Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Each One, Teach One, Part One

In Which We Select a Project and Purchase Yarn

Over the past two months I've been doing my bit to Increase the Tribe by teaching a good friend to knit. He is not, to be strictly accurate, my First Pupil. That title belongs to my sister, Susan.

However, Susan had only one lesson, approximately one hour long. After that I sent her back to Maine with a book, yarn, needles and an encouraging word. We're a family of auto-didacts, and I knew she'd pick up the rest on her own with little or no difficulty. She did not disappoint.

My present student is a medical professional and the owner of his own consulting firm, for which he works long and arduous hours. His life is, as you might guess, something of a pressure cooker. His partner suggested that he learn to knit in order to:
  1. Pass the time spent waiting in airports when flying to and from various clients;
  2. Keep his brain and fingers nimble; and
  3. Calm the hell down, already, before you drive me crazy.
The student–let's call him Willibald, just to piss him off–began as an absolute newbie. Our first order of business was to go yarn shopping. No, I lie. Our first order of business was to choose a project. The conversation went something like this:
Willibald: So, what should I make first?

Me: Well, I think for your first project we can start you out with either a scarf or a hat. Which sounds more exciting to you?

Willibald: I want to make a sweater.

Me: Hmm. Okay. See, a sweater is a big commitment and fairly complex. You might want to make that your second project. Or your third. A hat will have a lot of the same techniques in it, but it'll be smaller and bit easier to handle.

Willibald: I want to make a sweater.

Me: I understand that. I just don't want you to get discouraged, and for most folks a sweater takes a while to finish. You won't see results for probably a month or two, at least. A hat would be a good project, though, and would teach you just about everything you need to know to make a sweater. How about a hat?

Willibald: It could be a sweater vest.

Me:
Why did you ask me what you should make first when you've already decided what you're making first?

Willibald: I was just being polite.
And so to the yarn store, Arcadia Knitting.

We were greeted as always with great cordiality by the owners. We began with a brief orientation in yarn weights and basic fibers. The shop is arranged by color, so we started out in the Red Section nearest the door and proceeded eastward.
Me: How about this? This would look nice on you.

Willibald: It's too loud.

Me: How about this? This would look nice on you.

Willibald: It's too loud.

Me: How about this? This would look nice on you.

Willibald: It's too loud.

Me:
It's beige.

Willibald: It's a very ostenatious beige.
Never try to have the last word with a doctor.

On the other hand, Willibald went into cardiac arrest when confronted with the price of decent yarn and immediately lowered his primary target to making a scarf in two colors. After about three hours of browsing, he made his first personal fiber purchase: four skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca.

In two shades of gray.

Men, I swear.

To be continued.

65 comments:

Sean said...

Did I meet this person? LOL. "ostenatious beige" is a fabulous comment. I had a similar experience back in the 80's...took a friend to the yarn store and couldn't talk her out of knitting a sweater, in black, had to double the yarn because they didn't have black in the right gauge...and on and on and on. Cut to a scene 10 years later, the sweater was finally finished. Why don't students listen?

sarah said...

Men. I swear, too. But not about his colour sense :-)
Two shades of grey sounds good to me, though.

SharonC said...

That was a lovely post, thank you!

Anonymous said...

That's hilarious! Although, it makes me wonder about his musical tastes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I always like starting my day with a smile!

Cindy said...

Hey, some of us DO know what we are doing!! My first project was a striped crew necked pullover, in the round. (OK it was creepy acrylic...) But I finished in a month and moved on to a shawl collared pullover for my then boyfriend.....He's my husband now, sweater curse be damned, and I never looked back. This was in 1982...I knit my first scarf in 2004.

Do you think it is relevant that I was working in a hospital doing medical research?

Caroline said...

To quote you: "Yep. I forgot Ted's question about the charting software. The software ought to have its own entry, actually–so I'll answer that tomorrow."

That was six days ago. Ahem.

Also, book book book book book book.

Thanks! Hehehehehehehe!

4-ply said...

Yeah, men and our color sense...

