Long Distance Knitting Ninja

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.

knittingproblem1 2017-07-04

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.

solution1 2017-07-04

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.

problem2 2017-07-04

Back and forth we went over days – Cameron dropping stitches, rearranging them and following directions

solution2 2017-07-04

(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.

fixed 2017-07-04

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!


56 thoughts on “Long Distance Knitting Ninja

  1. I am sure Cameron could join a ‘Knit Night’ somewhere here (mine here in Hobart is tonight — can’t wait!) to catch up with fellow knitters and to have a chat. There are weekly or monthly knitting events everywhere throughout Australia. That is, if he has the time! We could have tried to solve his problem too, although that long distance problem-solving sounds so much cooler!
    PS: just finishing one of your books, and I just ordered another one for the ski holidays in 2 weeks! 🙂

  2. Isa has pretty much anticipated my own comment, but yes, there are knitters in Australia. It might not be as much fun as the time-delayed consultations, but quicker. And I have heard that there might even be…BEER…at Aussie knit nights. 🙂

    It is lovely that he at first hid the catastrophe from you, and that the two of you managed the fix from opposite sides of the planet. Knitting friends, even the human kind, are the best.

    • There is too! Beer, I mean. More of a red wine myself, but some others certainly have beer! And a lovely knitting session too! 🙂

  3. You two are great! Looky that big grin on the guy. Can’t wait to see the finished pair!

    OTOH, I tried to donate to his goal but went through all the forms and got this: “Payment card not supported. Please use another card or call donor services.” I’m pretty sure Canada accepts VISA cards…am I wrong? It was an option on the page…

  4. There are multiple avenues for help here in Aus. If in Sydney, there is the new but fabulous Skein Sisters and there is Morris and Sons in the main part of the city. Also many different shops in regional NSW some not overly far from Sydney. In Canberra there is a good little shop in Phillip and another in Manuka. There are multiple places in and around Melbourne. All these places will give help as needed. Also the Knitters Guild have meetings all over that all are welcome to attend. Some of these groups are full of the most extraordinary knitters, both male and female.
    Also in Sydney, the cycle shop on Clarence Street will hire good quality bikes and gear and also knows group rides you can join in with (my British s-i-l is a mad cyclist and always does this when here in Sydney, he also says some of these rides are reasonable for climbers). Hope this helps both you and Cameron.
    Cheers from down under.

    • There’s the best knitting shop I have ever visited in Kambah, just outside Canberra – it’s called The Crafty Frog and it sells everything. And also weaving things, embroidery, AND….tatting supplies! I want to go and live in their doorway .But I had to come home to Brisbane.

  5. First: Well Done Sir! Cameron is awesome! Tell Cameron I’ve done that. too. Don’t how, but I did. Not sure how I fixed it but I did. The sock did go into the time out box for a long time. It’s better now. I wish I’d get someone like you Stephanie to help me and I am so happy you could be there for him. Knit on Knitters. Knit on.

    • Thanks, Kim W, for the description of your time out box. My UFO’s (Un, Finished. Objects) go under the bed, in the closet, down to the basement, which makes it impossible to actually count the number. I just moved one of my UFO’s and found, blessedly, the missing matching yarn for yet another UFO. Maybe I’ll even get that project finished.

  6. Lots of potential knitting mates in Australia. I’m in Brisbane, Queensland which for a good part of the year is way too hot for knitting ….but we must suffer for our art, hey.
    Welcome down under, if you’re ever in town, I’ll buy your a beer and we can compare knitting mistakes.

  7. Wow! Totally impressive mess up, fix, and help from far away! We need to see those socks when they are finished!

  8. Wow! Such perseverance! Yay, Cameron (and Stephanie)! I am impressed!
    I started a sock but got scared just thinking about the heel and picking up stitches and it’s in a drawer somewhere . . .

  9. I made the face you described when I saw the first picture of the knitting….
    WELL DONE, the pair of you!
    (Happy Canada Day, friends to the North) 🙂

  10. Cameron is amazing! As is his friend & teacher! For my first socks, I decided to teach myself magic loop. Tried it on a solo plane/train trip. Limited (to be generous) success. Put the whole mess away for a year, until another solo plane/train trip came along. Thanks to a couple little hacks I invented, finally got it! Cameron has gotten it so much faster-I’m in awe!

