Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Yarn shopping spree!

Discounting time lost to waiting for minor repairs, I knitted my first scarf in about a week. At the rate I'm progressing on my second scarf, it'll be done faster than that.

If you pay attention to or take part in sports, you know or have heard of being in the zone. I've run in some 5K and 5-mile road races--strictly back of the pack here--and played enough basketball to recognize that moment when everything else melts away and what you need to do comes automatically. As a runner, it's the point where I don't have to keep up the internal monologue to push myself to take the next step. Depending how I feel on the day in question, I may reach that stage a mile in, two miles in, or not at all.

The zone exists for knitting too. I got in it on Thursday and Friday. I knitted a fair amount on Thursday night, but it was nothing compared to Friday morning. My second scarf was already two feet long!

As a beginning knitter, I've yet to develop a stash, so the timing couldn't have been better for Kristin to take me to a couple local yarn stores. Since she lives in a Bermuda Triangle of yarn stores, local and national, we met at her home to set out on my introduction to the LYS of Columbus.

After a quick drop-in at Hobby Lobby to peruse a sale, the first real destination was Temptations, a charming if cramped shop with a name befitting a business of a completely different kind. It was housed in a two-story building with many tiny rooms overflowing with yarn and all things knitting. What it had in ambiance and selection it lacked in unobstructed passageways. It felt like someone or something was on top of me no matter where I stood, which isn't a criticism of the store, just an observation of the tight quarters.

Kristin and I had no trouble having workers ask if we needed help, which may or may not have been due to the fact that I was the only male in the shop. Did I need help? Absolutely, although that's what Kristin was for. I wasn't left wanting for choices, but I wasn't seeing what I wanted.

We left Temptations empty-handed and headed to the aptly named The Yarn Shop. While it didn't have the quaint atmosphere, it did have room to crouch. (There must be something to Paco Underhill's "butt-brush theory". I couldn't find a great link describing it--you'll have to look under section 2 of the previous link--but the idea is that the more likely you are to have your rear end touched or brushed while shopping, the more likely you are to leave without buying.)

Kristin has encouraged me to feel the yarn in the store. It makes perfect sense to do this. If you're going to make something to wear, you want to know how it feels against the skin. Still, touching the merchandise seems like one of those things you shouldn't do, like feeding the animals at the zoo. I've been more concerned with color than texture, but I abandoned my yarn touching inhibitions and felt the skeins and hanks. Kristin pointed out some wool often used for sweaters, the popularity of which she finds puzzling. A quick feel of it told me why she didn't like it for that use. The yarn was scratchy, and a sweater made of it would feel like a burlap bag.

Both of these LYS contained an abundance of choices in colors and types of yarns. Kristin has told me about her experiences at the big tent sale in Canada. She swears that I'll get the itch to trek there next summer. As has been the case with anything knitting-related, I'm doubtful at first and then my eyes are opened. If this small scale introduction to the array of available yarns is any indication, don't be surprised if next year I write about having a garbage bag in hand for yarn hoarding and toting the bounty through customs.

With enough searching it was inevitable that I'd find some yarn that matched the colors I had in mind. The Yarn Shop's selection produced two colors I could check off my list. Kristin spotted a very nice Katia Duende yarn in purple with colored flecks that was perfect for my mom's scarf. It was a little more expensive than what I'd previously bought, but if you're going to splurge, you can't go wrong spending extra on your mother. This yarn is finer and furrier than what I've worked with to date, so it should give me a solid challenge.

I also bought two skeins of worsted weight Fantasy Dark Horse Yarns in dark green. The dye lots are different, but Kristin suggested it might make a nice variation when I knit with them simultaneously. So there's another knitting test I'll have in the near future.

Taking knitting needles on airplanes must be the hot topic in the knitting world. We overheard conversations in both stores about what Homeland Security will permit to be brought on-board. Considering the stories Kristin tells about some of the knitters she met when working in a yarn store, maybe planes would be safer if they put some of these fierce women on the planes in place of air marshals.

