She Learned to Love the Thread
January 14, 2014
Breaking news: ROSANNE CASH IS A KNITTER.
Oh and also: she has a new record coming out today.
(Photo: Gael Towey.)
I know that Rosanne is a knitter, because I taught her. We met a few years ago, at a book signing for her memoir, Composed. She wanted to learn how to knit, and asked me if I gave lessons. I said, not really, but I’d be glad to teach you to knit. It was one of the nicest surprises ever.
We met up a while later; teaching her to knit took about a half hour. She seemed to already know how. One time, she showed me a bag of her late mother’s knitting and crochet supplies and WIPs. Which she had kept. Just like you did. I think very highly of anybody who keeps their mom’s knitting. Rosanne is a keeper of things, and from her I have learned that I should keep more things. (As you know, I can easily ditch 50 things a day. I’m a ditcher, I crave swept surfaces.) This learning came at a good time for me. It helped save Peter’s suits, for example. I had almost yielded to the powerful utilitarian logic of giving away most of his suits. (Remember, my mom taught me to ditch. Clean surfaces. Empty closets.) I learned that Rosanne keeps a pair of her dad’s boots in her son’s closet. Right there with his shoes. A few of her mom’s and stepmother’s things hang next to her own jackets and dresses. That was a revelation to my hardened little heart, about what keeping a material thing can mean, and how to do it. The other day a little note fell out of her bag and was read out to the assembled sewing circle. I was thinking, dang. I should keep some notes in my bag. I’ve got notes. All that is needed here is a beat up Filofax from the early 90s.
(Update: my bag still recalls Grandma Mabel’s vast snapping pocketbook. Contents: wallet, Altoids, Chapstick and an echo. Work in progress.)
Here is the first thing Rosanne knit, a Schmatta scarf in Malabrigo Rasta.
When she was done, she went straight out and found a good button for it. My work was done, and it was good.
Rosanne knit a few more things, but then she guided me down a completely different crafty rabbit hole: Alabama Chanin sewing. So now we sew, together with friends, more than we knit. The knitting, the sewing, the keeping, the circle–these were a balm to me the past couple of years. But the greatest gift has been discovering Rosanne’s music. When you are getting to know someone who makes music, and you don’t know very much of their music because you were working as an indentured law-bot while they were making a lot of this music, it is embarrassing. In my haste to rectify, I fell into one album in particular, Black Cadillac. This album is extraordinary songwriting, or writing of any kind, about grief and what happens to an important relationship when one party dies. It floored me. One line: “I’m the list of everyone I have to lose.” That. That right there. When (not if: when) I make my first set of text-based quilts, they are going to be lines from Black Cadillac songs. My second set may involve the Bible. Or Mr. Darcy’s Letter. But Black Cadillac goes first.
The new record is called The River and the Thread. (NB: THE THREAD!) I keep reading reviews saying it’s about the South. To me, it’s about sewing. Just kidding. It has sewing in it (if you listen) and it also has a song that Rosanne apparently wrote in the 19th century: When the Master Calls The Roll. This song gives me the honest-to-goodness shivers. You can prelisten to the album on NPR here.
And if we need any further proof that I have raised up a knitter, Rosanne sent me this picture today.
In celebration of Rosanne’s new record, and of rivers and threads and sad songs that feel right, and because I went on a little pre-ordering toot before Christmas, I’m doing a giveaway of three CDs of The River and the Thread, each to be accompanied by a hank of Malabrigo Rasta, with which one could knit a Schmatta.
Leave a comment saying hi or better yet, naming your favorite sad song I’ll do a random drawing at 8 p.m. Tuesday, New York time.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL KNITTING MUSICIAN.