5KCBWDAY6 To see ourselves as others see us

I don’t feel much like participating today. Today’s 5KCBWDAY6 prompt feels like an exam question  — in an examination that I have not prepared for. I feel as though I could write reams about designers that I admire but the question as set sparks very little in me. There appears to be no wild card subject this year to fall back upon. Please forgive me if I wander off-piste. I shall try to find some element of the topic for today to cling on to.

Write about another knitter or crocheter that you admire. This could be someone you know or used to know – an aunt that taught you to crochet or the school-teacher that used to run the after-school learn-to-knit club, or someone who you are aware of because of blogging or other areas of social media. Write about your feelings either for their work or what they bring to you as a knitter or crocheter. Reminiscences of the sound of your mother’s metal needles, or the description your grandad gave of what he’d knit as he sat on his bunk below deck in his sailor’s days are as precious as sharing the enjoyment of the work of a new indie designer or dyer. Spread your enjoyment to your readers.

Actually, on further thought, I find that I wish to share Jennifer with you:

5KCBWDAY6 Jennifer Knits - A Pair of New Spinners

A Pair of New Spinners

I first met Jennifer when we taught her to spin. She threw herself into it in a way that I now know only a Jennifer could do. Her enthusiasm is boundless.

Having learned to spin, Jennifer had yarn on her hands and she was jolly well going to knit it. It is fair to say that at that time her knitting was fairly basic and a certain element of gung ho was involved in the making of her projects. Much like my own knitting – “good enough” was good enough. She set the bar low from choice and that was her prerogative. All that she wanted to do was to make something and to do so quickly.

Jennifer kept her projects small and very simple. She had no belief in her abilities and would say “I’d like to make that… can I?” and I would reply that she could make anything at all that she wished to, if she really wanted to. It’s only Knits and Purls when all is said and done.

Over what seems to have been a very brief period of time, Jennifer’s skills as a knitter have progressed beyond her wild imaginings. It has taken time to persuade Jennifer that tinking and frogging have their place in knitting and that she will actually enjoy her finished work more if she takes the time to go backwards occasionally. She has now morphed into a knitter who makes tension squares and takes working backwards in her stride.

Jennifer is the whole package – she not only spins the yarn that she knits but she blends the colour mix first. Jennifer adores colour and has very firm ideas about how her projects are going to be, she has an individual sense of style and knows what she wants. She picks the pattern, plans the colours, spins a fat yarn so much better than I ever could, and then begins to knit at a ferocious pace.

Still uncertain of her new abilities, Jennifer will come to me and show me a pattern and suggest that she is not actually capable of making it. I say that of course she can. She shakes her head and says perhaps she will find something else to do. The next time that I see her she has the garment half completed! Not only could she do it with apparent ease — but she also took the pattern and redesigned it to suit her needs better, planned her yarn requirements, blended the colour, spun the yarn and knit half a sweater.

Jennifer’s enthusiasm is infectious and her can-do attitude is an example to all of us. For all that I say to her “Of course you can do it” I am myself fazed by many aspects of knitting and known to put off projects until I am “good enough” to tackle them properly. I actually plan programmes of knitting designed to teach me the skills that I require for a “proper project” – one example is when I did a practice shawl, the Bridgewater, to prepare me for making a square shawl that might do well in the annual Show. The thing is… I have never got around to the proper shawl, but the practice one not only won 1st  place but also took the special prize for the best knitted entry. I am very good at bolstering other knitters’ confidence levels but totally lack any belief in my own ability! One thing that really fazes me is design and modifications of published patterns. To see Jennifer rough out a schematic with new measurements and go on to plan a completely symmetrical striping pattern is a real learning point – something to do with nettles and grasping.

I can learn many lessons from Jennifer but if I had to take only one and share it with others here, I would say that it is the sense of pleasure and enjoyment that she takes from her knitting.  She makes it fun. My knitting is so often a slog – involving spreadsheets to keep me motivated on the amount of work done. I could learn from her that each stitch is progress and every one of them is a pleasure. I seem to have lost that from my work.

