Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Stitches Midwest Diary, Concluded

(Continued from here.)

Saturday Morning: Intarsiapallooza

Today, as the wrap-up to my first Stitches (I would like for it to not be my last) I have a class called “Intarsia without Fear” taught by Edie Eckman. In the time since I signed up for this class, I have become disenchanted with the whole idea of intarsia, but figure I ought to learn it anyway.

I arrive early and get a good seat. The class is sold out, and I notice with fascination that the knitters who signed up for this class are on the whole different from those I met in my lace knitting classes on Thursday and Friday.

They nearly all fall into one of two categories:
  • well-cushioned, middle-aged women who want to knit choo-choo trains on the fronts of children’s sweaters; and
  • petite, twentysomething women who want to knit Marcia Brady daisies onto the fronts of their own sweaters.
There is also another guy in the room. He looks familiar, but I can’t place him.

I like Edie Eckman right off the bat. She’s personable, organized, and enthusiastic. She’s also honest. She states bluntly that while she will teach us how to work intarsia, she will not promise that we will like it.

When the first sample she holds up is a children’s sweater with a cute widdle bulldozer on the front and the entire class says “Awwwwwwwwwwww,” I wonder if maybe I should just cut my losses and go.

But no, Edie’s far too entertaining to walk out on and I’ve had reassurance from Jon, Mark, Sahara, and others that intarsia patterns are not inherently evil, just frequently awful.

Edie says that intarsia isn’t necessarily complicated, just messy. And she’s right. Our practice swatch only uses two lengths of color, then three, but I still find myself waltzing with the tar baby after about ten rows. Stop. Deep breaths.

I begin again. No holes apparent between colors, but when I stretch the fabric…little holes. Damn. Blast.

Edie comes by. She’s says I’ve been very quiet, and wants to know how I’m doing.

I explain (truthfully) that I’m so used to working alone and with books that I forget a real, live teacher is able to respond and diagnose. I lift up my swatch and say I’m perplexed about the holes.

Edie takes a look. “These will go away when you weave in your yarn ends,” she says. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

“So I’m doing it properly?”

“Yes, that’s pretty much perfect.”

Well, how about that?

As I continue and start to relax I take in more of what’s going on around me. It’s not pretty. We have some real lulus in the room. People are asking perfectly idiotic questions, meaning Edie has already answered them twice–or three times. Or they’re covered in our class packet in nice big print. Or they’re just a matter of damn plain common sense.

One lady near to me is treating the woman next to her as a secondary teacher. “How do I do this? How do I do that? See what happened here where I changed colors? Do you think that’s right? Do you think I should use the green next, or the yellow?”

I long for the woman she’s pestering, who has also paid a lot of money for this class, to grow a backbone and tell her to shut the hell up. But she doesn’t. Perhaps she’s deaf and happily unaware? No, finally, she says tersely, “You know, I think maybe these would be good questions for Edie.”

Perhaps because of the different requirements of the technique, this class is far chattier than my lace classes. Nobody chats with me, as I’m sitting by myself, but all around me there’s a steady buzz and most of it concerns grandchildren, knitting for grandchildren, horrible daughters-in-law who don’t knit for their children, etc. By the end of three hours, I realize that if I hear the words “precious” or “darling” one more time I may not be able to keep my breakfast moving in the right direction.

As I pack up my needles and yarn, I concede that Edie was right. She has been able to teach me intarsia, and she has done so very well, but she’s hasn’t been able to make me love it. I am glad to have taken the class, as I’ve got another string to my bow – a useful way to achieve a particular effect when I'm knitting. But I won’t go out of my way to seek intarsia patterns.

I’m leaving the room when the Other Guy stops me. And suddenly I know where I know him from. The old, horrible days with Mr. Ex.

“You used to be with [name of ex]!” he says jovially.

“Yes,” I say. I try to sound genial, but I know that single syllable has 1,000 icicles dripping from it. My usual, instinctive tone whenever Mr. Ex is mentioned. “But that’s ancient history now, thank goodness.”

It’s not this clueless fellow’s fault that into my weekend of fun, he’s dropped a reference to a time when I was routinely and heavily abused on a daily basis. I decide the best thing to do is get away, fast, before I say something stupid. I tell him I hope he’s had fun and that it was nice to see him, and scram.

I’m still shaken when I meet up with Jon and Robert. I’m doubly glad they’re around, because I’m reminded that my old life is over. These are the sort of people I meet now. Good people, not sleazy barflies and bitter bears. In a few minutes, I’m back to normal. Or as close to it as I ever get.

One last fling in the market. Susan’s Fiber Shop turns up a copy of Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns, and I can’t resist. It costs less than lunch, for heaven’s sake.

I say a reluctant farewell to Jon and Robert, as I’m headed back to home and reality. I’m surprised to remember that less than a year ago, I was still strictly a scarf-n-mitten guy, and now I’ve spent almost three days surrounded by knitters and knitting.

I also realize that I’m going to have to take a taxi home. Three bags of Jo Sharp and new books and yarn from Jon and (I confess) a set of video tapes is too much to schlep along with all the things I brought with me.

Then it hits me.

For the first time, I have much more yarn in my possession than what’s being used for the current project.

I have a stash.

Fairy Godmother…am I a real boy now?


(Except the pictures. They're next. Not many of them, but a couple.)


Anonmous said...

so you shelled out the sheckles for the knitting vids eh? good for you!

and just think, when you are done, someone will be happy to snap them up on its more like a really long rental :)

Anonymous said...

I'm VERY proud of you (gawd, that sounds so, so, condescending and over-personal. Sorry. You know what I mean!) that your meetup with that Guy Who Knew You When didn't wreck your entire outlook on the trip.

And I'd have CRIED if you seriously left without those videos. Or knew you were lying to us. One or the other. ;-)

Thanks for the documentary. It was highly informative, and as per usual, entertaining. Now, back to work!

goblinbox said...

Welcome to stashhood! (Now you're screwed.)

Unknown said...

Your intarsia pals are exactly why I don't go to classes. The other reason is I fidget after 2 hours.

Anonymous said...

I feel pretty much the same about intarsia, and I took a class from Lucy Neatby, who is an amazing teacher (if you ever get a chance to take a class with her, whatever the topic, go for it). It's way too fiddly and requires too much tidying up afterwards, and after I've finished running in all the ends, I feel like I need to cough up a hairball.

Great report, by the way.

Rabbitch said...

Dude. A real stash! I could weep! (and rush right over and fondle it if you don't think that's too personal. or even if you do).

It's started. You should maybe think of looking at the cost of larger accommodations.

I'm not actually joking.

Anonymous said...

danger! once you become a stasher, it's hard to go back. Glad Stitches was so excellent. I nearly hurt myself at Stitches West this spring.

Anonymous said...

Franklin darling, I love to read your blog. I've been having a bad sort of week, and when my girlfriend told me I'd laugh till I peed, I thought "Great, depressed AND damp". But you, my dear, dear man, have given me a shot in the arm better than Prozak. Laughter really IS the best medicine!
Your encounter with the man from the Ex-days sounded familiar. I'm so happy you have your new, lovely life. You deserve it!

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