Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Knitting, Part One

I guess you could say I'm a crafty person, though I have no formal training in the way of macrame owls, seashell tissue-box covers, or the always-popular Trio of Wisemen fashioned entirely from pantyhose, which my mother owns and proudly displays atop the piano each Christmas.  I like duct tape, though, and glueguns, and I think I'm pretty good at, say, gift-wrapping a birthday present with the following items: paper grocery bag, tin foil, stray buttons, peanut butter. So, okay, maybe I'm more of a crow than a crafter, collecting little bits of glimmer for my nest. I like ninth-hour bursts of genius and have always eschewed conventional classes because, quite simply, I don't have the attention span to make it through craft class without a mega-dose of amphetamines, or nailing my rear end to the chair, both of which things are frowned upon at Amish quilting bees. 

One time, a few years back, my sewing-instructor friend invited me to fill out one of her intro courses, which was being photographed by a major paper for a weekend feature. This was before she was poised to take over the world with her own brand of textile genius, and she wanted to "stack the class" for the picture, an everybody's-doing-it sort of maneuver. I'm sure there's a business-major word for that style of marketing. Consensus? Scarcity? Whatever. It was brilliant, but my point is, I thought I was going to claw my eyes out during the class I was so distracted. We all had sewing machines, and I didn't know what/wear my bobbin was, and all we had to do was make ONE SINGLE NAPKIN, and I was so busy looking at my neighbor's work that I had like this horrible railroad track of stitches on my square of fabric, like a drunk person had been operating the sewing machine via remote control from China. It was really bad, and for a long time after that I went all anti-crafting establishment on everybody's a's until my friend brought up casually that perhaps I was more of a one-on-one learner. She even made me a little card promising to be my own private sewing tutor. Yeah, okay, some people might call it a gift certificate, to me it was a promise ring. I would, someday, be someone who sews.

But then I got kind of busy. And so did she. 
And all along the way, I'd see handmade treasures I'd wish I could make but hadn't the first clue.
But each time I'd wax poetic at the thought of hand-crafted lovelies, 
my sweet (and smart) friend would remind me of her offer. 
Meanwhile, her business blossomed.
She hosted a screening of Handmade Nation, a documentary about the rise of DIY and Craft. 
The film introduced me to guerilla knitters, and I thought, now that's something I can get behind. Groups of salty knitters outfitting unsuspecting bike racks with snuggly sweaters...I mean, how weirdly fabulous is that? Knitting Vandals?! 
After all this time adrift, I'd landed on the island of misfit crafters. 
Knitting.  Who knew?

Image courtesy of  grrl+ dog.

The only catch: I can't knit to save my life. I can barely tie a decent bow, and hair-braiding is difficult. Basically, anything with multiple strands...and I'm done. Enter my knitting hero, Kyle. During the last week of our vacation, our entire family stayed in a lakeside community that featured a fantastic art center where one could take a variety of classes for dirt cheap. There was wheel-thrown pottery, jewelry-making, needle-felting, stained glass, and...knitting. I signed myself up, along with my sister. Four hours with an instructor (that's Kyle), plus my sister's steel-trap memory for reinforcement, and a knitter I would be. And with any luck, knitting might lead to sewing. A gateway drug. Next stop, knitter's prison.

Casting on. That girl in the background left to go to the bathroom and never came back. I think I intimidated her.

At first, it was rough. Real rough. I wasn't feelin' the yarn. And the needles were too skinny. I think I was probably Kyle's most needy student ever, but I wanted to get it right. I didn't even mind when she made me rip everything out and start all over again when I messed up. She was kind of like the Mr. Miyagi of knitting, especially when she moved me to what I like to refer to as the aerobic needles, the needles that weighed 14 pounds and I had to hold with my elbows out by my ears. I was really glad at that point that I'd switched from natural deodorant back to the hard stuff.

I found that there were two things that really helped me succeed in knitting:
1. Kyle sitting right next to me. I would have shared the chair with her, even. If she wanted.
2. Sticking my tongue out. I am a first grader at heart, I guess.

This is where I really started cooking with gas.

Another great thing about Kyle was that she didn't try to make conversation with me while I was knitting. She knew I couldn't talk and knit, probably because I told her, flat out, that I couldn't even think and knit. That in my mind, all I could hear was static, and that I liked it. Also, she didn't mind when I screamed intermittently. There were different screams, each with its own corresponding emotion. Anguish, regret, frustration, discovery. Kyle was, basically, my knitting midwife. It was a long labor.

Tomorrow: What I made!

1 comment:

Deborah said...

OOh, I LOVE knitting as a gateway drug... I'm furiously making dishcloths over here, inspired by your intrepid pursuit of craft.

Time to dust off that gift certificate, sister.