okay?"<br />

It's Dad. He sounds muffled, like he's speaking underwater.<br />

"Dad? What happened?"<br />

36


Angel from Mars Continued...<br />

"You tell me. You're the one who tripped over her own<br />

two feet. Look, if you were too tired to stay up and<br />

watch the fireworks with me, you should have said so."<br />

I'm sitting on the ground. The grass is cool under my<br />

hands. Dad pulls me to my feet.<br />

"I just lost my balance, that's all."<br />

"Well, I'm glad you're okay." He points at the dark sky.<br />

It's fuzzy with gray clouds. "Guess I know where my local<br />

tax money goes. Up in smoke!" He chuckles. The sound<br />

of his corny laughter is comforting.<br />

"Actually, Dad, I feel weird." I clutch my waist. "My<br />

stomach’s queasy."<br />

"Well, that last cracker was a doozy. I almost fell over,<br />

too." His joking eyes soften. "Maybe you should go to<br />

the doctor in the morning. You don't have to<br />

help clean the fleeces if you're sick. I'll do it."<br />

"Nah, I'll be fine." I try to convince him with a confident<br />

smile, to prove there's no need for anyone to examine<br />

me, especially my doctor. He talks to me like<br />

I'm five years old.<br />

Dad stretches. His back cracks and pops.<br />

"Glad to hear it. I think I'll be sore for a week. Shearing<br />

sheep is hard work. Miss B was extra ornery this year."<br />

It's a beautiful Fourth of July night.<br />

The summer breeze contains a slight chill and is perfumed<br />

with honeysuckle. As I take in the wide, star-filled<br />

northwestern sky, the boom of another firework launching<br />

is unmistakable.<br />

"Dang… there's one more!" Dad remarks.<br />

His tanned face lights up like a little boy's on Christmas<br />

morning.<br />

A white ball blasts up from the tree-line in the distance.<br />

It explodes and blossoms into a bouquet of red<br />

light, then changes to blue, and finally showers down<br />

white sparks.<br />

One spark seems to have a mind of its own. It spirals<br />

off to the west, pulsating with light as it loops around<br />

the sky, looking lost. Before I register my surprise,<br />

it spins off toward the upper atmosphere, disappearing<br />

behind the moon. I blink, wondering if I imagined it.<br />

"Did you see that, too?" Dad whispers the question.<br />

I nod.<br />

"Then I guess we're both crazy. Ready to go home?"<br />

I nod again. He turns around, but before he takes a<br />

step, I wrap my arms around his faded Vikings T-shirt<br />

as far as they can go and breathe deep. He smells like<br />

Old Spice, lanolin, sweat, and hay.<br />

"Okay, now. What do you want?" he teases. "I've said it<br />

before, and I'll say it again—no ponies. We already have<br />

sheep."<br />

By D. Marie Prokop<br />

"I don't want a pony, Dad. I just had this weird déjà vu<br />

feeling, like I've lived this moment before. I feel extra<br />

thankful to be here with you. It's like, the first time, I lost<br />

you. And this time, I didn't. I know—I'm weird."<br />

He hugs me back, so hard I can't breathe for a<br />

second.<br />

"So, you’re crazy and weird. Who isn’t?” He gives me a<br />

goofy grin. "I'm grateful to have you and your mom to<br />

share my weirdness with. You know, every night, I thank<br />

the universe I got to spend another day with you."<br />

The banana moon twinkles down at us, offering an uncanny,<br />

celestial, silent smile.<br />

"Do you really think the universe is conspiring to help<br />

us?" I ask, referencing his favorite book, The Alchemist.<br />

He’s always quoting it.<br />

"Sure. Why not? The universe is a mysterious thing. It's<br />

hard to believe we're alone. Angels, aliens, forces, whatever—they<br />

could be all around us, just waiting to help<br />

out.”<br />

"But, why would aliens care about us?"<br />

"Why not? Why shouldn’t they want to use their alien<br />

powers for good? Of course, they could all be evil bastards.<br />

What do I know?"<br />

I search the sky for more weird sparks. "But, if they<br />

were kind and helpful, that would be cool."<br />

Dad’s smile is brighter than the moon. "Yep, sure<br />

would be."<br />

Visit https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0766445GM for<br />

more books by D. Marie Prokop.<br />

37


Acknowledgments<br />

BLOCKED has been made<br />

possible by the generosity and<br />

goodwill of far too many people to<br />

name individually.<br />

Thank you to all the designers,<br />

writers, photographers, artists,<br />

patrons, advertisers and, of<br />

course you the reader.

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