I'll never forget the day (years after being at Willibald's stage) when I finally made the leap from shades of grey to a wild, wacky, totally insane shade of...wait for it...navy.

Woo-Hoo!

Spinneret said...

When the student is ready …

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Thanks for increasing the ranks. Eventually we'll get him using black, maybe some natural brown llama, and... ooooo, dare we hope? Dark green.

Chris said...

Whoa, TWO shades of grey?! *cluthches heart*

Eileen said...

When my two sons were little, I used to call them and my husband the penis club--I now realize the club colors are navy blue and grey. "Ostentatious beige." Heh, heh, heh.

Anonymous said...

Well if anything you have started off right! Woosh can't wait to see how this pans out!(I can see that reason #3 is being satisfied.. as he is now driving you crazy!)

BrooklynMom said...

I agree with you on keeping it simple, but my first project was a sweater. The instructor felt that all skills we would require going forward would be learned during the process. I finished! And I learned a lot. But it was my last adult sweater--they are too daunting for me.

Anonymous said...

franklin, I have to de-lurk here to say that when my mother learned to knit as a college student in the 60s, she started with not only a sweater, but a multi-colored ski sweater. I think the instructor of her class figured if you're going to learn to knit, you might as well launch right in and knit something fun. I'm pretty sure she finished it, and she's made lots of wonderful things since (and taught me how to knit when I was a kid...)

It sounds like your doctor friend has the same taste in colors as my husband, alas.

Love this blog, BTW, and your taste in music. I'd love to hear your opinion on current singers sometime...

KellyD said...

Im a nurse. I work with doctors. Everyday. Welcome to my world hunnybuns! You did well.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on bringing in a new member. I've been trying to assimilate the Husband for years. So far no luck. I've given up and started brainwashing, er, teaching the Boy.

Rosi G. said...

That sounds like one of my students too!!! I teach knitting at work and this stellar student of mine has completely taken off! she wants to knit EVERYTHING! LOL I have two like that. But the one I'm referring to right now, she gets herself hyped up and then when she's working on something she gets all stressed about it.

IE: One lady on the train saw her struggling w/her stix and thread (as she calls them).

Lady: Isn't knitting supposed to be relaxing?
Student: YES!
Lady: But you don't look relaxed...
Student: CUZ I'M NOT! THIS SHIT IS TANGLED! THE STITCHES ARE TOO TIGHT AND I KEEP DROPPING MY FREAKIN NEEDLE!

HA!

PS: I've been anxiously waiting to hear about the CHARTING SOFTWARE!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Freakin' hilarious, Franklin. Have fun. I currently have three pupils, ranging in age from 8 to 8. They get whatever godforsaken Red Heart yarn someone gave to me and they make a scarf. End of discussion. I suppose that's not so much how it would go with someone old enough to behave as an adult, eh?

Trope said...

Willibald went into cardiac arrest when confronted with the price of decent yarn and immediately lowered his primary target to making a scarf in two colors.

Bwah! Tell him I know how he feels. There are ways around the yarn cost, but I went into a little shock, since I thought this hobby was supposed to be economical. When he figures out that his first scarf will take him twenty hours of work, maybe he'll calm down. Maybe he'll even calm down enough to step out into beige.

pamela said...

mmmm gray ultra alpaca

Diatryma said...

I remind myself that I should use good yarn (I'm cheap and don't make much) by looking at how long whatever it is will take me to make. I don't spend X dollars on a scarf, I spend it on several nights of having something to do.

jesi said...

My first project was a sweater! I learned a lot about gauge doing that; the arms were too long, the back too tight and the front, not tight enough. It was sad when I finally ripped it out. All 11 balls of double stranded Cascade 220 -- orange.

Anonymous said...

Tee hee! My latest student, a 9 year old Drama Queen (of the female variety), said with aghast at the ONE ball of Lion Brand Jiffy she chose, "What do you mean, it'll take the ENTIRE ball to make a scarf?!"

Promptly after that, I shipped her off with her bamboo needles and said ball of yarn to her bio dad, leaving her mum and I to knit in peace. ;-)

Heidi said...

