Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hey, Teach

Here I am. Hello.

I know–everything built up to a shattering climax on the twelfth day of Christmas and then I fell silent.

This was not my intention. I have buckets to share with you. Buckets. Alas, every time I sat down to show you my bucket, something would happen. I would smell smoke, or ominous noises would emanate from the plumbing. Or I would realize it was time to go to Montana.

Yes, Montana. I went to Wild Purls* in Billings for two days, to sign copies of the little book and to teach a class on Elizabeth Zimmermann's Tomten Jacket. I was excited about both events, but especially excited about the teaching. I was so exceedingly excited about the teaching that every time I imagined myself in the classroom I'd get short of breath and throw up.

As some of you know, my dear sister is a teacher. At a shockingly young age, she has already racked up years of experience in the field. She is my authority in Matters Pedagogical. I asked her whether wanting to throw up in front of the class was normal. She said yes. I asked her what to do about it. She said, don't throw up.

Thus armed with sage advice, I landed in Billings and was welcomed warmly by the crew of Wild Purls, who were wearing...

Suzanne, Johanna, and Judy

Linda, Julia, and Suzanne

"Knitting Becomes a Habit" commemorative tour t-shirts. I was floored. I felt like Madonna, or Cher, or Barbra, or somebody else that people in this neighborhood dress like on Friday night. Quite a boost to my confidence.

The book signing was a hoot. I met all sorts of knitters, including one very young (hi, Chloƫ!) and an aspiring cartoonist who reminded me of myself as a child, back in the days when they had just invented lead pencils.

But I was still nervous. Seven hours is a long maiden voyage as a knitting teacher, and a quick survey at 9 o'clock revealed that among the twenty-odd students:
  • only two had previously grappled with an Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern,
  • one of those was an extremely experienced knitter who had already made the Tomten countless times and probably knew much more about it than I,
  • only four or five had ever done two-color work,
  • and two were knitters so newly-minted they were still under warranty.
But there I was, and there they were, so into the fray we plunged together. It was like "The Charge of the Light Brigade," except at the end of the day we were all still alive.

In Montana, the pioneer spirit persists. These were rugged knitters. They rose to every challenge I threw at them with good humor and determination, which gave me the confidence to keep going. I may have appeared to be leading, but I felt that a good deal of the time they carried me aloft.

Teaching at Wild Purls
"I need a little more oomph from the altos.
Let's try it from bar 18."


Nobody gave up, and at the end of the day came a crowning moment of delight: one of the new knitters, who hadn't even worked increases before that afternoon, successfully grafted the two halves of her hood together. She was beaming, and I wanted to tap dance.

Such a day. Honestly, I was sad to leave the next morning. I find that I have fallen in love with Montana. Billings is a remarkably pleasant place with incomparably down-to-earth people and a first-class yarn shop. Julia, Suzanne, Linda, Judy, Johanna, Irene and all of you who were good enough to come out for the events: a thousand thanks, and I can't wait to see you again.

Special thanks to Joseph, Suzanne's husband and a fine photographer, who took the photos and gave them to me to use. Next time, dude, we have to remember to talk about your collection of vintage cameras.

*Not to be missed when you visit is the special selection of local yarns, including Mountain Colors (of course) and splendid organics from Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Company. They also have their own shop-exclusive colorway from Lorna's Laces.

54 comments:

CatBookMom said...

Great photos, Franklin! How nice of the LYS staff to have their own "Habit"-able T shirts! Glad the class was a success; an all-day class is tough for teacher and student both. BTW, are those really metal buckets on the wall holding the yarn?

Ari said...

It was such a pleasure to have you teaching us. I have every intention of knitting a slighly bigger, bear-sized one, out of the leftover yarn. And, you are welcome back anytime!

BTW, CatBookMom, those are real metal buckets. She has even more in the main room that holds worsted weight yarns by color.

quinn said...