The veteran knitters may think I'm a lightweight having visited two shops and emerging with just four skeins of yarn, a quantity sufficient for two projects. All in due time. I have awhile before I'm shoving aside all comers to get some hanks of Peruvian alpaca at a Canadian manufacturer's deeply discounted event prices.

After the rainy afternoon of shopping was done, Kristin surprised me with some small gifts that all knitters need: point protectors and wool needles. The point protectors will be of immediate use. Every time I put my projects in a backpack for a covert repair, I take the chance that a row won't get pushed off the needle. The wool needles are for weaving in the ends, something which will happen down the line. As always, my thanks to her. Then again, with my fast embrace of knitting, should I look at her as my pusher?

Next...a mid-skein crisis.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My First Almost FO

After Kristin performed a car trunk knit fix to untangle my attempt to join skeins, I was ready to put the last touches on my first project. The scarf was five feet long and looked like it could use one more foot in length. Not bad for a week’s work.

Kristin showed me how to bind off at my second knitting lesson. It didn’t seem hard, but binding off my practice piece nine days ago wasn’t enough to imprint it on my brain. Fresh off my misadventure in skein joining, I wanted to be careful not to make another mistake that would slow down my knitting. Kristin e-mailed a detailed explanation of binding off, and I sat in front of the computer following her instructions and methodically pulling the far stitch over the near stitch until I was done.

I can be my own worst critic, but the last thing I was going to do at this point was dwell on the errors in the first scarf I ever knitted. Sure, I could see that the first several rows of stitches were sloppier, which also meant the starting end was a little wider than the rest. It didn’t matter.

My prior experience doing anything remotely like this was making a God’s eye and latch hook rug in elementary school art class and taking the required seventh grade sewing class, which was part of a track with cooking, typing, and metal and wood shop. I’d been enjoying knitting, but that didn’t mean I was necessarily any good at it. I felt really good and took a little time to admire my first almost FO. (That’s the correct jargon, isn’t it? I’m picking up the abbreviations and slang as I go along.)

I use the qualifier because the ends have to be woven in. Kristin’s post on her blog about how much she hates finishing has me wondering what it must be like. For now I’ll knit scarves until I have enough that I can finish all of them in one fell swoop. Perhaps a finishing party will be in order?

Binding off had gone well. Now I was faced with casting on. Kristin had taken care of this at my first knitting lesson and taught me at the second one, but as was true for binding off, not doing it for several days isn’t the best way to make it stick. Again, I had her written instructions and links to some websites to guide me. And you know what? It made sense once I started! I cast on thirteen stitches of the super bulky bright blue acrylic onto my turquoise US 15 needle and was ready to begin my second project.

In an earlier post I claimed this was bulky weight yarn. Kristin was convinced it was super bulky. The wrapper didn’t specify, at least in terms that meant anything to me. (Give me a picture of a skein with a number on it.) A check of the Patons Yarn website proved that Kristin was correct. The woman knows her yarn.

This yarn’s feel was a little different and presented some challenges that the chenille hadn’t. I could wrap it more tightly around the needles, which was all well and good unless I put the right needle into the stitch below where it should go. It’s a sign of my progress that I was able to catch this before I knitted a catastrophe. The tightness—or let’s call it coziness, in keeping with the yarn’s friendlier name—had me concerned. I’d finish a stitch and give it a light tug, which made the yarn cozy up. Then the light bulb went on over my head. I want the stitches to be cozier, so I was doing the right thing.

I also developed a technique that made it simpler and faster for me to wrap the yarn. Kristin wraps with her right hand, but my attempt to imitate her wasn’t working. I’m right handed, so I'm not sure why. I found that if I keep the skein on my left, drape the yarn over my left wrist, and hold it between my left index finger and thumb, I have better control of everything. (There’s probably a proper knitting term for this.) I would still like to learn how to wrap with my right hand, but this will be sufficient for now.

