Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Yet Another Foray Into Something I Suck At

I am descended from a long line of crafty folk, so one would think the ability to make tangible things is coursing through my veins like coursey things do through veiny things.

I can't. Doesn't mean I haven't tried, nor does it mean that I've given up.
My mother is the Queen of the Crafties. To this day, I'm still not sure there's anything she can't make with her own two hands. She knitted us sweaters, sewed us all kinds of clothes, made dolls and toys and canned and jarred food. I wasn't terribly interested in all of that when I was younger because had other goals, mostly involving music and performing. Not only that, I kind of knew deep down that I didn't have that special kind of mojo, that odd gene that makes you look at a ball of twine, some bark off of a tree, a hot glue gun and some sequins and think, "Christmas presents for everyone!!!" and then dash off something fabulous. Silk purse from sow's ear? Forget it. I can't even make a sow's ear out of a sow's ear.

It's really quite remarkable what my mother can do, and I'm told it's somewhat rare, although I'm lucky enough to have lots of crafty friends who can crank out the homemades on a dime. In fact, now that I really think about it, it seems that I'm the only one I know who isn't good at fashioning beautiful art or clothing or photography or crocheted things or perfume or lotion.

I was once again reminded of my ineptitude recently, when I found myself desperately in need of something to do while unwinding after a long day at work. A bit of active relaxation, if you will. Or even if you won't. Either way, I decided to take up knitting.

Why knitting, you ask, and not something a little less ambitious, like, for instance, cross-stitch? That is SO FUNNY that you mentioned cross stitch just then, because I did, indeed, attempt cross stitching long ago. Back in the sixth-ish grade, I faintly recall, I began cross-stitching while I was competing in swimming tournaments where I would be forced to wait long periods of time between events.

I always began a cross-stitch project with the grandest of aspirations. I'd pick out an insanely difficult pattern, put the stitching cloth in my little wooden stretching ring...and within 15 minutes, I'd end up with a giant mutant ball of string instead of a nifty crissy-crossy pattern like on the picture. My tolerance for painstakingly pulling out every individual stitch until I could start over would only sustain doing it twice, so eventually, after the crying and the cutting of the wrists and blood shooting out of my eyes from looking at something THAT FRIGGIN' SMALL, my tear and blood-stained project would end up discarded and ultimately forgotten.

After several thousand aborted missions to craftihood, I managed to finish one solitary cross-stitching project, and it was quite possibly more painful than passing a child through my lady-bits. I was asked to do a square that was going on a quilt for my grandmother.
Fun Fact: Did you know that there is actually a law on the books which states that you can and will be tried by a jury, found guilty, sentenced to death and subsequently executed by hanging and lethal injection AND gas chamber before having your useless and naked corpse dragged through the village square for all to spit upon if you are asked to do a quilt square for your Granny and you fail to do such quilt square? Seriously. It's no joke. You will forever be compared to Hitler if you do not deliver. Tea Partiers will hold YOUR picture up next to President Obama's if you cannot finish your square.

Have I gotten my point across that ONE DOES NOT RENEGE EVER FOR ANY REASON on one's responsibility to provide a quilt square for their grandmother's quilt?
So I did it. I picked an exceedingly simple pattern: A yellow flower, I believe. I'm not sure how long it took, but I'm certain that I started over countless times. I was in school, studying music, and I remember sitting in my music history lecture first thing in the morning, secretly stitching under my tiny fold out desktop. I took it to every class with me, every performance, every rehearsal, every bus ride, until that damn yellow flower was finished. I think that flower was about the size of Post-It note, but it seemed so huge when I had my nose pressed up against it for months.

In spite of this, I soldiered on to the sewing machine, with typical results: Balls of tangled thread, yards of ruined fabric, broken needle after broken needle. My sewing machine now lives over at my neighbor's house, where my daughter took sewing classes a while back.

But again, the urge niggled at me, so I went out and bought knitting needles, yarn and an instruction book.

That was my first mistake. The instruction book was absolutely useless. Just in case you don't believe me, here's how they instruct you to knit:

Did you get that? Because I didn't. The pictures made absolutely no sense to me. But lucky for me! We live in the Youtube age, so I moved away from the book and watched this:

I gotta hand it to the instructor in this video. She does an amazing job of making it so simple, even a room full of surly, angst-ridden teenagers convinced to star in her tutorial taking place in a fake coffeehouse could do it! I, however, had to watch this video no less than 2 dozen times before I finally managed to cast off. That's as many times as it took to drive my daughter from the room and to force Michael to put headphones on. Jury's still out on whether there was anything actually playing in those headphones, but if it was anything short of Iron Maiden, he got to hear me swear a lot, too. Probably even more than normal.

Casting on at last, I moved on to part two of the tutorial, where the perky Teen Whisperer teaches us all how to knit stitch.

Given that it's been almost a month since this happened, I'm getting to the point where I can almost talk about it without a nervous breakdown. Were you kind of bad at math in school? I was. Very much so. I remember feeling this ball of nausea cement rise up from my stomach to my throat whenever I would be sitting in class, and a mathematical concept was being explained that seemed so foreign and distant that if I attempted to comprehend it, my head would instantly supernova into a red pastey substance. That's how I felt after around the fifteenth time watching the knit stitch video. Because every single time I attempted it, I would end up with the same result: A sad ball of knotted up, twisted yarn that looked nothing like the Teen Whisperer's magical, pretty knit stitch that was almost as petite and adorable as her. But I kept trying. I even undid the lot several times, starting all over again with the cast on, just in case I had screwed something up there.

Eventually, eyes hazy with hot tears of failure, I stopped watching the video (mainly because I wanted to punch her in her cute little stupid dumb knitting face) and went back to the book:

"Oh, right," I said. "The pictures only make me want to eat blue spaghetti for some reason." So back to Youtube I went.

Did you know that there are about 800 trillion knitting tutorials on Youtube? There are ones that make you stitch with your right hand. There are some that make you stitch with your left. There are ones that tell you to use red yarn. Others tell you that green yarn was woven by Satan's minions but that yellow yarn is okay. Some videos call it a knit stitch. Some videos call it "Der knitten stitchen". And some even call the knit stitch Henry and use it to knit toilet seat cozies. By the time I had watched all of these videos, the only thing I wanted to do was take the knitting needle with the cast off stitches in my right hand, the empty needle in my left, and force both of the pointy ends into my eyeballs until they were sticking out of the back of my head.

And so the yarn and needles sit on the shelf in my living room, shoved carelessly and even angrily into the plastic Joanne's bag in which they came, languishing in the dashed hopes and dreams of scarves that everyone would compliment, mittens that Madeline could brag to her friends at school about how her crafty mother made them, hats with wee little puff balls on top, sweaters to keep us all warm and, most attractively, the prospect of never having to buy a single Christmas or birthday present ever again.

But I'm just not that person. I'm 35 years old, and maybe it's time to accept the fact that I'm good at, like, two things, and making stuff ain't one of them. The world is made up of makers and consumers. Perhaps I need to accept my role of consumer and go back to secretly envying my awesome and creative friends who can say things like, "Oh, that? I made that one afternoon while the baby was asleep."

And don't try to tell me that people who love me will appreciate my homemade attempts. Nobody wants a sad, lopsided ashtray (who even still smokes??) made by an adult, or a napkin holder cobbled with dribbles of glittery hot glue and Scotch tape. Just give me the scotch, and hold the tape. And look for your gift card in the mail next Christmas.


  1. I, for one, would love a cable knit ashtray.

  2. I recommend collage.



  3. Aww, sorry Aunt Kandy...you should try crocheting! It's easier ;) :D