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.


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