I knitted a few inches of my second scarf before setting it down for the night. It was a really good night considering I had a rough day at work. I did some basic beginner’s techniques that I wasn’t sure I knew how to do, and I finished knitting my first project. I was proud of myself, and I couldn’t wait to tell Kristin about my progress and show her the results.

Are you dying from suspense yet? Of course I have to post a couple pictures. The scarlet doesn't look saturated enough in the photo, but this will give you an idea how it looks until I can get a better shot.

Here's a close-up of the stitches.

The stitches on the right side are where I started. It's pretty apparent that my knitting is better on the left side.

Next…a trip to local yarn stores.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The trouble with skein joining

Since I learned to knit, I've been doing it every day. Why wouldn't I? It's fun and relaxing. Plus, I have a big task ahead of me if I'm to meet the holiday deadline. Seven scarves won't knit themselves overnight. As I've found with my weight loss exercise routine--an effort that finally looks to be showing results--developing a good habit is the best way to ensure I follow through on a long term project.

Even if a day doesn't allow as much time for knitting as I'd prefer, I set aside a little to knit. Usually that comes at the end of the day and means foregoing some sleep, but I'm more of a night owl anyway. (It helps that I can arrive at work when I want--within reason, of course--and live within walking distance of my office, which eliminates a commute time.)

I don't know whether it's having knitting on the brain or its omnipresence, but I've noticed it more in TV and movies. Hey, there's Amy Sedaris knitting on My Name is Earl, a South African grandmother knitting in the political drama Catch a Fire, and an old woman in shadow knitting in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Knitting isn't the primary focus in these scenes, just some background color, but it never would have caught my eye before. The phenomenon is like purchasing a new car and suddenly noticing the same make and model whenever you're on the road. Now I'm so aware of knitting that if a movie is boring me, I've even found myself paying attention to how the cast's scarves and sweaters are stitched.

My daily knitting was threatened on Monday. At my second lesson a week prior, Kristin showed me how to join skeins. I was feeling the pressure that came with tying them together. If I did it incorrectly, the additional foot of knitting could separate from the five feet I'd completed. I've never been adept at tying knots--needless to say, I wasn't a Boy Scout--and I wasn't certain how long I should make the tail.

Kristin gave me some advice via e-mail and assured me that it wasn't as hard as I was making it out to be. It isn't, I don't think, but I fumbled around with the end of the first super bulky scarlet chenille skein and the beginning of the second. Knots came undone. The three strands of loose yarn (where I needed to begin from the second skein and tails from the first and second skeins) tangled, so I'd lose track of which I needed to be wrapping.

I thought I finally had it ready and started knitting. I ran into problems right away. I looked and poked at the two stitches I had knitted but couldn't determine what was wrong. I knew something wasn't how it should be despite not being able to put my finger on it. Regrettably, I put the knitting down and knew I would need to employ Kristin's help.

It should be clear that I don't mind asking her for help, and she's been very accommodating in giving me a hand when I get in a jam. (I foresee another pie in her future for her assistance. Knitting has been fixed out of my car's trunk more times than I've had to remove the spare tire.) I want to get it right and probably need to be easier on myself. After all, Kristin thinks I'm doing well, and I'm impressed with what I've done so far.

Next...binding off and casting on.

Friday, October 27, 2006

First project progress

Christmas may be two months away, but with seven scarves as my goal, that doesn’t seem like a very long time. Since I’ve just started on my first, I have no idea how long it will take me to knit one. As I understand it, the bigger needles and bulky and super bulky yarn will help, but the fact remains that I’m looking at needing to finish a scarf a week. Factor in some knitting time potentially lost while with my family during Thanksgiving—talk about secret knitting if I can manage to do it under their noses!—and I’ve got some work to do.

The good news is that even though I have been knitting for less than a week, I’m really enjoying it. Knitting is a great way to unwind, not that I need to tell you. Also, it feels good to know that I’m making something for loved ones that they won’t be able to get elsewhere and will be totally shocked I did. If I have a few scarves done by Thanksgiving, it’s going to be hard to keep a lid on this secret; however, unless I get the full court press about the favorite color question I posed to them, I should be able to stay tight-lipped.

