It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to pick up on the fact that I’ve been feeling less than inspired lately. I haven’t posted here in ages, for one thing. The effort required for the act of writing, whether for work, or for freelance work, or for secret book-writing or here has felt just a hair’s breath closer than insurmountable. And this sense of ennui hasn’t been limited to wordsmithery; I haven’t been cooking or doing much in the way of anything crafty. I have a couple of projects I’ve been poking at, but not with vigor and with nothing approaching joy. It’s been tiresome, but not a huge deal; I’ve been at this making-stuff gig long enough to know that sometimes you just have to let the fields lie fallow, go do something else for a while, and wait.
That’s the state of mind I was in Friday afternoon when I saw this tweet from @crazyauntpurl: “If someone doesn’t knit an asshat soon I will lose sleep over it.”
And the tiny light between my eyes switched on, illuminating the path before me. This challenge was mine to answer. I would take up this gauntlet that had not been thrown down to me. I would use yarn and needles to create something wearable that also happened to look like a human derriere. I would knit an asshat.
It turns out that this kind of project — absorbing, absurd, and with nothing at stake — is an ideal way to pull myself out of a creative funk. First, it meant spending a lot of time thinking about butts, which is hilarious. And since I wanted to make something that really would be wearable potentially, without necessarily looking like a stunt, it took a fair amount of consideration. I gave a lot of thought to orientation: whether the hat should look like the wearer had his or her head UP a butt, which seemed to be more in keeping with the spirit of the term, (which, as I understand it, is just a shortened way of saying that one is wearing an ass (one’s own or someone else’s) as a hat), or if it should be sitting on top of the wearer’s head with the cheeks facing up, which is anatomically unlikely, but more easily recognizable. I ultimately went with the latter, partly to make it more clear just what kind of splendor you were beholding, but also because it would make for a more traditional hat shape. The former would have meant having the cheeks hanging down on either side of the head and would either need to be stuffed to fill them out or run the risk of looking like a deeply unwholesome lop-eared bunny. Either way: less wearable, nonfunctional, unacceptable.
[Incidentally, almost everyone I told about this project over the weekend had the same response: “Oh, a hat for your ass?”
Seriously? A hat for your ass? How would that even work? “No,” I said over and over, perplexed, “A hat that LOOKS like an ass.”]
Conveniently enough, a regularly constructed handknit hat always has a hole at the center top exactly where you’d need one for, you know, this kind of project. And, frankly, I’d always privately referred to it as the hat’s sphincter anyway. So I started there, casting on about three times as many stitches as you’d normally use so there would be a larger hole and more obvious puckering when it was drawn together. I knit a couple of rounds to give it a little structure and then divided the stitches into hemispheres and worked out from there to build exaggerated half-moon shapes. The plans was to knit the cheeks separately, then sew them together on the wrong side, so the exposed seam would more clearly delineate them.My first take made for some sorry-ass, pancake-flat buttcheeks, since I was increasing on autopilot at the rate you’d normally use for a hat. So I ripped back and increased more than twice as quickly, throwing in some short rows after the last increase row to build up the curves more dramatically. Then I decreased across the row a couple of times to curve it back in and sat back to look at it.It was … ass-ish, I thought, evocative without being too over-the-top. The shaping didn’t really seem to lend itself to a wearable finished product though, so I set it aside and went about the rest of my weekend, having a picnic in the park, seeing a friend’s band, checking out Smorgasburg, learning all about lens flare from watching Star Trek with a couple of stoned post-production effects engineers.
Then this morning, I figured I might as well finish up the assembly since I’d gotten this far, so I sewed the cheeks together.I still don’t think the shaping is really there yet — casting on the whole midline, short-rowing the cheeks and pulling the hole together out of some of the center seam stitches would probably work better — but it’s fine. I even picked up around for some beret-style ribbing at the lower edge, so it may end up being a wearable, albeit aggressively unattractive, piece of headwear.
But the most important thing about the project is that it shook something loose in me, whatever’s been preventing my synapses from operating at full crackle. I didn’t really spend more than a couple of leisurely hours on this, but forcing my brain to pretzel itself into some new patterns really made a huge difference. Watch this space; there should be some fun stuff soon.