Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"What Was I Thinking?" She Asks for the One Billionth Time

So, I’m learning to knit. If you’d like, you can re-read that sentence as, “So, I’m turning into a butterfly and fluttering down to South America,” because it makes just about as much sense and is just about as believable. I, the one who has the kind of patience displayed by your average six-year-old on Christmas Eve, the one who never would have passed home economics in junior high without the help of a friend who sewed up her walrus pillow (that cute little “sewing project” that counted for about half the grade) for her, the one who thinks, “hand-made” merely means, "really-beautiful-and-four-times-as-expensive-and-bought-in-
some-quaint-little-shop-somewhere," am learning to knit.

This is what happens when you move to Pennsylvania. Actually, it’s called peer pressure, and it hasn’t changed one bit since you were fourteen-years-old. You know perfectly well you should say “no,” that this is not something you want to do (like exploring those attic rooms in the school when you’re supposed to be in the cafeteria eating lunch like everyone else), but when your friend says “let’s do it,” you think for a brief moment it might actually be fun, might actually be something worth doing.

Your plans were to find a writing group or to explore some math classes at the local college or maybe to take horseback riding lessons. You were not planning on joining a knitting circle; the thought never even crossed your mind. You know you tried to knit years ago with the help of a very patient and loving friend and that it went nowhere, that Bob still teases you about those knitting needles and that yarn he got you for your birthday that seem to have disappeared so mysteriously. However, your friend promises she has no idea how to knit either, that she’s sure she’ll be as bad at it as you are (just like your fourteen-year-old friend promised you she knew the secret way out of the school attic). Other friends who know how to knit and crochet are encouraging you, telling you they can help, that they want to teach you how. Then you arrive for your first evening at the knitting circle. By the end of it, your friend’s practically got a whole shawl knit, and you’ve done your very first row (just like your friend who raced out of the secret exit from the attic, leaving you stuck to get caught by those fast-approaching, obviously adult, footsteps). You should have known. Why on earth would you believe a woman who has the skills to do her own beautiful woodcarvings wouldn’t have the skills to take up knitting just like that? She’s now saying, “You know you REALLY don’t have to keep doing this if you don’t want to.” Oh, and, “Friends don’t let friends knit, you know.”

It’s more than mere peer pressure, though. It’s also called “Emily’s runaway imagination at work again.” Have you ever gone to a craft shop and looked at all that beautiful yarn in all those beautiful colors? Have you ever seen the pictures of cool sweaters and shawls and hats on the paper that wraps the yarn, enticing you to buy it with promises of patterns on the inside that will enable you to create your own versions of these articles of clothing? I know I can’t yet tell the difference between knitting and purling. I know I can’t figure out how to hold the damn knitting needles without looking like an American tourist holding chopsticks for the first time. I know my stitches are about as even as Godzilla’s teeth. Realistically, there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to be able to do anything more than cast on (in other words, create that first row of stitches). Even so, I’m envisioning myself knitting sweaters, hats, and socks for all my friends, made, of course, with all that lovely yarn in all those lovely colors. Did you know you can even buy organic yarn? I will finally have something to do with my hands, which have needed something to do since I gave up smoking fourteen years ago. I’ll be one of those women who has a big knitting bag that goes everywhere with her, and people will oooh and ahhh over my unique handiwork. People will come to the knitting circle and ask for my expert advice, and I will patiently explain it all to them, remembering a time when I was a mere beginner. It’s all going to be so much fun.

Oh, quick, go turn on your TV. See that beautiful and graceful little butterfly on the nature channel? She’s the one wearing that multicolored, beautifully-knitted beret, and she’s just crossed over the border into Venezuela with no need of a passport. That would be me.

11 comments:

Becky said...

Emily. Put down the yarn and step away from the knitting needles. Your writing is a craft, you don't need another one!

Sarah said...