Progress on my first project was slow at first. I was hyper-vigilant about counting stitches as I went along and counting them again (or two times) when I finished a row. I wasn’t confident that I fully understood how to undo stitches, so I tried my hardest not to put myself in a position in which it would be necessary.

“Tried” is the operative word in that last sentence. Of course I made mistakes and had to attempt to unstitch my work. Tentatively I unstitched the first few, as if the whole thing would unravel or develop a yarn tumor if I did it incorrectly. As witnessed in my practice piece, a yarn tumor was a distinct possibility according to knitting genetics.

I survived undoing those first few stitches and resumed work on the scarlet chenille scarf. The more I knitted, the more I learned how to knit faster and what the best position was for the needles. I’d been holding them sort of parallel to my lap, which created the problem of the needles getting snagged in my sleeves. I started holding them more upright and working on the ends of the needles, a technique that kept them out of my sleeves and improved my speed. When I encountered stitches that had to be undone, I welcomed the chance to get the knack of it, even if I was scared each time I pulled them out one by one.

That held true until I made a couple errors and couldn’t see how I should fix the problems. Fortunately the week wasn’t short on screenings, so Kristin was there for another stealth knitting intervention out of my car trunk. Maybe some enterprising businessperson can run with this scenario—knitting repairs on the sly, from the anonymity of your vehicle’s storage space.

Over the weekend I hoped to finish my first skein. Happily, I did just that. The scarf is five feet long! My knitting speed picked up over the weekend, and I could see marked improvement in my technique from when I began. A wonderful side effect of all this knitting was increased creative energy. I had four movie reviews to write for my show on Tuesday and whipped out two of them. I can suffer from lack of motivation to write until that deadline looms like an ax, so this was quite an accomplishment.

During this time I also started this blog and completed the first four entries. (I’ve been pacing their posting so as not to overwhelm potential readers with the ridiculous number of words I’m cranking out. To think that earlier this year writing was like getting a frozen steak through a sieve... By Monday or Tuesday the blog and my knitting progress should be current.) I had floated the idea to Kristin, and she thought I should do it. I didn’t need something else to chip away at my time, but writing this blog has been a lot of fun and a good way to talk knitting with others.

Please keep the comments coming. I’m thrilled to be able to share my experiences and observations with everyone, and I’m encouraged by the commenters’ friendliness and good will. Although I know only one of you, it’s nice to know people are reading and have welcomed me into the knitting club. I never expected to join you in this pursuit, but overstated as this is going to sound, I feel like life is richer because I knit.

Next…the predicament of joining skeins.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Knitting repairs

Almost immediately upon being left to knit on my own, I made a foolish mistake and needed Kristin’s help to get my first project in order again. It’s ironic that I should be in this position in this of all weeks. At work the students have to turn in their first video projects. (I’m not the instructor but assist with training outside the classroom.)

It’s a trying week because, like typical college students, they procrastinate. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a problem. I pulled my share of late nights writing papers that could have been written well in advance but weren’t started until the pressure was on. The difference in this case is that shooting and editing video projects can’t be done from a dorm room. Additionally, there are limited resources, so it’s not as if everyone can have a camera or an editing station whenever desired. And did I mention that many of them are doing this for the first time and have practically no idea what they’re doing?

The week the first projects are due are fraught with tense, impatient students who rely on us, my co-worker especially, to help them complete their assignments. It can be exhausting, if not from dealing with frayed undergrad emotions, than by the constant student chatter and heat generated by the equipment. If I weren’t more patient, I’d probably flip out on them.

I’ve been doing this for awhile, so either I’ve forgotten or I never thought about the humility required to ask for the kind of help they need. Sure, some of the requests come out of sheer panic, but it must be humbling to ask to be walked through something step-by-step repeatedly, particularly for those students whose academic success came with relative ease.