Ah, one forgets how easy it is to come so far so fast. I give you big praise for teaching. I don't have it in me. It's the best part about being left handed-no free knitting lessons.

Lee Ann said...

At least it wasn't "flashy grey"...

(Sigh. You don't want to know. Take the "men, I swear" idea and add "French." Automatic ramp-up to "French men, I curse with the force of a thousand sailors and would have a sudden urge to throttle mightily if it weren't for that cutesy accent....")

Heidi said...

Ah, one forgets how easy it is to come so far so fast. I give you big praise for teaching. I don't have it in me. It's the best part about being left handed-no free knitting lessons.

Brenda Dayne said...

Would that be... the bald leading the bald, then?

Congratulations on the new recruit. Your toaster oven is in the mail.

trek said...

Yep. I forgot Ted's question about the charting software. The software ought to have its own entry, actually–so I'll answer that tomorrow. - January 4th.

Enough said?

Two shades of grey?! Amazing. Really cutting edge there.

Sticker shock on yarn costs? Remind him that you are not charging him for lessons.

PS - The word verification is "smenita" - and it is the second time today that I have been asked to supply exactly that "word".

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me that you actually had the last word since the poor Willibald will be working on a scarf and not the sweater he preferred.

Ben said...

The doctor may have a point.

My first project was a sweater...rice stitch, cabled sleeves, inset saddle shoulders...the works. In gray (grey?). I figured it out by myself having never knit a stitch, learned alot, it fit well...shame it was a wool/acrylic blent. Always something new to keep me going. I started knitting to make that sweater. Next was socks - beautiful ragg wool socks.

It took a long time work up the motivation to knit a scarf.

cheers,
ben

Riin said...

"Willibald?" Oh, you're mean.

My first project was a sweater, just because I didn't know any better. I didn't have anyone teaching me. I did alright once I figured out what everything meant (which took a good long while, but I'm stubborn). It wasn't very good yarn though because I was a poor college student. It was wool though.

Ostentatious beige? WTF?

knitnzu said...

Too funny! Ostentatious beige! How do we know the grays aren't gaudy and garish? I, too, taught a friend to knit over the holiday. She kept making snarky comments about "maybe she'll have to learn to knit if I'm not going to come to tae kwon do anymore" (I'm taking a break after nearly 20 years...). She, like Willibald is overstressed from work...we seriously worry about her health. She's a lefty and has a visual-spatial LD (?yup. she's a 3rd degree black belt too!). So I started her on continental knitting after I cast on. I figured she can knit for a bit, learn how to bind off, then next project learn the cast on. And the project? She had little choice...I gave her some small balls from my stash (hmmmm) and told her to knit a square. It's a short project, who cares what it looks like, just good to get the hand motion down. If it is at all passable, I'll turn it into one of those mice, like the free pattern recently from Berocco. So said friend's cat can tear it to pieces.

Anonymous said...

My first knitted projects was a 2 inch square coin purse. Talk about being over zelous. No I' sorta stuck in a sock rut. lol just wait until the sock lessons.

Sarah said...

Was the grey yarn, like a Victorian child, good at being seen and not heard?

marie in florida said...

did ya show him your lime green sox?

NeedleTart said...

Thank you for my "resolution" - laugh out loud at least once a day.

Melanie said...

Hey, I'm just impressed that he used two colors. Mine won't wear colors indistinguishable from black (were men 200 years ago just a completely different breed? When did the fear of color crop up?) and refuses to wear more than one color at a time. And I don't even want to talk about his description of most cables as "too busy."

Julia said...

Ostentatios beige! I love it. Beautiful. And Gray!? Ah haha!

Cara said...

too funny! I suggested to the husband that I teach him to knit (his boss has been trying to get him to knit too, as a stopping smoking activity) and he said that would be a bad idea. I realized he could be right, he might want to use my good yarn.

Danielle White said...

Delurking over here to say that I absolutely live for these blog entries of yours. Yours is the first blog in my 'bookmarks bar' and I check it everyday. I actually read it out loud to my husband while he does his homework (he's a teacher - they never rest). He really likes it when I 'act' out the dialogue... Yeah, don't ask - we don't have cable and the evenings can be pretty long.

