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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An Unexpected Lesson

We're going to discuss knitting today. I know, we discuss it a lot here at times, but since I seem to be doing so little of it (damn you spinning addiction and dogs that require walks!), I thought I would discuss it, and a little life lesson it has taught me.

Well, knitting has taught me a lot of lessons actually. Like the importance of reading the pattern. Or the fact that I do not know it all nor ever will. I have actually had that last lesson down since I was probably 6, but it's good to be reminded of it on occasion. But knitting teaches you a lot of things you don't expect to be found among a couple sticks and string. One of my favorite bloggers, the Yarn Harlot probably put it best when she wrote this little doozy.

“Knitting has taught me patience, honed my intelligence, sharpened my ability to solve problems, and shown me how to handle big tasks, knitting-related or not. The one thing it’s taught me that I wasn’t expecting; though, was humility. All knitters make mistakes, and some of us handle them better than others, but knitting is good practice for accepting our flaws and learning to be somewhat graceful about it. Note: Throwing yarn isn’t graceful.”

Though, she is kind of wrong in regards to the throwing bit, it can be quite graceful as it arcs through the air. However I've found what causes one to throw yarn, particularly the temper tantrum preceding such hank hurling, is far from it. But there is another lesson I've gleaned from knitting that I would like to discuss in depth. And that is the art of saying "No". And I use the term 'Art of', to separate the times where you artfully and tastefully tell someone no, compared to the times you've warned them if they ask you again you will give them a nice ball of yarn and pair of size 25 needles piercing of the butt cheek.

You see since I learned how to knit; even more so after I've learned how to knit well, I have had to tell many many people no. No I won't knit you a halloween costume. No I won't knit your childs Christmas present. No, I won't knit your nieces new baby a little something. No, I won't knit your boyfriend a weeny warmer. Seriously, that last one has come out of my mouth several times. I don't have a weeny warmer so why would I worry about the warmth of a strangers weeny? 

I have come to understand that people who do not do hand crafts of any kind, simply don't appreciate the effort, time, or work that goes into the creation of items. To the point that they assume that I'm simply standing around waiting for someone to bring a project to me for me to jump for joy, clapping my hands together in the eagerness to donate my time, materials, and know-how to make it for them. And when the word no comes out of my mouth, they are truly astonished that I am not going to do that little dance and hand clap and hop to with their request. I have even had some people get offended that I would choose to knit items of my own choosing and for my own reasons above their own. And ooooh boy, if you offer to teach them to knit so they can do it? It can become quiet tense.

So, in an effort to keep the tension from your life let me tell you something that took me way to long to learn. If you have no interest in knitting something other than the fact you feel guilty because someone asked you to do it, you are not going to enjoy knitting it. It will become one of those projects that loathes you with the same strength that you yourself loathe it. It will ruin needles, tangle its yarn, and find other ways to make you take longer and longer to finish it up. Don't believe me? Wait until that scrumptious skein of yarn in your stash that you splurged half your rent on (okay, if it cost half your rent you may have a spending problem but you get the hint, right?) becomes the object of hate filled baleful glares from across the room because you can feel it staring at you while you work on something else you wanted to knit after it was selected to make your neighbor a shawl that now appears to be half a jacket that the Salvation Army deemed to sad to wash and re-sell. Just save yourself the time, tears of rage and self hatred, and anxiety by saying 'no' when the issue first bares it's ugly little head.

With all this said, yes, I am good now at saying no. Last weekend at work I told three different co-workers that I would not knit them or their kids a little jacket like that blue baby jacket with the buffalo nickel buttons I showed you previously. However, I am not always good at saying no tactfully. I have been known to say, "Not even no, but f*** no!" when approached with items that look like Grandma Elma wrote the patten in 1962 for her daughter to wear to prom. I also informed the co-worker who had requested the weeny warmer for her boyfriend, that I had no intention of knitting it nor did I need to know the length, shape and girth or lack there of, of said boyfriends weeny. And I also once accidentally coughed out a laugh when shown a requested project and said something along the lines of, "You're shitting me." None of these responses nor the reaction they garnered would be what is called 'artful'.

So let's discuss saying no in a more appropriate fashion. I know, I'm not the person to educate this topic, it's kind of like me teaching "human growth and development" to a Catholic Junior High School class, but we're going to try anyway. Stick with me kid, this could get fun.

I have found that giving people a monetary amount often deters them. Last week when I was asked how much for another of those sweaters, I explained that this was at least 8 hours of work. If I were to even ask for current minimum wage rates ($7.25/hour) which my work exceeds that for what I should ask, this item would be $58.00. She scoffed at that price and we went on with life. But not only did she scoff, I saw her stop and think for just a sec, and though she scoffed at paying the price she didn't seem upset by my refusal to make her one. I also used this technique when someone asked me to re-create the beaded Celaeno shawl for her. When she laughed when I said she couldn't afford it I pointed out that the last row of the pattern that I beaded every other stitch and cast off every single stitch as I went down the row, took me over 5 hours alone and calculated that this single row alone would cost her $36, and explained to her that there were over a hundred rows she dropped the subject.

More importantly I have learned to just say no and not offer an explanation unless asked, and I typically run with the answer that I knit for me when pressed for an explanation. A lot of what comes off my needles is meant for others, but the actual act of knitting and the joy it brings me is for me. Due to this I knit items that I want to and therefor do not knit for money or others. Now, this is an over simplified reason as to why I knit, but at the heart of it I am a selfish knitter. My time, my energy, my joy is for me. Often I see a yarn or a pattern and think, "That will look lovely on So-n-So." It makes its way into my stash and queue and when I'm done I'm typically right and it brings them great joy too. But primarily, it's my joy that concerns me when I dig into that project. The joy of the project, the learning or exercising the skill or technique, and probably most of all, the joy of seeing their face when I give it to them. I guess you could argue there's some selflessness to my knitting, but I know the greedy selfish bugger I am and am assuring you now, it's all about my knitting wants.

Perhaps there is no "Art of Saying No". I think maybe it's more of a being comfortable saying no. I happen to be very comfortable saying it but I have found many are not comfortable hearing it. I will admit there is a wrong way and a right way of saying no. Suggesting that someone is insane for thinking to ask you to do something is very definitely the wrong way. Don't ask, just take my word for it. If in doubt please read the above section again. But be at peace knowing that as long as you are the one making those knitting needles, beading plyers, crochet hooks, sewing machines, or hot glue guns churn out your hand made items, you are the one that gets to decide what you make with the tools of your choice. And if they don't like hearing a polite no from you, send them over to me and I'll explain how stupid they will look wearing whatever they are requesting.


  1. Great post, Q. You have summed up how to say "No" perfectly. Thanks for making the point much better than I could. - Joe

  2. tell that girl her vagina is her boyfriends weenie warmer...that should stop that!!