Good for you, Franklin! Teaching can be fun, especially once the nausea has passed ;)
I loved my first trip to MT also, but I was in slightly less civilized surroundings. The only "fiber craft" I learned was how to splice rope. Seriously.

Geek Knitter said...

Sounds like my first time as a T.A. Except for how I really did throw up 10 minutes before class.

DinaC said...

Ooooh, that class sounds like fun.

Please come to Seattle to teach it. We have TONS of LYSs, (>20) so you could stay for weeks. :) There are thousands of knitters who would be glad to put you up -- and we are the city where 'Stitch 'N Pitch' started. :) Plus we read -- LOTS.

The first time I had to teach a 3 hour computer class, I didn't throw up. I did, however, complete it in 1.5 hours, since I was speaking ohsoveryveryveryquickly. Funny how teaching nerves can hit...

anne marie in philly said...

a-one and a-two (cue the champaign bubbles!)...

and I think the metal buckets on the wall are totally freakin' AWESOME! who would have thought...

smooches and stay warm!

samoofish said...

Love the buckets holding the yarn. Wonder if that would look as good in my home...
I noticed there was a Dolores campaign poster on top of the bookshelf in the last photo!
I echo the other comments, I was very nervous for the first year I taught. But managed not to throw up.

NC Knitter said...

Did you all notice that the Book is listed in the latest KnitPicks catalog?! To celebrate, I pulled out my copy and read it for the fourth time.

Pickyknitter said...

"knitting becomes a habit"... that is the most clever thing I have read in recent memory. Thanks for the chuckle!

Sandy said...

Yea Franklin Lives!

I thought maybe you'd been booked in Cook County with Delores on the 12th day. I had visions of Harry trying to scrounge bail money.

Did you see the Harlot mentioned you in her blog today? Big time my friend. Big time. Nods from the Harlot.

I do hope you make it to Portland Oregon in your travels. We have lots of fun people here too! Swear!

Lisa said...

Ah, I wondered whether you might be "on tour" - given the post-Epiphany "bloglessness"!

The MLA Crafters will be in Chicago in a month, or so...I'll send you a RAVELRY message, regarding a "Franklin Event" (if you're around and available)!

LisaRae (of the "Toronto Fifteen")

Puss-in-Boots said...

Hi Franklin...sounds as if you had a ball in Montana among the "knitwits".

So...you felt like Madonna, Cher or Barbra, eh? I hope you weren't dressed like any of them??? That would have frightened the locals, no doubt (grin).

Happy knitting and so glad it all went well for you.

Uvon said...

I freakin' LOVE the buckets o' yarn.

FiberQat said...

Oomph? That's a bass part. The altos don't come in until measure 22.

I'm glad your class went well. An extra thumbs up to the first time grafter.

Mallory C. said...

Congrats on a great first class! I'm teaching my first knitting class next Thursday, and though I substitute teach on a regular basis, I am still nervous. That you got through a seven-hour class successfully makes my measly hour seem like nothing, even if my students are uppity teenagers ;)

Nancy said...

The one accessory for the nervous attack is a paper sack. Breathe in and out into it deeply about 5-10 times. If not utilized for unpleasant contents, (which the paper sack is supposed to stop from happening!) it's great for recycling into a newly-purchased stash bag, too! Altoids are good to have available, too!

Anonymous said...

Oh Franklin...Billings is still in a swoon over your visit. I have heard nothing but fantastic reviews of your class and you are the talk of the knitters at Wild Purls. "Garter Stitch Jacquard"? Get outta here......
Miss you and am so glad you enjoyed your visit and got home safely. Joseph loved the comments and he does want to chat!
from Big Sky Country,
Suzanne

diahrensal said...

The class was absolutely wonderful and the whole day was a joy. Thank you so much, Frankin, for coming to "Big Sky Country"

FugueStateKnits said...

What a great welcome! That's terrific:)!! Any chance you might make it to Maryland in the future?
Hmmmmm?

aunty-del said...

