Tuesday, December 19, 2006

In the Beginning

A long, long time ago I won a very small prize in a drawing. I had always wanted to learn to knit something. There was a neighborhood yarn shop I worshiped from afar. I wanted to enter, but was afraid I knew too little about knitting. I'd look through the window wanting to be a part of that society of women showing off their knitted works of art. There was a sign on the window, "INSTRUCTIONS" and emboldened by my $7.50 prize money, (Yes, seven dollars and fifty cents. I told you it was a small prize!) I finally ventured inside. I learned that "instructions" didn't mean "classes." It meant patterns. I would be given the pattern to make anything I desired, one part at a time, and a little help with cast on, knit and purl, increase and decrease if needed. I needed.

I chose to knit a cardigan sweater. My $7.50 was enough to buy all the wool yarn needed and the required needles. (Didn't I tell you it was a long, long time ago?!!!) I was told to begin casting on. My needle with e-wrap cast on using my left index finger was wrested from me and I was shown the knitted cast on. I was then given a mimeographed sheet of paper (What part of "long, long time ago" did you not understand?) with the instructions for the back of the sweater. I also got a refresher course on purling, a crash course on decreases, and was sent on my way with the command to knit the back of the sweater and bring it with me when I returned to the store for the instructions for the front.

I made a few false starts but finally had a cast on and some inches of stockinette (no ribbing required) that I thought was near perfect. I continued to knit that navy blue wool every available minute, including some stolen minutes at work in a stall in the ladies room. Holding the yarn pinched betweeen the thumb and forefinger of my right hand, I was a very. slow. knitter. I knitted and knitted and knitted and could hardly wait to take my completed "homework" back to the shop of horrors, er, the yarn shop.

Finally the day came. The back was finished, every stitch in place and perfect armhole decreases. I walked into the shop as proud as a peacock. My knitting Nazi took my piece and examined it closely. She was quiet for so long I thought the beauty of it had made her mute. Finally she said, "Your knitting is lovely." Then she screeched, "But it's as stiff as a board!!!"

My feathers fell. I would never recover. I was glad I was the only customer in the store at the time. My precise knitting was too tight?!!! Gauge? Gauge? Did my knitting Nazi ever mention gauge to me? Never! And she was not dismayed. It could be fixed. We would just make the two front pieces wider. She adjusted the amount of stitches to cast on for the front pieces to make up for the narrowness of the back and sent me off to make the left front. Perfectionist that I was and still am, the sweater lost its appeal. I could imagine the side seams ending up not under my arms and not far enough in the back to become a design detail. It would be a design derail! It would never be truly worthy. I began to knit less and less often. That sweater became my first official UFO.

Verklempt now. I'll be back with more another day,
Bona Fide Knitter

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