  11. If you don’t know it’s supposed to be hard, you just do it! When my friend was pregnant with her first, she decided to knit for her baby. Never knitted before. Chose a pattern of a little hooded jacket, with pockets, cables, and finished with a zipper. All four of her boys wore that little jacket made of red wool, and it was literally years before someone told her that beginners aren’t supposed to do cables. Or pockets. Or zippers.
    Go Cam! Just do it!

    • So true. I have a friend in her 80s whose first knit project was argyle socks. She did finish them. She just never knit anything again after that!

  12. I am very impressed, and you can tell Cameron so! Honestly, looking at the initial picture, I couldn’t tell where he went wrong. If it were my sock, I would have ripped back at that point.

  13. Very cool! Glad they are sorted out in time for him to knit on the plane ride home. He should finish the pair in that hideously long time in a tin can. 🙂

    I agree that people can do things if they don’t know they are hard. And truly all knitting is made up of knits and purls of some variety, right? If you can do that you can make anything.

  14. Blimey! If he can do that (and you can instruct him in doing it, from afar, with a time delay) then he (and you) can do anything! Call me impressed.

    People often ask me if knitting is “hard.” It’s nice to see you have a similar point of view. That it is not really hard, that it is learning to follow instructions after learning some basic skills, and with practice you can make stuff. And be a very valuable asset when the zombies do come.

    • I too tell people that knitting isn’t hard and offer to teach anyone to knit– with good success.

      I do a lot of coaching and knitting repairs. I’d have to have studied that problem for a long time. The fact that you were able to diagnose the problem and tell him how to fix it show how wonderful the relationship between the two of you is. Good friends are a treasure! As the song goes, “It takes a long time to make an old friend”– it’s sure worth the time and effort!

  15. Holy cow, I am amazed that you could diagnose the problem, explain it to him, he understood and could fix it, all with time delays. Wow, just wow! Good on ya!

  16. Speaking of socks, Canadian socks, I’ve been wondering when you’re going to get your PM to hold one of your socks in progress?

  17. OMG why did you make that man suffer through that when he could have started over and moved along in an hour, LOL!

  18. That’s true friendship. You both rock!
    Is Cameron able to do training rides while he’s away? I sure hope so. As a distance runner I learned the hard way that for any given event, there is an allotted amount of pain. You can spread it out in little bits over training and the run/ride/swim/whatever, or you can take it in one big lump on race day and the days following. I do not recommend the latter approach.
    Sending a donation to Cameron now to help ease the pain.

  19. Steph, I am a big fan and even got to meet you and take a “Grock the Sock” class with you. However, knitting instruction and repair across continents is AMAZING and deserves a donation to the rally. As I have never donated before, I need to know how. Please help!

  20. Good on you both! I’ve recently managed to mess up a totally simple blanket pattern which resulted in multiple visits to multiple yarn shops. Maybe start a send in your mistakes photos for tutorials on how to get unstuck.

  21. Damn, girl. I know this is my personal twitch, but under the circumstances would it have killed you to give him a 12″ circular? I mean principle is all well and good, but damn.

  22. That was a seriously impressive mix-up Cameron created in his ribbing!!! I would have likely told him to just tink it away and move on, but you are a much more able knitting instructor (and way more patient with all those time lags!!!).

    Bravo to you both!!!

  23. Great work. I have fixed via Skype as well. Where there’s a will…. As we say.

    Anyone have the karmic balancing gifts e mail?

  24. Rockin’ the knitting, Cameron. Very impressive, and you are going to LOVE sock knitting. I started about ten years ago, and I never stopped, despite the fact I sometimes break the bamboo needle when I am trying to turn the heel.

  25. Hurray Cameron! and I fully agree on the ‘If you don’t tell them it’s hard’ theory. My second ever knitting project was semi intricate fair isle and it’s not prefect by any means, it wasn’t as hard as folks built it up to be. Especially since my first project was a folded garter stitch purse.

  26. Go Cameron! I am also of the mind new knitters should do what they want, not knit a scarf. Scarves are a surefire way to make new knitters think that kitting is boring, which is not true!

  27. You know Aussies love Canadians right? Tell Cameron he doesn’t need to feel shy about groups or even just knitting shops (yes I have a knitting shop in the “bush in New South Wales). We have a knitting group weekly in a cafe, but love to talk/help people anytime in our shop too (no purchase necessary). All the best to the team.

  28. I learned to knit socks from your book (Knitting Rules!), which felt very much like learning from a friend nearby, so I hope Cameron has a copy!

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