Winder of all winders!

I got it yesterday!  We didn’t expect it to be here before Xmas but it’s here!  It’s the yarn winder to end all yarn winders.  (Pardon the cliché.)

It’s the hand-cranked yarn winder from Nancy’s Knitnacks.  When I was in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, one of the shops, Lettuce Knit, had a wooden yarn winder with a nice large crank that made winding yarn look a LOT easier.  I begged them to tell me where to buy it and they told me.  I ordered one as soon as I got home and told my hubby “Thanks for my Christmas present!”  (Believe it or not, it kind of worked!)  The website said there were no guarantees for delivery before the 25th so I figured I’d be waiting until January.  But it came in yesterday, December 23rd, and I’ve winding yarn like it’s my new hobby instead of knitting.  Whew. 

Here is what it looks like:  (And no, I’m not getting anything from Nancy’s Knit Knacks for posting this.)

Yarn Harlot, at last!

Okay.  I’m such a knitting fan boy.  Just the mention of a member of what Vogue Knitting calls “the knitterati” and I turn into a 16-year-old girl.  It’s not a nice look on a 48-year-old balding fat man.  It took two knitting retreats before I truly stopped looking at Franklin Habit like he was a movie star.  Now I’ve met Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and I think I’m doing a bit better at treating a knitting celebrity like any other knitter while acknowledging her accomplishments.  Just kidding.  I’m gushing like a teenager again.  

The Yarn Harlot spoke at Indiana Univeristy-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, Indiana tonight.  She spoke from the heart about how important it is for us knitters to take ourselves and our art seriously.  The rolling of the eyes and the reducing knitting to some “cute hobby” we get from the media and other non-knitters is sometimes our own fault.  It’s important for us to embrace what we do for what it is – art.  Even if we didn’t design a pattern, having knitted it is still an accomplishment to be proud of!  We should never let someone reduce us to a joke.  We can joke about knitting and have a good time doing it, but the next time some TV reporter says something like, “Why do you think knitting is back in style?” we  must look her in the eye and explain, “It never went away, cupcake!”  

I hope she expands this idea and reminds us how important it is in her next book.  If it’s not important to us individually, we should at least be ready to speak up for our fellow knitters.  We are not “cute” and we are not archaic.  We are artists.


TKGA/CGOA Knit and Crochet Show in Indianapolis

Wow.  This was one of the two best things I’ve done besides learning to knit in the first place.  The first of the two was attending men’s knitting retreats.  The second is attending this show/convention/conference.  I joined TKGA (The Knitting Guild Association) about a year ago.  I’d already been a member of CGOA (Crochet Guild of America) for a while but had never been active in it.

I joined TKGA right after learning about it from Charles Gandy, a master knitter I met at the first annual Men’s Southeast Knitting Retreat.  He had just  finished the Master Knitter Program with TKGA and told us all about it at the retreat.  He’s a true southern gentleman as well as an excellent knitter and designer.  His book on socks breaks out of the usual dull sock paradigm.  (Not that I think knitting any kind of sock is dull.)  Gandy’s sock book takes socks as art to a new level.  Check it out!

So finally in August of 2012 I signed up for the Master Knitter Program myself.  It’s not very expensive and there is no time limit.  The TKGA website is FULL of great articles and help and there is a Ravelry group available for knitters to help each other figure things out.  But nothing compares to being able to sit and talk with as well as be taught by members of the review committee.  None of the committee members receive compensation for reviewing the work of candidates but here they were the first day of the TKGA conference holding an all-day “Day with the Masters” program.  And help us, they did!

The Boyfriend Sweater Curse

I think I have solved it.  The Boyfriend Sweater Curse.  I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out on this.

