I’ve got two feelings about knitting that most of you will have guessed by now. (Well, I have lots and lots of feelings about knitting, but let’s just talk about two today. It’s best not to let all the crazy out of the box at once.) First, I think knitting is a good friend to have. I’m seldom lonely if I have my knitting with me – especially if it’s the right kind, and like all good friends, knitting (usually, let’s not go too deep here) makes me feel pretty good about myself. No matter what else I suck at, knitting can give me a deep feeling of accomplishment, a sense of order out of chaos, and the knowledge that I do a lot of things (just not all things) pretty well.
Second, I think it’s not that hard. Sure, I hear ya, there’s some knitting that’s really hard (and I like that kind too) but mostly I think that it doesn’t take a lot to be solidly mediocre at it. Excellence, that’s harder, I grant you, but I think that most everyone can pull of “pretty okay” at knitting if they give it a go.
Now, keep those two things in mind, and let me tell you a story. Most of you have met Cameron by way of this blog by now, and know that he’s a fairly recently converted knitter. He asked me to teach him after an incident last year when he rescued my knitting at a pub (I’d left it behind.) When he asked me, I asked him why he wanted to learn to knit, and he said that it seemed to him that I took a lot of pleasure in it, and he wanted to try. (I found that, as I find most reasons for knitting, pretty charming. Ken learned so that he could repay the favour of all the knitted stuff I’ve bestowed upon him, Pato learned so he’d be more valuable in a zombie apocalypse, and Joe asked me to teach him when we were first together, and though it didn’t stick, I’ve always thought it was probably part of why we ended up married. I’m pretty sure that was his reason for it, and it totally worked. I’ve never found any knitting more charming than his.) I taught Cameron, and he’s ended up being a very good, if somewhat come-and-go beginner. (Apparently he has other interests. Odd, but true.) The first thing he made out of the gate was a hat, and then a baby surprise sweater, and then he’s largely plowed through a pair of mittens. (He is reluctant to knit the thumbs. I feel like this is normal.) By the end of all of that, Cameron could knit, purl, increase, decrease, pick up stitches (sort of) work in the round on circulars and DPNs, and (with some degree of complaining) follow a pattern. I feel like that makes him solidly beginner/intermediate – and no, I don’t think that I started him on stuff that was too hard, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention it either.)
Fast forward to this year, and Cameron and I are Co-Leads of Rider Team Leads (we know, dumb name) on the Bike Rally Steering Committee again, and it’s lots of meetings and lots of time but we don’t mind because we think it’s really, really important, and so we juggle things around, and make it work. We’re friends too, so the work is fun together, and totally worth the way that it sucks up knitting time. (I like to think that working for life-saving charities is a way of giving other people more eventual knitting time. It helps me stick to it in a crunch.) About seven weeks ago, Cameron found out that he was going to have to go to Australia for work, and that he was going to have to go for five weeks. Seven weeks before the Rally, he was going to have to put down his life here in Toronto, and go live on another continent. We worked out how we’d manage the workload with a 14 hour time zone difference (it’s a big deal, especially when things are pressing, or important) and that I’d be doing the meetings for a while.
It was more than that though. He’d miss Pride, Canada Day, most of the short Canadian summer, a few birthdays, and all the fundraising and training for the Rally, all of which was going to add up to me what seemed like a lot of loneliness and a Rally that hurt and didn’t raise as much money as usual in exchange for all that hurt – all while working really hard on his regular job. (I did not say all this to Cameron. He’s a reasonably smart guy, and I didn’t want to demoralize him. He was being pretty good about it all.) I thought about all of that, and then I did the only thing that I thought would help, considering the two true things that I mentioned about knitting.
I gave him sock yarn, and 2.25mm DPNs.
Now, in retrospect, I see that alone on another continent wasn’t exactly an idea situation for learning to knit socks, but it felt like the sort of personal emergency that only knitting socks could fix, and he had said that he thought that knitting socks was pretty cool and he’d like to do it “someday”, and to a knitter, all that ended up feeling to me like the yarnish equivalent of chum in the water. I got him set up, and he left.
There were a few texts after that, but the socks seemed to be going pretty well, if slowly, but I can forgive a beginner that entirely, but then things sort of stalled out. He didn’t say much about the knitting, and I interpreted that as a signal that he wasn’t lonely, that everything must be just fine, and I didn’t bring it up for a while. I finally asked, in a casual sort of way how they were coming along (brave that, thinking of them as plural) and Cameron admitted that he’d had a “tiny” problem with the ribbing, and didn’t know how to fix it, and he was stuck. I wasn’t sure if we could fix knitting by text – but agreed to try. He sent me a picture of the “tiny” problem.
Yeah. I know. I’ve been over that in my head a bunch of times too, and let me tell you this: I have been teaching knitting for a long time, and usually it only takes me a minute to work out how someone got into trouble, and to figure out how to get them out, but that? I still have no idea how he managed to to it. It’s one of the most creative ways to screw up that I’ve ever seen. Did he change direction? Did he drop a stitch and…. I don’t know. Maybe he gave it to a kangaroo for a bit, but that knitting was a mess. He sent a few more views, and they were pretty breathtaking. Here is where it gets suspenseful. Thanks to the time zones, and the fact that I sleep at night and he does too, there would be a huge delay. He’d send a picture, 8 hours later I’d send one back. Pictures with arrows and indicators and “Step one” written underneath, and telling him what to do with A and B and C.
He’d do what I said (8 hours later) then send another picture. I’d look at that (8 hours later) and send back more instructions. The first one I sent said “The way I see it, you’ve got three problems.” I didn’t say anything about his chances. See my second point above. I hoped that if I didn’t mention that this was black-ops level fixing, that he wouldn’t know and he’d just…. do it. I believe firmly that if you don’t tell someone something is hard, they might not notice. I didn’t praise him, nor act for even one little minute like it was remarkable, or amazing that a brand stinking new knitter on his fourth project would be making a repair like that without another knitter sitting alongside. I was afraid to shatter the illusion – like pointing out to a bumblebee that flight is actually impossible for them and then having them crash to the ground.
Back and forth we went over days – Cameron dropping stitches, rearranging them and following directions
(mostly – there was debate that was pretty fierce about tinking back half a row – or as fierce as debate can be, considering the lag) until finally, yesterday, he sent this.
It’s fixed. Cameron has a friend in Australia again. He did it, and now that it’s done, I feel like I can tell him this. That, buddy, was pretty impressive, and I still don’t know how you did it. See you in a few weeks. Hang in there, and knit. It’s a good friend. If it doesn’t feel like that, do it more.
(By the way, if you’re impressed too, you can show him with a little donation to the ride. He hasn’t made his goal yet. Doing that might make the riding hurt a little less.)
PS: Happy, Happy 4th of July to all my American friends. Enjoy!