I realized that taking up knitting has me switching places from where I usually am day to day. I’m the student trying to soak up all the information and swallowing my pride to ask for help, even when I’ve been shown what to do on more than one occasion.

I don’t recall ever giving an instructional assist out of the trunk of a car in a parking garage, though. Kristin can’t say the same. I put my scarf and needles in a backpack, placed it in the trunk, and left it there for some post-Flags of Our Fathers, quick repair work.

After the screening we went to my car, from which I extracted my first project. Kristin unstitched back through the trouble spot, and I took a couple pictures in an attempt to better understand how to undo stitches.

All looked to be well, but while standing by my open car trunk in the parking garage, the sonorous, unmistakable voice of one of our colleagues could be heard approaching. (If you’re just checking in now, I’ve chosen to keep my new hobby secret, aside from writing about it on the internet.) Kristin has been attuned to my self-consciousness about knitting, so she tried to shield the needles and yarn from view as he passed us. Whether he saw what was going on or not, it must have looked pretty comical, if not downright strange. If there are cameras mounted in the garage, the security guards must have been mightily confused too.

Knitting secret exposure potentially averted, I was ready to return to work on the scarf.

Next…lots of stitch counting and recounting.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Second Knitting Lesson

Kristin holds weekly knitting lessons for girls at the yarn store where she used to work. She came straight from this week’s session to meet me at Starbucks for my second lesson. I can’t say how quickly I’ve picked up what she’s taught me compared to the learning curve of ten-year-olds, but I’ve got it all over those girls when it comes to being patient and refraining from foot stomping.

I was excited to show her the progress I’d made on my practice piece and get her opinion on how I was I doing. I knew it had numerous mistakes. (If I could see them, I wasn’t going to fool a regular knitter.) What I wanted to know was if it looked like I grasped how to do the knit stitch even if I hadn’t executed it properly every time. To my relief, she was satisfied with what I’d done.

After she answered all the questions that had come to me in the course of practicing, it was time to learn how to bind off and cast on. Both seem easy enough, although as I write this a week after being shown the techniques without needing to use them, all bets are off whether I could do them.

At this point it was time to start My First Project. I decided that the super bulky scarlet chenille was the best choice for my first scarf. I liked the color, which should make it more enjoyable to work on, and it’s for one of my brothers. Better to hone my skills on one of theirs than my parent’s scarves. I hope everyone who gets a scarf uses it, but let’s face it, my mom, dad, great aunt, and sister-in-law are most likely to appreciate my efforts. I can hear one of my brothers saying that it would have been cheaper and taken less time to buy scarves. (Yes, this is the same sibling who resisted giving an answer for his favorite color because of the seemingly countless shades.)

I got out the violet US 11s, cast on twelve stitches with some help, and started knitting. I know how the stitches are supposed to feel as I’m doing them, but I’m hesitant to look away from the needles just yet. Kristin and I talked while I began the scarf and she continued work on a sweater. Conversation while knitting isn’t out of my league, but apparently I needed to listen or talk a bit less. Occasionally I’d find that something I had knitted wasn’t as it should be. This led to a lesson in how to undo stitches, which is the sort of knowledge that will certainly come in handy.

Kristin brought a Knit Picks catalog so I could see some of the yarn options out there beyond the limited choices at JoAnn's and Michael's. She explained the differences in the weights and what kinds of yarns will be the best for my projects. Apparently there's no shortage of options.

By the time we called it a night I had knitted a nice little square. It’s not much, but it’s a start. When I got home, I wanted to work on it a little more. Wouldn’t you know it, I ended with an extra stitch on the first row I tried to complete. I wasn’t very happy about that, but with a screening scheduled for the next night, I knew I would have a chance to have Kristin fix it and put me back on the right track.

Next…a covert knitting repair in a parking garage may lead to a blown cover already!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Practice, practice, practice

My practice piece

Having been bitten by the knitting bug, I was determined to put in a lot of time on my practice piece. Maybe I’ll knit the whole skein while I’m at it!

Um, no.

