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Knit or die

“Get your knits ready. The show is about to start!”


Our lead guitarist strikes a cacophonous chord, and the other three band members begin to play. The sound is deafening and almost pushes me off the stage.


Our costumes are equally discordant. My co-knitter and I wear long white ball gowns with combat boots. Our heads are covered by knit Viking caps with horns, and we hold shields proclaiming, “Knit or die!”. We jump up and down on the stage, swinging our Brunhilde braids in circles. I concentrate on trying not to put out my eye with the needle. Two of our guitarists wear kilts and Hawaiian shirts, their waist-length hair impressive for its scraggliness.


“I don’t understand how I got here; I’m not a good knitter. My grandma never stopped knitting, even in a nursing home, explaining the two or three afghans possessed by each of her grandchildren. I fall more toward the creepy techie end of the spectrum, however.


I’m in Joensuu, Finland, surrounded by black leather and tattoos. Given the numerous piercings, I doubt any band member could make it through airport security without setting off metal detectors. Black and white face makeup and the number 666 complete the picture.


Surviving the dark, cold winters in Finland is understandably tricky. Eating a diet of sauteed reindeer, blood dumpling soup, and salty licorice would also make anyone cranky. The result seems to be high rates of alcoholism, heavy metal, and knitting, which may explain why Finland has more heavy bands per capita than any other country; 84.53 per 100,000 Finns compared with the US at 5.5 per 100,000.


The judges for the show are a heavyset middle-aged woman, a female Ozzy Osborne clone with a black wig, bustier, torn stockings, and finally the requisite nerd with dark shorts, a vest, and a gondolier’s striped shirt.


Bands represent four continents around the world. The Australian contestants feature a knit panda with a blood-red tongue who bounces up and down with the lead knitter in a mutual rave. The German contestant cannot attend because both she and her lavender “yarnicorn” have come down with COVID. String Thing from the UK prances onstage dressed in a yarn dog costume, surrounded by dancers with bare butts adorned with toilet paper.


The last band from Japan comes on stage. A man with a Kabuki painted white face, black wig, and flowered kimono knits what looks like a teal penis shroud. Two Sumo wrestlers clad only in diapers shake their gigantic breasts and crash into each other’s bellies, emulating dueling Tyrannosaurus Rex. One of the Sumos shoots a bird with his middle finger, and the crowd roars its approval.


The lead judge returns on stage and holds up the Kabuki knitter’s hand. The victor sticks out his tongue and waives the penis shroud triumphantly in the air. The contest is over and he’s a world champion!

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