Monday, June 29, 2009

Shirley's blue tam

This is my friend Shirley's blue tam story:
I have a little knitting story to share with you. It's about a blue tweedy beret that turned out too small for the adult for which it was intended. So I put it away. Then last summer when my husband rented the gallery space in Northeast Harbor, I became acquainted with the young Russian woman who had a shop next door. Her store was called "Blue" and she loved all things French and blue. It was filled with huge bunches of dried French lavender and large fancy pillows she sewed from cloth of elegant designs. I still remember the powerful smell of lavender wafting out onto the street from her store.

About half-way through the summer I thought of the blue child-sized beret and got up enough courage to see if she would take it on consignment. It really was a classic French style with a tassle on top, knitted from 100% wool from Bartlett Yarns in Maine. I was curious to see how much someone would be willing to pay for a handknitted, natural fiber hat. I have always been amazed at the low prices people put on hand knitted garments when you consider the cost of the yarn and the time and skill behind it. Well, my Russian, French-loving, shop keeping friend put a price of $95 on the hat. It sat there for the rest of the season until the last day in October when she sold it on sale for $62! I was overjoyed and suddenly felt like I was a great knitter! And all those "mistakes" that I have knitted in the past are seen in a new light!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Long Island Men!

From Katherine Jane:

A couple weeks ago, my Brooklyn friends and I made it out to Long Island to visit our dear friend Kevin. Kevin is a gentle soul and a man in whose debt I will forever be, because he is at present very generously allowing me to borrow his entire collection of Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs (one season at a time). He has come to many of our Brooklyn parties over the years, and the time had come for us to make the long trek out to see his place and meet his lovely wife and Long Island friends.

So, one bus-train-bus ride later, there we were in Kevin’s house.We dropped off our beer and soda and did the tour of the house, all appropriately confused and then impressed by novelties like "a dining room!" and "a dishwasher!" and "closet space!"--living in or around the city, you start to forget that these things aren't just myths dreamed up by non-New Yorkers to make us city-dwellers feel bad. Then, the preliminaries out of the way, we moved into the garden ("a garden!") to begin the earnest duty of eating, drinking, mingling, and paying homage to the gods who had so kindly ignored the weatherman's prediction of rain.

Now, at least to start with the party guests were predominately male, and as a single girl I suppose I ought to have been smiling and flipping my hair and taking people's cards like I was giving away a prize at the door at the end of the evening. But I have no particular deadline for filling my boyfriend ("boyfriend!") quota, and I most certainly have a deadline for when I need to finish the two Baby Surprise Jackets I'm working on at the moment; their intended recipients are being born in August. And so I did what I often do at parties: found a comfortable-looking chair, plunked myself down, and pulled out my knitting. As I'm sure most of you know, knitting at parties can have mixed results; sometimes people consider it anti-social, but for the most part it generally makes for a good conversation starter with knitters and non-knitters alike.

Antisocial? Me? Perish the thought!

Sure enough, within minutes of me pulling out my knitting, a stocky, muscley guy with frosted tips came charging over. He introduced himself as Tom, and then said, "I see you're knitting." Impressed that he knew it was knitting and not crochet, I agreed pleasantly that I was in fact knitting. "I can knit," Tom continued with confidence. I blinked--this was not where I had expected the conversation to go. Tom sat down in the chair next to me and proceeded to tell me with great enthusiasm all about the scarf he had knit. He was well-informed on the subject and intelligent, and we had a very pleasant chat.

Now, I know men knit. I have coached at least one guy through his first hat, and follow two men's knitting blogs (no prizes for guessing which ones). But even though my conversation with Tom served to remind me that you can't judge a book by its cover, the party continued to surprise me. Next up was Kevin's co-worker Loc. "My wife knits," said Loc, sitting down next to me. I made some appropriate noise of interest, and Loc continued, "She's really into it. She's at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival right now, that's why she couldn't come here today." Suddenly I felt a little defensive--maybe if I was a real knitter, I'd be at that festival too? "How big is your stash?" Loc asked suddenly. I stammered that my stash was on the small side, and started to explain about size limitations of New York apartments, but Loc was having none of that. "My wife's stash is huge!" he said with a chuckle. "It's so big! It takes over an entire room!" And, watching his face, I stopped feeling defensive as it became clear: Loc was bragging about his wife and her knitting, in the best possible way. He was proud of her, proud of her crazy obsession and the lengths to which it took her. Though he didn't seem to have much interest in knitting himself, he knew all about it, because he liked his wife and his wife likes knitting. She knits! She spins! She's the most amazing knitter on the planet! I made a game of it and started throwing knitting terms at him; he knew what a UFO was, knew all about Ravelry, and so on and so forth. Knitting osmosis had done the trick; Loc could not be phased.

And then, just when I thought my knitter's heart couldn't get any more full, two more muscley Long Island men approached the table. "Oh, you're crocheting?" asked one of them. Before I could open my mouth, the other one interjected with great disgust, "Ugh, she's knitting. Crocheting is with one hook; knitting is with two needles. Don't you know anything?"

And this is the point where I decided I needed to consider moving to Long Island some day.

So what does it mean, oh knitting brethren? Are Long Island males just extremely advanced and in-touch with their crafty side? The fact that Loc and his expertly-knitting wife live in Manhattan contradicts that theory. Maybe American men in general are becoming enlightened? Maybe knitting has become so mainstream that even non-knitters have a basic understanding of how it works? Maybe Kevin just has exceptionally cool friends?

I don't have the answer. All I know is I'm going to think twice the next time some cute guy eyes me while I'm knitting on the subway; it just might be that instead of checking me out, he's actually critiquing my cables.

Kevin: the host who can boast the most roast!

- Katherine Jane


Katherine Jane Arathoon lives in New York City and occasionally guest blogs for Knitting Out Loud. She also blogs at Between Ewe And Me.