ROFL! The caption on the photo is *so* accurate - it looks exactly like my choir! (We altos have even converted a few sopranos to knitting.)

Marcia said...

1) "Knitting becomes a Habit" - awesome! :)

2) Love the buckets-o-yarn too...must find a more creative way to display my stash than I currently have.

3) Got your book for Christmas (because I put it on my Amazon Wish List!) and loved it. My mom, who thinks "knitting humor" is an oxymoron, started reading it and laughing and is asking to borrow it :)

M-H said...

Franklin, the new Artistic Director of the Dance Company here in Sydney (Aus) looks awfully like you. I've blogged this remarkable coincidence here

monica said...

Glad to hear I'm not alone in the new to teaching department. I have taught people to knit, one on one. That is easy, so to speak. But I am starting to teach a knitting class at our local community college and I have to come up with stuff to do for 9, count them, 9 classes!! I am excited though and I appreciate what your sister said about the throwing up thing.

Kristen said...

As a fellow teacher I can affirm that your sister is very wise indeed! Even though I've been teaching for about 15 years I still get all twittery and sweaty-palmed before I start a new semester. I'm glad you had a fabulous time at it!

Savtadotty said...

Franklin, Funny you should mention throwing up as a reaction to first-time-in-class jitters. I was just remembering that on my first days at kindergarten (in 1942!), when I was afraid of being humiliated for sucking my thumb, until I arrived to the sight of another little girl throwing up in the middle of the floor. Every day for a week!

A certain amount of stage fright makes for a better performance, they tell me.

BTW, in Israel where I live, there is one yarn shop in Rana'ana, owned by English-speakers, where I dream to see you teach one day.

Helen said...

Having begun training as a teacher of 11-18 yr olds (before I had a fit of common sense and ran for my life) the throwing up thing? Just don't do it in front of the class. Before or after is fine. However, from what I've seen, teaching adults ANYTHING (nuclear physics, brain surgery, kitchener stitch) is a cinch compared to trying to engage a hormonal bunch of 14 yr olds with the lousy National Curriculum.

Violetsrose said...

"one of those was an extremely experienced knitter who had already made the Tomten countless times and probably knew much more about it than I,"

Why would anyone sign up for a class to learn something they are experienced in already?? - how bizarre!!

Christy D. said...

I love that they had Franklin world-tour shirts! Great photos, too, and I'm jealous that I don't live in Billings...

Anne O'Nymous said...

I want one of those T-shirt like crazy. (I'm a long-time admirer of yours and I'm a recovering addict who knits at meetings whilst cussing like the well-educated sailor that I am.)

I'm also a teacher (some of the same stuff that Sister Sue teaches, may the gods help us both), and I often can't sleep the night before a new bunch arrives.

Your affection for the people of Montana reminded me of the one of the best movies ever: _Big Eden_. A gay man living in New York returns to Montana to see an ailing family member and discovers that home is a place in the heart, not on a map. Lovely, full of sweetness and surprises that are smart, and quite swoonworthy.

And my verification word is "subtlyna." Subtly? Naaaaaa, not me.

Knit Witch said...

Looks like fun!! I must admit, I get immense joy from teaching people how to knit or crochet - teaching is so rewarding!! Glad you had a great trip - Montana is on my "must visit" list.

Ann said...

Thank you, Franklin, for flying out here and giving us a great class! You are a good teacher: patient, kind, funny.

I finished the I-cord binding on my jacket the other night, and am looking for the right sized toggles.

kmkat said...

Dude. Are those t-shirts available in your Cafe Press shop (yet)? They would be a best seller!

the Lady said...

How fun! And I just read your book, and it is so freaking funny. I love it. I must buy my own copy. It's all *so true.*

Linda said...

I, too, loved having you here. What a big jolt of energy for our little 'ol yarn store, Wild Purls! We are pretty energetic already, but an extra spark of lightning never hurts! My mini tomten (knit out of Wild Purls own Lorna's Lace color) is finished and on display at the store!

