May 21, 2011

"You Can't Knit Socks!"

That’s what the woman in the shop told me. Oh, she didn’t say it in so many words, but she said it. Or, at least, that’s what I heard.

I was out for fun, using some very precious free time to go to a local yarn shop here in town. It was my first time going to my “local yarn shop,” a new phrase to me then as a novice knitter, but one that I would eventually use myself in the vernacular over and over again, as though I were tossing around the phrase, “grocery store.” On this Wednesday morning, the concept was still a great mystery.

I thought the LYS would be a good place to branch out from my knitting solitude, self-imposed due to my belief (and lack of understanding) as a newbie knitter that few people would share my passion for this fascinating and ancient art.

Until now, the internet had been almost my sole source of knitting information, and, interestingly enough, it was also the reason I was driving on that day to my “LYS,” the acronym I had seen so many times on various websites.

Online, I had slowly discovered the true magnitude of fervor, ardor and enthusiasm for the knitted arts. The vast, seemingly almost three-dimensional maze of knitting information that slowly built itself before my very eyes as I searched to satisfy my hunger for crafty knowledge was mind boggling. But I was still on the outside. I was still a “Windows” shopper, standing outside of my still-virtual LYS.

I wanted in. I wanted human answers. Why alpaca? Why or why not acrylic? What was drape, exactly, and how did one get it? What was the difference between merino, superwash merino and extra fine superwash merino wool? Was there a glossary of terms? Where were these knitting zealots (and Harlots) I had seen online so often on sites like Ravlery? How did I meet them? I needed direction—and directions to my LYS, which I also found online.

Today, I was ready. Ready for people; I was tapped out for cyberspace information. I could hardly stand the antici … pation on my drive to the LYS. It was only minutes away, but it felt like hours.

I used my time in an attempt to formulate my questions for the amazing individuals I would surely encounter. I planned on putting on my good listening skills (which I do not possess) and wait patiently for information without interrupting. I thought about some of the patterns I had tried, and the ones I wanted to try.

I had done the typical scarf thing, a hat or two and some easy slippers. I wanted to try something a little different. Socks had looked very interesting—the construction looked fascinating, though probably pretty unreasonable for someone as new as me. Still, I thought as I drove with Amy Rose watching a Barney DVD from the back seat, why not get the things I need to make them? At the least, I could save them for later, and then I could enter the store under the pretense that I actually needed something.

I felt that I needed to present myself with purpose in order to make a good impression on the store employees. This was serious business to so many people and I didn’t want to seem flip. I wanted to be taken seriously. I wanted into the magical inner circle of knitting—and after all, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

I took a deep breath. I parked on the street near the shop. I removed the wiggling baby from the back of my large SUV, which felt just a step smaller than a RAZ Transport bus in relation to the tiny city street, and narrowly jimmied my way between cars, parking meters and curb to get to the sidewalk and to the door of the shop.

The outside was shining in the sun: my Oz. There were large windows with smart looking, colorful knitted, crocheted and felted projects displayed with precise and perfect merchandising skill. The paint around the door and windows looked new, with a perfectly clean stripey green and white awning framing the front door, inviting passersby to see what treasures lie within.

I took a deep breath and opened the door. Amy held my hand.

A little bell tinkled as the door swung wide with ease, and we stepped over the threshold.

Inside, the store was quiet and lovely. There were couches to my right--presumably for knitting--with a whole library of books behind and around them. There were, of course, shelves and shelves of colorful yarn in an amazing array of textures, thicknesses and sizes. Beads, needles and a wide of range of still-unknown-to-me notions lined most of the left wall.

It was so clean and perfect. Tidy. Just like I had hoped for.

I had created an image of the shop in my mind—one of tidiness, yes, but also of extreme organization while still maintaining a creative, edgy appearance. The actualy view before me was perfect beyond words.

As we stood in the entryway taking it all in, a small woman came from what I assumed was the back of the room. She was perfect, too. Small, almost supernaturally assembled in a lovely cardigan (did she make it?) with such tidy straight, no nonsense hair and calm demeanor. She was wearing a crisply pressed skirt and (hopefully!) handmade socks in new-looking Birkenstocks. She smiled as she approached—this woman, my guardian knitting angel.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

My mind raced. What should I say first? My inexplicable need to make a good first impression also made my nerves race. And when my nerves race, so does my mouth.

“Hi. I am looking for some sock yarn. And I need some needles to make them. Also, can you tell me more about making socks? I saw your store online and drove straight here! It was pretty close. I love it. It’s so pretty in here! How long have you been here?”

Her expression was changing. Crap. I had turned into crazy customer who has no idea what she’s doing. The phrase “more money than brains,” crept into my mind.

“Uh…what were you looking for?” She began to wander into the store.  Oh my God! We were going in!! My excitement could hardly be contained.

I tried to pull it together, act non-chalantly. “Oh, I dunno…just whatever sock yarn…”

“Ok, we have this one….” She began to pull out different socks yarns. “And this one here,” she was stacking them into my arms. I had to let go of Amy’s hand. I had no idea there was so much to choose from. I couldn’t hold out my thinly veiled persona of “just a chick who wants to make a pair of socks anymore.” This tiny, smartly dressed person was definitely going to see through me, if she hadn’t already.