At first I thought I was immune because I’m a guy who knit several sweaters for my boyfriend.  Perhaps the curse is only valid for heterosexual women?  Then I thought it was just because my boyfriend is such a great guy.  And you know what?  I think that’s a lot of it right there.  This morning I was just thinking how many great things he does for me without blinking an eye or complaining.  He’s always the one to do any household chore and I let him do it all and just expect he’ll do it.  Yes, he’s currently not employed but that’s no excuse for not helping him with things.  I thought about how many times a day he tells me he loves me without saying a word.  That brought me to something I read once, “Knitting someone a sweater is like saying I love you sixty-thousand times.”  (More or less and please forgive me for not remembering the exact quote or who wrote/said it.)  So that’s it.  That’s what a true boyfriend sweater is!  No wonder it is a fragile point in any relationship when that sweater is gifted.  So much rides on that sweater!  So much love is in that sweater and the recipient needs to know it in his heart of hearts.

So what’s the answer?  Well of course the number one factor here is the boyfriend.  He’s got to be the kind of guy who gets it.  He has to be the kind of guy who will go to the yarn store with you and sit reading a book or browsing the internet patiently while you shop or just sit at the table and knit with your knitting buddies.  (At least once in a while.)  He might even be persuaded to try learning long enough to do a small swatch.

He has to be in on the sweater from the beginning.  One major feature I’ve seen over and over again in the Curse is that the sweater is most often a surprise.  Also, the guy receiving the sweater is rarely brought into the world of knitters and made to understand what we’re about.  And isn’t that basically what’s required here?  Maybe he won’t sit at the yarn shop with you and maybe he’ll roll his eyes whenever knitting is brought up at first but he should be shown and understand that you are not just a knitter, you’re a Knitter.  If he can learn this and accept it and know that you have merino fibers in your blood and cashmere in your heart, you’re on your way out of the Curse.

Make him part of the process to some extent.  Show him some pattern photos and/or yarn and see if you can get him interested in the idea.  Of course some guys are going to be resistant or do the “yes, dear” thing through it. If so, maybe you’ve skipped the last paragraph’s suggestions or he has failed to come around.  But if you can’t get him to this stage perhaps the Curse is inevitable.

If you can make the sweater about him and not you, then this is the point where he begins to understand.  If you’re making this whole sweater thing about you, then you’re going about it all wrong and you’re probably the kind of person who’d name her baby “Myangel” and never let anyone else at knit night speak.  The sweater should be about him and should be in colors and a style that speaks to him.  Heck, maybe he’d love a sweater you find atrocious only because it’s in the colors of his favorite sports team.  If so, can you bring yourself to knit it?  Of course you can!  You’re a Knitter, remember?

That was scary, wasn’t it?  But remember that this is about showing him your love.  It’s not a way for you to say, “See how much I love you?  See?  Hey you!  I’m talking to you! Me me me!”  If you truly make it about him and involve him in the decisions as much as you can, then the Curse will be thwarted from the beginning.  If you can’t, then the Curse really isn’t built into the sweater, it’s built in to him.  Or worse yet, it’s built into you.  (If you find yourself forcing him to accept a pattern or color he doesn’t want, then yes, it’s you.)

So let’s stop blaming the sweater for the curse.  We may be artists but we are scientists too!  There is no need to build superstition into knitting!  Now if you’ll excuse me I have to find my lucky stitch markers.  I know they were on the couch last night but this morning they’re gone.

Genesis Chaper One, verses 1 to pi

In 1984 I was 19 years old and had flunked out of Indiana University due to a lack of interest on my part in any one field of study.  Okay, I guess it was a lack of interest in showing up for class.  I had a freshman composition class that I didn’t show up for until the fourth week and then tried to cram all my papers into the TA’s mailbox at the end of the semester.   She didn’t seem to be very understanding about my strange bout of “strep throat” that lasted most of the semester.  When I said I didn’t show up until the fourth week, I mean that I only showed up once.  It wasn’t so much strep throat as “I’m a dumbass 18-year-old.”

I look up and see that my being 19 in 1984 makes me middle-aged going-on old.  1984 is the new 1954.  If I just now had read the sentence, “In 1954 I was 19 years old,” I would think, “Wow.  That guy is old!  He must be at least 40 something by now!” It’s so hard to accept that it’s 2013.

