Thursday, April 11, 2013

Live & Let Live

Do you follow Yarnista?  (You should.)

She is the dyer, happy color genius, and magician behind the yarn known as Three Irish Girls.  She also writes a blog that you can find here.

I popped in yesterday to see what is up, and thoroughly enjoyed the post she had written about "knitting excuses decoded".  There's this interesting thing that happens when you knit in front of people (and it is often the topic of discussion on Ravelry message boards).  People are either interested in what you're doing, impressed by it, curious about it, asking you questions, making suggestions, etc. or they act like it's the weirdest, biggest time waster that it has ever been their misfortune to witness.

I knit in public a lot, so I've had my fair share of conversations with strangers about it.  I have to say, for every 1 person that makes a weird comment to me, I've had a nice conversation with probably 15-20 people.  I find that most people either actually do find it an interesting hobby, or they have the good sense to follow mom's advice: "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all!"

By now, I have a couple stock answers to the weird comments I get.  And really, those comments boil down to three things.  It's either a variation on the theme of "I don't have time for things like knitting", "My grandma used to do that", or "That looks way too hard for me."

The last one is the easiest to deal with.  I typically give a lighthearted laugh and say, "You know, there's lots of places on Earth where 5 and 6 year olds are taught to knit, so I am confident that if they can do it, you can, too!"  I just want to make the point that this is not brain surgery.  It's not nearly as difficult as learning a second language, mastering a musical instrument, or learning how to draw well, and people do those things all. the. time.  The closest thing I can equate it to is cross-stitching.  In cross stitching, you look at a charted grid that shows you exactly what color "X" to sew over each tiny square on your fabric.  It's like paint by numbers.  Look at the chart, put that color on the fabric in that exact spot.  Now, not everything in knitting is charted, but most patterns (especially ones written for beginners) tell you step-by-step, row-by-row, exactly what to do next.  Maybe it's 3 purl stitches followed by 50 knit stitches, then another 3 purl stitches.  Often we don't even have to do a lot of counting as we work because we use markers to show us where the stitch patterns are going to change.  It's actually all very logical and basic knitting is very simple.  Chinese first graders can do it, and you can, too.

Being told that you remind someone of their grandma isn't actually bad.  I don't usually take this comment as "Knitting is only for old people".  You can tell by the tone of voice that a person is telling you that because it brings up a fond memory in them.  So rather than being insulted by this comment, I enjoy asking people about what types of things Granny used to make or whether the person still has anything she knit.  Occasionally the tone of voice behind "Granny did it" makes the comment seem more like, "Ugh, women's work.  Gag me with a spoon."  In that case, I enjoy telling people that, "In South America, it's the men who traditionally do the knitting.  It also used to be an important skill for sailors to have."  Not too many people would argue with the masculinity of the Sailors of Yore.

The first comment, the one about "not having time" is, by far, the trickiest.  I'm a "live and let live" sort of person.  I don't have the same interests as many of my friends, and I like that.  It makes them even more interesting to me because they know about things that I don't know about.  So, as much as I enjoy knitting, I don't labor under the delusion that everyone needs to be a knitter.  (Although, just maybe, the world would be a little calmer place!)  So when I get the comment about "I would never have time for something like that", I'm not sure if it's a "dig" at me (as in, "If I sat around and knit like you obviously do, my kids would starve and my house would be condemned, so I assume that's what is going on at your house!"), if it's a "dig" at knitting (like, "Why would anyone want to waste their time knitting a sweater when they can buy a perfectly decent one at Old Navy that some child in Bangladesh was given 5 cents to make!") or if the person speaking genuinely has no concept of making time to do the things they enjoy.

I mean, the same people that throw the "no time" bomb out there probably watch tv.  They probably go to their child's sports and occasionally ride in cars when someone else is driving.  They probably find themselves waiting outside a school to pick up their kid, or in a doctor or dentists office waiting for their turn.  They probably read books or magazines, they probably go shopping "just for fun".  They might take long baths, they might play video games or spend time on Facebook.  They might talk on the phone and they might exercise.  They might enjoy baking or playing board games, listening to music or podcasts.  And that whole list is just stuff that many people do...I haven't even cracked into the list of specific hobbies that people take up, because I think most people that enjoy their own hobbies don't make comments like that.  They understand that you make time to do the things that you love, but that no one has time to do everything at every point in their life.

So here's the secret about knitting.  It is compatible with so many things that it's actually EASY to make time for it.  I wish I was able to section off a few hours every day to sit & knit, but that's not my reality. If I'm knitting, I'm almost always doing something else.  Maybe I'm spending a couple hours at a Knit Night, socializing with a group of ladies that I've come to really enjoy.  Maybe I'm catching up on Gray's Anatomy and "Glee".  Maybe I'm watching or listening to pod/videocasts about knitting (which not only entertain me, but also help me improve as a designer).  I have two school-age kids and one does a number of after-school activities, so a few times a week I bring my project with me and knit in the car while I wait for him to finish up at practice.  I bring it along any time I anticipate a wait at an appointment, too.  I have attended countless gymnastics lessons, basketball & softball games & scholastic bowl meets, and I always have my projects with me there.  I find I get a lot done in the time before things begin, during breaks in the action, and sometimes during times that my kid isn't actually participating.  I also have a husband who is nice enough to drive most of the time when we're in the car together.  So whether we're heading into the nearby city (20-25 minutes each way) or whether we're in for a longer trip, I often knit next to him while he drives.

Since knitting fits so easily into my life, I don't really have an honest, lighthearted response for people who say they don't have the time.  Chances are in my favor that it simply isn't true.  Until the President of the United States, who also volunteers as a doctor at a free clinic on the weekends and still has 3 kids at home says this comment to me, I'm going to assume that people really can find time for the things they love.

So instead of trying to come up with a snappy response, I could just be honest and reply, "I'm sorry."  Because I really am.  If they truly don't have time to do anything they actually enjoy, then they really have taken on way too much.


  1. Sad, right? I sometimes make too much time for things I love and enjoy and the state of my household suffers, but OH WELL! I'll never be on my death bed saying "At least I had a perfectly kept house.....!"

  2. Exactly. It's a house, not a museum, so who cares if I can't eat off my floors. My Bucket List is full of things that are a lot more interesting than "Have a Well-Kept House"! I love stopping by friends' houses when they're messy. Women are typically all, "Oh, I'm sorry my house is such a mess!" and I'm all, "Good for you! It looks like you've been living LIFE!" (And also, stop by my house'll feel right at home! :)