I had no clue how long a skein would take, so the veteran knitters reading probably got a good laugh from my naïveté. Also, I knitted my share of mistakes, and the errors compounded as I continued.

Keeping the proper number of stitches in a row was a challenge, although I might be able to put some of the blame on the lower weight yarn splitting. I was supposed to have eighteen stitches per row. Sometimes I did. Other times I had as few as fifteen and as many as twenty. Don’t ask me how I did it.

There was a bald patch or two and a tumor-like growth at the end of a row where I must have made the same mistake again and again. Stitches tended to be too loose or too tight on the needle, meaning I had room to drive a truck through them or had to force the other needle into them. One mistake I know I made repeatedly was having the stitch that was supposed to jump off the left needle jump onto the right needle. I’d get to that point and forget where it was supposed to go, so why not have it join all its other stitch friends? Because it's wrong, that's why.

I would get frustrated—perfectionist tendencies will do that—but rather than making me want to quit, it made me try harder. Oh, I kept messing up, but I was undeterred. Problems aside, I was having fun losing track of time while knitting and listening to my iPod.

I had it bad--I even dreamed about knitting that first night. Basically the dream was how to do the knit stitch. I did it much better than in my waking hours.

I had a lot of questions—sixteen, to be exact—most of which started with “what do you do if…” I wrote them down so I’d remember to ask them at the next lesson. I knew I wouldn’t be perfect right away. If I could spot what I was doing incorrectly and ask questions, then I would be able to avoid them and, just maybe, fix them.

To be fair, I was pleasantly surprised how some of the rows looked. My practice piece looked like something only a mother could love, but it had served its purpose. Practice was over; the time to knit for real was here.

Next…my second knitting lesson.

Monday, October 23, 2006

My First Knitting Lesson

Last Friday the time came for my first knitting lesson. I had been eagerly anticipating it all week with a mixture of excitement and nervousness, mainly due to the idea of knitting in public. If I was a little self-conscious about taking up knitting, then you can imagine that doing so in a public place amplified those feelings.

Kristin and I attended a morning press screening of The Queen—a pretty good film that finds the humanity in the British royals, if you’re curious—and then I followed her to Cosi in Dublin for lunch and a lesson. We took seats near the café’s front door, a spot sure to draw all eyes to the guy with the needles and yarn, or so I momentarily thought.

Of course, all this self-consciousness is irrational. I know that. Considering that I’ve said plenty of dumb things and looked foolish on television, moments that are then re-aired over and over, why am I worried about appearing silly? Usually when we feel self-conscious it’s internal. Other people aren’t paying attention to us that closely.

Even if they were staring at me, I didn’t notice. Once I started knitting, my eyes were fixed on a spot about a foot in front of my face. Kristin broke out the bamboo needles and some yarn, cast on eighteen stitches, and then demonstrated how to do the knit stitch. She used an easy-to-remember rhyme to guide me through each step. Now it was my turn to knit.

I was concentrating so hard you could practically hear the gears turning in my head. As I’ve learned, it’s not that complicated, but it took some time to see how the stitch is done without having to think about it. While I slowly knitted my yellow practice piece, Kristin cranked out a small white scarf that emerged from her needles like the printout from a ticker tape machine.

Gradually I got the hang of it. It was still common for me to do something wrong—knit a stitch twice, drop a stitch, let the left needle slip out of the row, knit the tail—that I needed Kristin to show me where I’d messed up and fix any significant damage.

The main part of the lesson was done, but we weren’t finished. We went nearby to JoAnn’s to check out the yarn and get my own needles. Kristin suggested some pastel-colored plastic needles in US sizes 10-17 that should take care of my scarf-knitting needs. She also gave me a brief primer on yarn. I bought two skeins each of super bulky scarlet chenille and bulky bright blue acrylic to get me started on a stash for my projects.

As the lesson wrapped, I realized that I felt really good. Kristin was right—knitting is relaxing. I didn’t feel embarrassed knitting in public, at least with her there, and I enjoyed learning something new. It's amazing how much you can get out of something so simple. For her time and expertise, Kristin got a homemade cherry pie from me. I think I got the better end of that deal.