Now for the supplementary section to today’s examination question:

Next, think about if anyone has ever told you how they feel about your knitting, positive or negative. Have you delighted strangers who have enjoyed telling you how they would sit with their grandmother who loved to crochet doilies, or have you had to withstand a little brother telling you repeatedly that knitting is for grandmas?

In all the years that I have been knitting (too many to count!) I cannot recall one negative view expressed to me on the subject of knitting. Sure enough, Mother constantly informed me on the matter of how poor a knitter I was, but I never received a negative comment from anybody on the subject of knitting or on my knitting habit. I believe this “knitting is for grannies” thing is just a construct from the Media, in my experience most non-knitters are in thrall to the knitter-in-progress.

I knit often in public. I take my knitting with me whenever I go out and about and it helps to pass the time when I go to town on the ferry. Women who are strangers to me smile and nod, as though implying a bond. Some stop to ask what I am knitting, to look at the pattern and to admire my work. Often, finished knitted objects are the centre of attention and are much admired. All this I find to be pretty much as I expect. What is more interesting to me is the number of men who are fascinated by the knitting. Occasionally they will reveal their own skill and tell me about the socks that they knit, then go on to say that they would never tackle the knitted lace that I am working on. More often it is the male non-knitters that speak to me.

My recent ferry knitting has been my Valborg doily. It has surprised me how little attention this gets from the ladies, and how much it draws from the men. It is mostly non-knitters who comment on it. They generally introduce themselves with a remark on how fine my thread is – it’s a size 30 crochet thread with over 1,000 yards to 100 grams.  It even drew a remark from the ferry Purser a few weeks ago, when he came round to do tickets. Typically they fall silent and watch me work for a while, before telling me about their grandmothers and their knitting. Always they have a dreamy smile on their face, as though they are transported back to a different time and place. Few of them tell me about their mothers knitting – we have a lost generation when it comes to homecrafts. Generally the conversation turns to how knitting has died out and I am able to disabuse them of this notion and tell them about the resurgence of knitting and crochet and how spinning and weaving have come back to prominence too. I tell them that I believe it is the Internet that is enabling the growth of crafts. Yarn sales are increasing year on year. I cannot find the reference now unfortunately but only the other day I heard on the radio that last year’s yarn sales were up a whopping 70% on the previous year. That’s phenomenal.

Last week I was speaking with a man in the ferry waiting room and the conversation went on as he asked about lace and I explained the differences between knitted lace, tatting and bobbin lace. A few weeks prior to that another man went on, after chatting about my doily and knitting in general, to reveal that he is a weaver. A lady waiting with us introduced herself as a spinner and weaver. My knitting introduces me to so many people! Never once have I been laughed at, had the finger pointed, or been told that what I am doing is for grannies. It occurs to me that this may have something to do with the fact that I have grey hair and a bus pass. When I stop to consider matters, I have been an actual granny for over 20 years now. So there’s nothing apparently weird to an onlooker about my being  a knitter. I may have begun when I was 4 years old and I may have knitted through my younger and funkier years but now I fit the prescribed mould perhaps in their eyes. Not in mine! I still feel 17. I still feel new at knitting and I still seek to learn and to improve. I just wish that I had my 17 year old body so that I don’t have to spin as much yarn or take so long to knit a garment as I would have when I was half my Granny Size.

5KCBWDAY6 Annual-2014-Knitting-Crochet-Blog-Week-on-Eskimimi-Makes

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2 Responses to “5KCBWDAY6 To see ourselves as others see us”

  1. Britney 18th May 2014 at 8:09 pm #

    Jennifer sounds like an awesome knitter/spinner to get to know! Just reading about her enthusiasm is infectious.
    I really love that your knitting has introduces you to new people. It reminds me of a book quote that I think transfers well to crafts: “Seeing someone reading a book you love is seeing a book recommending a person.”
    Thanks for such a great post–consider me a new reader. :]

    • Beth 18th May 2014 at 8:26 pm #

      Thank you, Britney – and welcome to our little corner of the internet

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