Okay.  Let’s begin again with the ADHD turned down just a tad.  In 1984 I flunked out of IU and had no idea what I wanted to do with myself.  I knew I wanted to give college another try but I also knew that when the time came, I’d better be ready to give it my all and have a plan of action.  I got a job at a Wendy’s in Southern Indiana and worked there all of 8 weeks.  I figured when I got used to smelling like beef fat all the time it was time to look for something else.  At 19, the idea that perhaps I’d better find a new job before quitting my current one didn’t hit home.  So I moved in with my favorite cousin, Karen, and leeched off her and her husband for a while.  Well, I suppose it was symbiotic rather than parasitic.  But we became good friends (especially after getting over having a nasty fight which resulted in my moving out) and she taught me to crochet.

I’d always been fascinated at the idea of taking some string and a stick or two and making clothing.  It seemed like magic and I assumed it would take ten days just to see anything other than a chain of knots emerge.  Karen taught me how to make the ubiquitous Granny Square and then sew them together into an afghan.  A short time later I just started crocheting around my finger and ended up doing it to all four main fingers before joining them and finding myself crocheting a glove just by using what she’d taught me.  I didn’t have a pattern and wouldn’t have known how to read one if I did.  I was just having a blast.

As the years went by I did learn to read patterns and made doilies as well as stuffed animals.  Back then, we didn’t have any funny Japanese names for these things.  They were toys.  Dolls.  Animals.  I made many afghans and crocheted baby blankets for both of my sisters for their first born.  (To be shared by second born, etc.)  I even got ambitious and started a crocheted bedspread made from “crochet cotton.” One giant doily for the bed. Woohoo!  I fished it out of storage recently and was surprised that I had completed two and a half rows of it lengthwise.  I did a lot more on it than I’d remembered.

Eventually after going back to school for a theatre degree and then giving myself academic whiplash by turning a quick 180 degrees and switching to pharmacy, I graduated from Purdue University in 1993 with a BS in pharmacy.  I had time to crochet again and took it up from time to time.  I had a few unfinished items along with experiments that didn’t go well but I was having fun.  In 2001 I found myself living in Jeffersonville, Indiana after a stint in Seattle, Washington with Walgreens and I was finally a home owner.  It was time to start crocheting some afghans!

I’m not usually a fan of big-box stores but I didn’t know where else to go for yarn.  I bought some cheap acrylic like a lot of crocheters but noticed that the quality in the new century had greatly improved.  I was beginning to get curious about yarn.  To me, it had always just been that colorful thickish string that I used for afghans, toys, and the occasional misshapen sweater.  I had no idea it came in different weights and I thought “worsted” was some kind of jacket.  I began my detour into a new land at the tender young age of 44 when that big-box store in Jeffersonville stopped selling yarn in 2009.

No yarn in Jeffersonville.  Did I really have to go to the OTHER big-box store over in Clarksville?  The one that starts with a W and ends with most of its employees having to scrounge for health insurance?  Well that’s just what I did at first.  Then one day I typed “yarn Jeffersonville Indiana” into some unknown web search site that rhymes with “moogle” and saw two words pop up that I never expected to see together. Grinny Possum.

What the heck is a Grinny Possum?  Why is it capitalized?  Wait. . . yarn store?  A store that sells yarn?  For real?  Who’d be crazy enough to open a store that sells yarn?  Visions of Red Heart (no offense, I do like that yarn) and Lion Brand acrylic (ditto!) went round and round in my head.  Who’d open a store just to sell that?  How could they compete with the big boxes?

LYS.  Local Yarn Store.  Oh, it’s a phrase that warms the heart now that I’ve “become.” But at the time it just sounded silly.  I had to check this place out.  I went to the website and was instantly amazed.  It seemed like it wasn’t just a store, it was a kind of club too.  The more I read the more I realized it was almost like a church where the religion is making stuff from yarn.  Okay, perhaps not so much a religion as a nice big family.  I have to admit that at first I was a little intimidated.  Would I measure up to these people?  They seemed to be focused on knitting and while I’d always had a secret wish to learn to knit, I was steadfastly loyal to the art of crochet.  I’d just have to go to the shop and see for myself.  Okay, once I look at the Grinny Possum website four or five more times and put it off a bit, I’m going right downtown and check this place out!