Love the post! If you decide to stick with knitting (and even if you don't), I highly recommend checking out books by Elizabeth Zimmerman. The title, "The Opinionated Knitter" says it all. (I also love "Knitting Without Tears") Uneven stitches? No worries--time is a great equalizer (seriously, stitches even themselves out over time). Purling? Why not just knit in garter stitch if you want? She's fantastic and amazing. And don't worry, that "aha" moment is right around the corner...and even if it never happens, you can still play with the pretty yarn :)

Heather said...

LOL This sounds like me and crochet - been trying that hobby for about 10 years now...

Courtney said...

Oh, dear. I have to echo Becky here. Put down the needles. Trust me. I have tried, oh, I have tried. I just this year gave away all the yarn and needles to my best friend's sister, who knits those beautiful crafty things of which you talk. Writing is a craft, and you have started a novel. A novel! Eeh gods, how great. Let's do novels and spend disgusting amounts on things made by other people. We can meet in Amish country in between Pittsburgh and Lancaster and do it together.

Stefanie said...

Don't give up Emily! You'll get the hang of it eventually and when you do there will be no stopping you. Those beautiful scarves and sweaters will be yours!

Dorothy W. said...

I've tried too, and just couldn't get the hang of it. I'm just not someone who can make things, I guess. I like the idea of a knitting circle -- the conversation while still having something to do with your hands, but not being able to knit could make it a lot less fun ...

antipodeanowl said...

Get down with your bad knitting self Emily!!

A very brave friend taught me to knit several years ago and I'm so impatient that often eat my lunch half cold, because I can't be bothered waiting for it to heat fully!

I'm not very good, and my 'creations' are still a little on the Frankenstein side, but when you 'get it' its great fun.

I also suspect that it will be even more fun when I can track down another left-hander to show me a couple more stitches to broaden my repertoire!

Good Luck!

mandarine said...

Now if you can make the gestures a purely robotic task (I gather it will take some training, but it can be achieved), then knitting becomes compatible with audio-books, and is no more the mind-numbing activity it was until recently. Then you can call your sweaters the name of the book you were reading while knitting.

Froshty said...

I tried knitting when I was much younger and it was yet another example of how the second law of thermodynamics got the best of me: tangled yarn, dropped stitches, knit 1, purl 2 becoming purl 3, knit 1, etc., etc.--and that was for a simple scarf. The second law would really get me if I tried a sweater. I hope you can beat the evil second law, Emily! And if you do, I'd like a sweater, please.

ZoesMom said...

Emily, you make me laugh out loud.

My advice is to put down the knitting. I tried my hand at knitting due to a similar peer pressure situation and once I got over it and could actually knit, I found it terribly, terribly boring. You can't read and knit at the same time -- major drawback for a boring activity.

Emily Barton said...

Sorry to disappoint everyone, but I'm not putting the needles down quite yet (my Scottish blood won't allow me to have wasted $30 on those needles and wool without putting in a little more effort than one lousy night).

Becky, well I suppose that runaway imagination IS better suited to writing than to knitting, huh?

Sarah, glad you enjoyed, and thanks so much for the book recommendations. Already discovered my local library doesn't have them, so much search elsewhere...

Heather, I've been told crocheting is easier than knitting. Maybe I should have started there.

Courtney, sounds like a plan to me. Let's do it as soon as the weather permits!

Stef, I'm a little too stubborn to give up JUST yet and don't believe I can't conquer this thing. (Stay tuned for the post in which I describe being tied up with yarn, the knitting needles threatening to poke out my eyes).

Dorr, yes, but you're someone who can compete in bike races and who has the courage to consider triathlons, so it doesn't matter that you can't make things.

Aowl, oh, thank you for the encouragement. So nice to know that someone who is as impatient as I has had success!

Mandarine, my thoughts exactly...

Froshty, if I manage to get that far, you will definitely get a sweater (though I can't guarantee that it will look like a sweater). We'll start with scarves, though, okay? P.S. I seem to remember your knitting and having some success with it, but maybe I'm just dreaming.

ZM, "you make me laugh out loud," is the one comment I can't hear enough, so glad to hear it from you. I'm hoping I won't find it to be that boring, but we'll see...