July 1, 2021

Throwback Thursday: TaylorMade: Of Etsy & the Elves, by Heather Talty

Order from TaylorMade's Etsy shop today!
All hats come specially wrapped in a secret...
Editor's Note: Selling things is never easy, but when you have special helpers....it helps. Today's Throwback Thursday tale, from 2017, is Heather Talty's take on a classic story you'll recognize.

So I'm at this party, wearing the hat I allegedly made, and things are getting weird. I've had maybe four drinks, which is totally okay because it's not like I have to knit when I get home or anything. My Etsy shop, TaylorMade, is making so much money now I don't need to stop buying drinks, maybe ever. Plus, my friends keep introducing me as an entrepreneur and a self-made millionaire (hardly...is thousand-aire a thing?), so people I don't even know keep buying me drinks and touching my hat and telling me congrats, you're so talented, this is so impressive, on and on. And all I can think is, they know, they know, they must know.

I don’t know how they know, but they keep saying things like “The stitches are so small and tight, it’s like it was done by little tiny hands,” and “I knit but I could never make so many hats quickly enough to sell them,” or the best, "Where's your factory?" I smile and nod and try to return to my friends, but they’re just buying more drinks and eventually I just take off my hat and go home without saying goodbye.

As always, when I get home I half expect to see my little helpers, maybe scaling the skeins of yarn in my giant tote as if they were mountains, or working in concert to heft the needles in their tiny hands, knit one-two-three, purl three-two-one. Really, I have no idea how the elves make the hats. I’ve never actually seen them. In the morning, though, I know I’ll find a little less yarn in my bag and a few more hats laid out on the coffee table. And, of course, they’ll all be perfect.

I know I should be grateful, but I can't help but feel like things have gotten worse since the elves started coming.

Here's the short version. I learned how to knit about a year ago, picked it up at work during a charity thing my office was doing. I found I loved it right away, the feel of the yarn twisting under my fingers, the way different strands came together to make actual items actual people could wear. I started making hats, really terrible ones at first (I made one for a newborn that fits my sister's five year old great), but I got better. About two months ago, I finished one I really liked, a cloche with wooden buttons on either side. I wore it to work and a co-worker said she'd buy one and that here sister would, too. Someone said I should put it on Etsy because it would be a good way to make some extra money. Suddenly, I had 20 orders and no time to work on them.

So, I went out for a drink with a friend instead, and she made this joke:  like, maybe you can get the elves to come help you like in that story about the shoemaker. I laughed and called her ridiculous and she laughed and made me buy her another drink. When I got home, though, I laid out the yarn and my needles and went to bed a little hopeful.

And the next morning, there were 20 hats. All were made with precise stitches, no variation in the gauge. The wooden buttons were sewn perfectly to the side of the cloche, until the buttons had run out - a few hats had seashells sewn on tightly in their place. So I sent them off, collected the money in my Paypal account and waited while more and more orders poured in. There have been sort of a lot, but nothing the elves can’t handle.

Everything is working perfectly.  I just can’t stand it. I go to pick up some yarn and realize I need to leave it for the elves, and probably buy some more for them soon.  It would be wasted in my hands - whatever they make will be far more precise, more pristine, more perfect. Now that I’m peddling their products, I can’t imagine anyone wanting something I could produce. Still restless, I flip through channels, scroll Netflix, read a few pages of a book, look at Facebook on my phone again, but it isn’t the same. Every night, I’m bored all over. Every night, I think I guess I'll go out tomorrow night. I just don’t know what else to do with myself.

The drinks in this place are strong. Stronger than the place I was last night. Maybe that's why I'm feeling better tonight. I like this place, with its high wood booths and low lighting. I like this crowd, a few friends from work and some people they know. I like my hat, another cloche with purple lining along the brim and a set of three plastic pearls in place of the button. I like it, even though I know I didn't make it myself.

I’m feeling really comfortable until someone mentions my Etsy shop. Then I suddenly I'm breathless, like my insides are being wrung out, wrenched tight. “I have a confession,” I announce, hearing the lilt in my voice that only comes after quite a few drinks. “I didn’t make the hats. The elves did.” My friends look at me incredulously and laugh like it’s some kind of joke, but I insist. They laugh and I insist and then I realize there is no way they'll ever really believe who made the hats. I excuse myself to go to the bathroom, but slip out the door and go home instead.

Home again, I sit on the couch and stare at the yarn. I don’t want this anymore, I think, with sudden, stunning clarity. I want to make my own stuff again, perfect or not. I’m not really focused, but I pick up a handful of red yarn and start fiddling. The elves have made so many things for me -- maybe I can make something for them. The time ticks by as I work as small a stitch as possible, finishing off hats smaller than my hand. I make a few different kinds, caps and beanies and berets. Some of them have loose stitches, or little jumbles where I caught the yarn or skipped a stitch. I fix them up as best I can, and leave them laid out on the table by my yarn bag. The elves can choose what they like.

Part of me wants to stay up to give them the hats, maybe finally meet them, but I fall asleep on the couch sometime after the sun comes up. It’s weird -- my yarn bag is nearly full. The little hats are gone, and in its place is a full sized hat, a slouchy beret made of a shimmery bronze-black yarn I didn’t know I had. It nearly slips through my hands when I pick it up, but I put it on and pick up my bag. Etsy can wait - I want to try making something new, something just mine, even if it takes me awhile to get it right.  It’s time to get back to work.

Heather Talty is a speculative fiction writer from New York. Her work has been featured in Nonbinary Review and Curiosity Quills anthologies Gears of Brass and Cast No Shadows, as well as in a previous issue of Enchanted Conversation. She is the managing editor of Newtown Literary. 
Follow her on Twitter: @HEATHERTALTY

STORY Art by Amanda Bergloff @AmandaBergloff


story.maker@yahoo.com said...

I really like the ideas of exchange and enjoyment of making. Nicely done.

Jaya Avendel said...

The beauty of these beautifully stitched and woven words as is perfect as the images of the delicately crafted hats in this piece, but I love the ending message that sometimes a little hard work and an imperfect end result is as rewarding.

Jaya Avendel said...

I love the lyrical flow of this piece and the shining creativity of each hat, but the ending message that something created from self, even if it takes time, is beautiful!

HulderMN said...

I can not tell you how much I love this reboot, so I hope you know anyhow. Or maybe the elves can whisper in your ear.
Such amazing, magical craft!! 🤩❤🤩