“See you tonight! Don’t wait up!” I said cheerily to the Man I Married as I headed off at noon with a bulging supply bag to my first ever knitting class, held at a knitting conference in my neighborhood that I’d dreamt of attending for years. I’d never been able to participate, because I didn’t know how to knit. Well, now! That was a wee hurdle I’d finally overcome. With almost three solid (and I mean solid) months of knitting under my belt (as well as the new layer of fat from three months of sitting with nothing but my elbows moving more than a few inches), I finally got to enroll, carefully choosing classes geared toward beginners. That afternoon I would attend a lunch-hour lecture, followed by a three-hour Color 101 class, and then a Happy Hour meet-and-greet with conference instructors, so I didn’t plan to be home until after dinner, well-lubricated with boxed wine and bearing stunning examples of my newly acquired skills.
A couple of hours later, though, I slunk—as much as a person on a crutch can slink—back home in time to make dinner for the family.
“What happened?” asked MIM.
“I flunked out!” I wailed.
I had crutched my way straight from the lunch-hour lecture to class, but—I guess because I’m slow these days and have to locate and wait for elevators—I was the last one to arrive, and class had already started. Kind classmates gave me silent, frantic hand signals on where to find the only remaining seat, which I couldn’t see, at the back corner of class, a room that had been created with dividers in a hallway.
During introductions, the instructor’s face visibly fell when I said brightly that I’d been knitting for three months. I paid close attention to one attendee who said she’d retired, but was now working part-time again to pay for her knitting habit.
With intros over, the teacher turned her back to the class, held her arms up high, and demonstrated something complicated using five small knitting needles at the same time. She turned back to face the class. “Okay, now you try!”
The class of 24 women got down to industriously mimicking the instructor’s demonstration. Except me.
I toughed it out for two hours. I’m a big believer in osmosis: though I couldn’t keep up, surely I would pick up on the general idea or retain some useful hints that I could come back to later, like in a decade, when I was up to the skill level needed for this class. I took a long cookie break, and then another break to peruse the yarn-sale booths, hoping that when I returned, class would have moved on to the next set of skills I might try. Nope.
After a couple of hours, I had a profound thought: I’m an adult. I can leave!
I left. The sky didn’t fall.
“Beauty Knitting School Dropout,” MIM hummed, handing me a stiff drink. He’s still humming it, weeks later.
I awoke early the next morning to prepare for my crochet class, which stipulated No Crochet Experience Necessary! Yeah, right. Fool me once with class descriptions. These knitting conference folks meant business. A 101 class to me was 1 + 1. 101 to them was nuclear physics. “Color 101 is not really the same as Knitting 101,” a knitting acquaintance advised me.
Who knew that knitting could be so complicated? Of all of life’s indignities, flunking out of knitting class ranks high under Unexpected Personal Failures.
I madly YouTubed beginners’ crochet videos and practiced until just before leaving for my afternoon class. I could now say I knew how to crochet:
Bring it on! I left early and was almost the first one to arrive to class this time.
The crochet class was being taught by the Rock Stars of the Knitting World. I had no idea there was such a thing, but Arne and Carlos had traveled here from Norway. Yes, just Arne and Carlos. Like Madonna. Cher. Beyonce. No last names necessary. Their classes are so popular and fill up so quickly that each conference attendee was allowed only one class with them. They publish books (my library has all of them), have their own YouTube channel, and travel the world teaching and speaking about knitting and design. No pressure. Sounded like the perfect teachers for a rank beginner for a class on making a Crochet Flower Blanket.
After three hours, I never managed a single flower. Arne enthusiastically ripped out each level of my tri-color flower whenever I thought I’d successfully mastered the next step. “No, no, you are crocheting into the center and not the shain,” he would say in his delightful accent. Or, “No, no, you are doing it as the triple instead of the dobbel.” If only we were discussing ice skating.
Near the close of class, Arne ripped out my last and outer flower ring. I’ll admit it right here: I whined. I begged. “Please don’t rip out my flower. I’ll have nothing to show for class.” I wasn’t on my knees, only because I knew I would be physically unable to get back up off the floor.
“Will you finish her flower for her if you rip it out?” asked my kind seatmate, Shirley, who had been coaching me throughout class. I had purposefully chosen to sit next to Shirley. 1) She was the first to arrive in class so I knew she meant business. 2) I had overheard her at the lunch hour lecture telling another knitter that she had prepared for class by finding the pattern and learning it ahead of time. 3) She sat near the door, so I wouldn’t have to skulk past the entire class if I flunked out and left early again.
Arne consented and cheerfully finished my flower in three seconds flat. Shirley videotaped it so that I could prove my flower is an Authentic Arne. Who knows how much it will be worth someday?
As my friend Peggy astutely said, “Doubt that Mick Jagger or Eric Clapton would have been as patient teaching you a chord.”
What I lack in skill, I make up for in persistence and enthusiasm.
MIM has added All She Wants to Do is Dance Knit to his humming repertoire. Unexpectedly, he’s my biggest fan. “You could sell that,” he says after I model my newest creation (if I can get it over my head, since I knitted it too small). “People would pay you big bucks to have you make that for them.” (He’s never said this about anything I’ve written. Just sayin’.)
“How’s this?” I asked him about a cowl that was much, er, shorter than intended. Or a cowl that resembles an Elizabethan collar for an emu.
“It would be great with that twist thing that you do,” he answered, referring to the mistaken twist I manage to include in every cowl I make despite every attempt not to. Each pattern cautions in the first paragraph, “Make sure not to twist your yarn!” MIM sees it not as a mistake, but as a mark of originality, a cleverness of design. I suppose there are worse things than to be crafting things that are definitely one of a kind.