I was babbling about how lovely this yarn was, and the next one, knowing nothing at all about what they would be used for, which would be best…I didn’t even know how to turn a heel, or even start a sock, for that matter. I wanted to back up, to reiterate the part about wanting to know about knitting socks, to come clean about my inexperience. To get that help I had come in for.

I was in too deep. I had to keep going. I started to get really warm.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Amy quietly disassembling a display near the table that must—I assumed—have been for classes. “Dolly,” she was saying to herself.

My arms full, I dropped the yarn and bolted for the baby.

My voice trailed as I ran, “Those are all soooo nice! Which one do you think I should use?” I was trying to keep up my rouse for continuity’s sake. Didn’t want to seem any crazier, as I picked up the pieces of the display in the Amy aftermath.

“Have you knit socks before?” she eyeballed me. Hadn’t I said that earlier? Why hadn’t I repeated it first?!

“Uh…no…I want to, though.”

“Have you taken a class? You really can’t knit socks without proper instruction. A class would be best.” She folded her arms. I felt like an information shoplifter.

She continued, “We have classes here, you know.” She floated in her perfect tininess over to the shop counter. I followed her too fast in the very small store. I lost track of Amy.

I ended up too close to the shop clerk’s back as she turned around. She tried to quickly smile at my face, probably huge in perspective as it was so close to her tiny one. She backed up and handed me a sheet of classes.

“Here.” She stood there as though I would whip out a pen and checkbook.

“Uh…” I was still trying to read the schedule I had been handed. How did I know what class to take? I thought I might be too self-conscious still. I also like learning mostly on my own. I knew I could never convey this information now.

“Here,” she sharply pointed her tiny perfect finger to the paper, now jammed in my face. We were still standing too close to each other. “You could do this one on Thursdays, it’s a five week class where you do the top one week, then the leg, then the heel, thenthenextweekyouturnit….”

It was all running together.

“Or you could do this one on Saturdays, or we also have  meeting Thursday nights, that’s only $25 and you can just drop in with questions…”

What?  I was getting so overwhelmed. Meanwhile, Amy was in locations unknown in the shop. I stared catatonically.

Her speech was speeding up.

“We have great instructors and our prices are so much better than some other shops. Don’t go to the big stores. They really hurt the smaller, local shops, and those online stores, too. You should always buy from local yarn shops…”

Was “crazy” contagious?

“You know,” this entire time, she had continued to load my arms with yarn and accessories, I stood there dumbfounded. “You would really do better with one on one lessons. We have some really great teachers. You can’t really do socks without one on one instruction.”

Hadn’t she said….wait…I was getting more confused by the minute. Amy save me! Crash something! Willing toddler destruction is the last defense for moms in distress.

The woman prattled on in her tidy, neat tone, which was now becoming like the cacophonous mini-bark of a Chihuahua, “Here,” another sheet plus more yarn, “these are the names and numbers of our teachers. They can help you. Or I can do it. I teach, too. You should plan a time.”

Then she began that socially awkward practice of talking too much about money—how much every single class was, how I had to spend amount X in order to knit socks….

I wondered how it was that I always met such crazy people. Did I have a sign on my back that read, “I Do Crazy,” left over from some junior high prank?

I wanted to leave. How to get out of it?  She was now staring me down through tidy brown glasses, the rims surrounding her perfect lashes in excellently executed symmetry.

She was closing in. Was I about to be transported to a back room with a single bright bulb? Was I about to be interrogated? Was I about to inadvertently purchase a used car?

She had moved behind the counter to the computer. “Which class did you want? And the instructors will come to your house, or meet you here.”

I hadn’t spoken in minutes. She had long ago stopped gauging my reactions to her words. I pretended to need to find the baby. I excused myself. I breathed. I found Amy in the back of the shop, noodling around in a yarn bin that was on the floor. To her, it probably looked like a marvelous grab-bag of toys.

I put back the now-scrambled hanks of yarn into the bin.

Through my haze of nerves and confusion, I made a decision to purchase of the yarns I had been handed—among about what seemed like 200—and a single set of double-pointed needles.

By the time I returned to the front of the store, the chatter had all but stopped. She had become like a perfect, tiny wind-up talking doll that run the course of her winding spring. She was back to staring at me, sizing me up.

I politely explained what I would like to buy, took the China Goo set of 5 dpn’s she handed me, and wandered silently, stunned, out into the street. The bell on the front door rang the close of my first LYS experience.

Of course, I have come to so love local yarn shops—who couldn’t? They truly are a wonderful resource. Truly, one bad apple doesn’t wreck the whole experience—I did use the yarn, and I did knit socks. And more socks … and more … and more …

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's my belief that there is an Alert going out to all the LYS and knit shops in a 300 mile radius to "beware of pretty mom and darling baby ..... prevent at all costs less they enter the premises"!!!

Suggestion: knit some fabulous disguises for yourself and alternate between children, boys and girls, from 4-18 years of age, before shopping! You could earn extra yarn monies by babysitting/mentoring these kids!!!!