October 18, 2009

Three times in the past week someone has said to me, "You knit, don't you?" When I say no, there is a look of disbelief. "Really?" Really.

I don't knit. Why is this so shocking?

Maybe because I seem like the type of person who should knit. I don't look like the sort of person who should ski. Or the sort of person who should be married. But I bet it would hardly come as a surprise if I were to reveal to someone I lived alone with a wicker basket of yarn near my bed. They wouldn't question it.

It's true I don't like to go anywhere or do anything - which I suppose is the ideal outlook for a dedicated knitter. I also like to sit, quietly, and not talk to people. This has Knitter written all over it.

Which is exactly why when a year ago, a friend suggested I try knitting, I decided to give it a shot. She kept insisting how "relaxing" it was.

And as I watched her clicking away - her hands moving a hundred miles an hour - with a beautiful cashmere scarf at the end, I thought, how hard can it be?

Turns out, hard. It's one thing to know how to knit. It's another thing to learn. I bought a book called "Teaching Little Fingers How to Knit" - essentially a teaching tool for 8 year olds. I couldn't follow. It took me hours to figure out how to make a slip knot. I was concentrating so hard I thought I'd have an aneurism. Plus, I was calling this friend and asking questions like, "Where does the yarn go?" It was humiliating.

Not only was I becoming discouraged and depressed that I couldn't pick it up, but I was starting to worry I might have a learning disability.

"You'll get it," my friend said. "It just takes practice."

If there's one thing I hate, it's practice. As soon as I know I have to practice something I can't look forward to it. It feels like a chore. I felt too, like knitting should come naturally. Like being musical - or having an affinity for language. Neither of which I have.

And therein lay the problem. Because if knitting could not come naturally, I didn't care enough to put in the time. Why? Because trying to do something well and failing isn't relaxing. It's stressful.

As soon as I picked up the needles I knew it was only a matter of time before I gave up. But everyone else seemed thrilled.

"I'm SO EXCITED for you!!" My friend Esther said. "You'll love it."

Why wasn't I more enthusiastic? I had friends who were willing to come over to the house and show me how to 'cast on' properly. These are friends who never offered to come over before. The messages of congratulations poured in. One friend invited me to an event at "Gotta Knit!" Another suggested I join a chat room called "Stitch and Bitch."

A whole new world was opening up to me only it wasn't a world I wanted to be in.

I would take my knitting on the plane and as soon as I pulled it out, the person seated next to me would start with the questions. What are you knitting? Is it a scarf? Lovely. Is it a gift? For who? It was bad enough when I had to make small talk but now on top of it, I was having to practice a pearl stitch at the same time?

I understand knitting has become very popular. Ever since Julia Roberts talked about how she loves to knit, it's had a major revival. Rod Stewart's daughter knits. There are blogs about knitting. Podcasts. Communities of knitters online. Instructional videos on You Tube.

None of which matters to me. After six months, I ended the suffering.

One day, it hit me: I don't HAVE to knit. I can stop. No one is forcing me to finish this lopsided, pathetic scarf that looks like it has been eaten by moths. "Oh no!" My friend said, examining situation. "It looks like you've been dropping stitches." I told her I didn't care.

"You're abandoning it?" She gasped. You'd think I'd said I was abandoning a child.

I enjoy wearing things that have been knit. And I especially enjoy wearing things that have been knit for me. But knitting isn't something I feel compelled to excel at. I prefer to stick to things that come naturally. Like worrying about what I'm good at.