KnittingPuppy said...

Should the walrus know you have all those buckets? (see icanhascheezburger.com for lolrus and his bukkit)

Marianne said...

Hey, I'm an alto! and your caption is right on. Congrats on your successful ensemble!

Seanna Lea said...

Everyone always picks on us altos!

Looks like it was a great trip! I love the pictures in front of the wall o'yarn. It must take a gargantuan willpower to resist all of that temptation!

Angela said...

I'm so sad I missed your visit to MT. I hope you come back soon!

Janet said...

Totally loved the class and feel so fortunate to have been graced by your presence. I picked up several new techniques and just enjoyed a great day of knitting fun. Please come to Wild Purls again anytime.

Vivienne said...

You know why the altos need more oomph? Because they fell asleep during their 33 bar rest.

Crafty Coug said...

My BF is from Billings and I told him recently that we'll need to find the yarn shop(s) when we go visit. Now I know where it's at!! YAY. Glad you enjoyed yourself.

Denise in Kent, WA said...

I'm soooo disappointed that your visit to Billings was in the middle of winter! During a more civilized time of year I would have given serious thought to a road trip. Bad timing and butterflies aside, I'm delighted you had such a pleasant trip.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Franklin - Was I wishing I could make it to Billings for the book signing. However, it was not to be. Glad you had a great time and that you survived the cold weather that they've been having. Sounds like your class wnet very well, also. BTW, "Big Eden" is a very good film and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a fun romantic comedy. Take care - Joe, in Wyoming

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

"Theirs is not to reason why..."

Deborah said...

I'm an alto.

Here you go: "Oomph!"
(was my volume OK?)

Here's my favorite alto observation:
Try to name an opera or operetta where the lead alto character doesn't die, go insane or become a prostitute before the end. For extra credit, try including musicals too.

Linda said...

That sounds such fun. The shirts would be a real thrill to see.

Sarah JS said...

Violetsrose - I would think that the experienced totem knitter in Franklin's class was there purely because of FRANKLIN.

I know that I'd gladly take a class on watching paint dry if Franklin were teaching it ...

Eileen said...

Second EZ blog comments today. I have to go get some of her books (sad to say I don't own any, and I own a fair few books).

Am I still a knitter?

Darci said...

Pleeeaaaasssseee come to Los Angeles and teach at Unwind in Burbank. That would really rock.

And I made my husband read the whole 12 days of Christmas. I think he is still laughing.

Linda said...

Oh my gosh! This is such serendipity. Tomorrow morning (tonight your time) I'm starting the Tomten jacket for the first time. Each time I read the instructions I freak out that I'm going to mess this up but someone said, or I might have read, that you just knit it and don't over think it. I could have used the class in MT. Please come to Italy and teach the same class. I know Dolores will love it here.

Captain said...

No joke: I read your words of relief and celebration as "I wanted to lap dance."

My test word is "caliabio." Mmm, sounds delicious! Well, only if you accent the second A. Otherwise it sounds like a medical test.

Anonymous said...

Hi Franklin, Your comments on teaching make me realize how much I miss it. I have been teaching knitting since 1983, in San Francisco. I think it took me until 1993 to get over the panic, and the fear of being challenged. It helped me to "come into my knowing" (what a dreadful expression, but it works) and realized that it was okay for someone to have another idea. Once I got my head around that, I relaxed. I haven't taught in about 2 years and I miss the inspiration that I get from all of the students. I love your blog and always leave inspired. Thanks

Alanna said...

Oh, Franklin.....

Joseph's photos
That wall of colors
green tshirts
fun knitters

....swoon! (Bring me some wool and a glass of wine, I can't handle such perfection).

Simply divine

Rocketbride said...

as a teacher in my 7th year, there is no more sage advice than "you will feel like puking, hiding & screaming. don't."