I wasn’t sure how my efforts on the homework assignment would go during the weekend, but there was no denying that I was very excited to begin knitting.

Next…success and failure while knitting my practice piece.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

An Introduction

Welcome to my knitting blog. I'm glad you've chosen to pay a visit.

I am the secret knitter, although for you the readers, I'm not going to play around and try to hide my identity. Recently I learned how to knit, and since I haven't told anyone (but am dying to, in some respects), this is the next best way to talk about knitting while keeping who I am confidential.

So who am I, you ask. That's quite the rhetorical, existential question. I don't know that I'm prepared to answer such a lofty inquiry, but I can tell you that I am the author of (site link removed). For those of you who think that the answer can't be that easy, let me assure you that this isn't some mystery writer's trick in which a big secret is revealed upfront and then later proven to be a diversionary tactic. I'm not Sacha Baron Cohen either. I am who I'm claiming to be.

If I'm unmasking myself from the outset, why bother writing anonymously? Simple: I don't want friends and family finding out just yet. Unless I'm miscalculating on how trackbacks, search engines, and RSS feeds work, I should be able to link to my other site without establishing a strong tie to this one, so I have no problem telling you who I am. I have the top Google results for my name, which is why I'm avoiding posting it here. I don't think the people I know search the web for my name--that's for me to do, although do I ever know the consequences--but I'm trying to be cautious.

But I don't want this to be about who the secret knitter is, unless there's a book deal to be had from blogger-hungry publishers. The reason I'm here and you're here is to talk knitting!

It's safe to say that until the past month or so, I never would have considered taking up knitting. I never would have considered considering taking up knitting. As a single guy in my early thirties, it's not exactly at the top of the list of Things To Do. On the other hand, maybe defying expectations is very punk rock. Or not.

I didn't give knitting a second thought until I met Kristin. She's a fellow film critic in town who also keeps her own well-written knitting blog. I enjoyed reading her site, even when the knitspeak made no sense to me, and occasionally asked her about knitting. Her enthusiasm for knitting is inspiring--it's always nice to hear people talk about their passions--and she speaks highly of knitting as a stress reliever.

Granted, my work isn't as stressful as the tasks performed by Mike Rowe on the Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs, but I think most of us can relate to feeling like everyday life moves too fast. Something that slows me down for awhile could be a very good thing. Plus, learning how to knit means I can make scarves as Christmas gifts for my family. They’ll never see it coming, and the thought of shocking them with handmade presents is irresistible.

Still, there was an obstacle to surmount. Knitting is for blue-haired grandmothers, right? Or, more generally, it's only for women, isn't it? Not that it should matter… Still, Kristin assured me that men knit too. And who says you can’t like watching hockey games and knitting? (For the record, I can’t do both simultaneously, at least not right now.)

I expressed my interest in learning, and she offered to teach me. Needless to say, I lucked out. It’s much more comfortable having a friend showing me the way than daring to take a beginner’s class, which I never would have had the courage to do. We made plans to get together after a morning screening and start my knitting education.

Meanwhile, I e-mailed and phoned family members with a simple question: what’s your favorite color? It’s an innocent thing to ask, but you wouldn’t believe how much trouble it was to get a straight answer. One brother said that there are millions of colors and that he didn’t have the time to narrow it down. (Eventually he committed to “green”, probably to keep me from pestering him about it. Now I have to hope I get the shade right.) Most of them wanted to know why I wanted to know. I didn’t let on, and they’ll never guess. Do you understand why I’m trying to keep this hush-hush?

In all honesty, though, I also want to keep my knitting quiet for the time being because I know at least a couple people will razz me about it. Yeah, yeah, who cares what other people think? (We do, of course, despite what our parents might have told us about being ourselves. And by we, I mean me, although I'm sure you were raised right as well.)

Next…I pick up the needles for the first time and get hooked.