Carol said...

Let's hope he learns as fast as your sister!

Anonymous said...

Well, all I can say is that Willibald sounds an awful lot like my physician ex. They're generally a very contentious lot to deal with, so best of luck with the lessons.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha...you just reminded me why I gave up the medical profession...I would of loved it if it hadn't been for the one-tracked-minded-doctors. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

"ostentatious beige"

Now I've heard everything!

I admire your patience. Good luck with the future lessons.

Anonymous said...

Your student's problem was with colors. Hopefully they won't be as bad at the actual knitting. I tried to teach someone who somehow, within the span of three rows, went from 10 to 32 stitches. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

"Ostentatious beige"???!!! *LOL*

And he ended up with two shades of grey??!!! *ROFL*

MonicaPDX said...

Me, I'm thinkin' 'sock' shoulda been the first project suggestion. [eg]

Hm...thought just struck...Maybe he was being sneakily foresightful and choosing a sweater to avoid anything that was reasonably portable, thus staving off any chance at being caught KIP?

Kate said...

This guy is going to need to learn to do cables pretty quickly or or he won't make the distance on the scarf, either! I'm thinking high achiever with short attention span? Mind you, I hadn't knitted since I was 8 and my first effort o get back in the saddle was to knit and felt slippers!

David said...

I think "Ostentatious Beige" would be a good name for a ska band.

But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you can convince him to try a mini sweater (like for a baby) for his second project?

arcadiaknitting said...

Thanks for the mention. Ultra Alpaca is my new favorite yarn.

When our other sister wanted to learn, we didn't teach her. Someone else did. She wanted to make socks right away. We warned her but she was adamant in her own quiet, graceful way and since we never say no to her, off she went. She made one goofy sock and then 10 perfect pairs with color and cables and more. And sweaters, lots of sweaters.

Usually the path is scarf, hat, sock sweater. Maybe after scarf he should go straight to socks or to a bottom up sweater in the round. Lots of work in the round before all the shaping.

Anonymous said...

I suspected there for a sec that you had met up with my male relatives! Speaking of which, are we sure he isn't colorblind? Because I once made a quilt to the EXACT color specifications given to me only to find out that the person was colorblind and to him it looked all grey. He'd been sort of guessing the colors by what other people called them.

David said...

*groans*
Admirable ambition, but why oh why do some people insist on ignoring the advice of someone who's trying to teach them?

Geez.

doulicia said...

I love it! Keep it comin'.

Anonymous said...

"After about three hours of browsing, he made his first personal fiber purchase: four skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca.

In two shades of gray.

Men, I swear."

Men? Is he a Libra? I could browse yarn for three hours and come out with two shades of gray! And I'm pretty certifiably female, gave birth and everything.

Anonymous said...

Two shades of gray? It will be gorgeous, and I'm glad he didn't pick black. His next project should be a top-down sweater, because he has no preconceived constructions notions.

Willibald? (snickering)

christine said...

I sense that there was some "eye rolling" by the teacher while at Arcadia........ha!

Miss T said...

Ostentatious beige...I had to come back and read that again. Too funny.

Anonymous said...

I've just started teaching my boyfriend to knit and while he's starting off basic (with a short row beanie) he keeps asking for demos of other techniques, such as the mobius cast on and he's planning on knitting gloves very soon

mims said...

my non-knitting husband constantly asks my what i'm laughing at while i'm reading knitting blogs. it has reached the point where i don't tell him anymore because he never finds it funny and i don't understand why he keeps asking. well he asked again last night and i read your post to him and he was laughing outloud.

Jessica said...

I love your stories and this one is no exception!

Knitting Painter Woman said...

LOL!
Knitting in Plain English has a BABY SWEATER that it recommends as a first project: Quick, small, complicated with all the basics. I bet a baby sweater would be, um, all sorts of a challenge! Maybe OB stood for ostentatious beige... all those years of not realizing.

David said...

The Zen is working. I would have slapped him several times by now.

Lucia said...

Is Willibald from Newfoundland by any chance?