Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Knitting is Like High School

Knitting is like high school. 

In high school, we're only sure of one thing, and that is that we're not quite as good as everybody else.  Even the kids we can't stand usually have a skill or two that we secretly admire, and sometimes we can't stand them because they have skills we admire.  Magazines and movies and TV all encourage us to be thinner, prettier, stronger, faster, cooler, and definitely sexier than the average 15 year old can muster, but we long to be all of those things and more.  Everyone attacks these goals in a different way.

Knitting is like that.  We all know a woman who will wander into the knit shop carrying a leather and canvas tote just like the one Nichole Kidman was carrying in People magazine, and they have it full of their knitting.  She knits on ebony Lantern Moon needles, in cashmere, and she pulls out her perfect knitting to ask the shop owner to confirm that there is a mistake.  Not a regular mistake - a mistake only an expert can see, and no one knows how to fix.  She's one of the cheerleaders.  She knits three projects a year, only on planes on her way to and from other continents where she vacations.  You hate her.

There's the knitter who comes in smelling of the two-pack-a-day cigarette habit she's trying to break by "relaxing" with her knitting.  They come in wired on caffeine, and their mostly acrylic knitting is in a tangle only kittens on crack could have created.  Stainless steel Susan Bates needles are usually involved.  They're sure "it's a lousy pattern", and they want you to help them sort it out.  They're the party kids.  Knitting is an addiction.  (Crochet was just a gateway craft.)  They knit for everyone but themselves to prove they don't have a problem.  They churn out a huge amount of knitting (they really need to relax) and often carry their knitting around in a plastic grocery bag.

Then there are the "knitting circle" girls.  They are staples in the shop, though they never appear to be buying anything.  They sit and knit and gossip.  The Knit Picks and WEBS catalogues are frequent topics of conversation when the shop owner is out of earshot.  Their favorite sock yarn is Koigu, but they use a lot of Cascade because "the price is so good for the quality."  Each of them says they aren't a good knitter, while secretly thinking they're better than they are.  There is often wine involved in their knitting process.  They are the girls from a pretty good neighborhood who no one makes fun of.  They carry their knitting in cheap but trendy tote bags, and make a point of wearing their work to the shop.

The weird, artsy kids who were in theater and band are the fugitive knitters.  They bop into the store, usually without a project in hand, forage for supplies, and leave the shop smelling of sandalwood and jasmine.  They reappear only when they need help or to re-stock.  Their needles are borrowed from friends and family, and pairs are often the same size, but different manufacturers.  When you do see their knitting, it is beautiful in a unique and off-beat sort of way.  They usually don't use patterns, and if they do, they modify the pattern to oblivion.  The lovely sweater they are improvising is for a lover about whom they blush.  They carry their eco-friendly knitting in an eco-friendly bag bought at the nearest food co-op.  They make amazing brownies.

Of course, there is the Prom Queen.  She's been knitting three years.  She is a pretty good knitter, and usually the local advocate for everyone to be on Ravelry.  She knows a lot, but always wants to learn more.  How-to articles and podcasts are her favorite topics.  She'll help you with your knitting problems if she can, and probably writes a blog about knitting.  She has a knitting bumper sticker, and wears cute t-shirts with sheep on them.  Attending fancy classes at fiber fairs is part of her regular schedule.  She carries her knitting in a tote acquired at fill-in-the-name-of-a-cool-fiber-fair here.  Her family gives her perfect knitting-related gifts in exchange for the perfect garments she makes for them with aggravating regularity.  If she wasn't so helpful and nice, you'd really dislike her.

The knitting jocks use addi Turbos, only natural fibers, and only the latest patterns from the newest books and magazines.  They don't knit in the shop, they knit samples for the shop.  Knitting an Origami Sweater or Fiddlehead Mittens takes them only a weekend (even though they golf 18 holes both days), and there is never a mistake.  They are pleasure to converse with on every subject except knitting, about which they are absurdly competitive.  Knitting arrives in an efficient, non-descript tote which will never attract a mugger.  It is always blocked.  They don't think of their innate knitting talent as anything special.  Or so they say.

Yes, everybody's here.  I hope we don't have to go outside for gym.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

You forgot about the Nerds. That's what I am! I love knitting, collect yarn avidly, spend a lot of time researching patterns, collecting knitting and pattern books and magazines, and reading knitting blogs. I probably don't knit quite as much as other types, because I also spend a lot of time reading mysteries and sci-fi novels. I knit small projects because for me it's all about using a new yarn, so I get bored if the projects are too large. I don't wear a lot of what I knit, but give my finished projects away as gifts. I knit in meetings, on-the-road (when I'm not driving), when I meet friends for coffee, when I'm out at a dinner party. I can't stand not to have my hands and mind busy and am always multi-tasking. And I've been doing all of this for 40 years, although it's a lot easier now to find sources for yarn and patterns than it was 40 years ago!