The Scarf That Wouldn't Die
by Michele Christopher
The following is a guest author submission written by Mike, who has gained valuable life lessons through knitting.
Sure, I've gotten it in my head to do or learn things that are wildly inappropriate. SCUBA diving comes to mind (pasty white skin, landlocked in Indiana and that near-drowning incident at the bottom of the local pool with the regulator in my freakin' mouth, etc). Teaching myself to play guitar and my stint as a temporary repo man (The crackheads were scary, but man, did I get some good stories). I can blame those on my usual dumbassery or the job I had at the time. The scarf is Kate's fault.
It all started years ago when she insisted I read Harry Potter. Ten-year-olds can be amazingly persistent so I gave in and was hooked. A while after the first movie came out, I got a Gryffindor house scarf as a gift. It was nice, but I like long-assed scarves. This one was pretty short and the colors weren't as bright as the ones in the movies. So I decided to knit one for myself. It couldn't be that hard, could it?
Problem one: I could pick a set of knitting needles out of a lineup and locate the yarn section at the local Michael's, but I didn't know how to knit.
Problem two: Between certain family issues and my work schedule I couldn't sign up for lessons.
Solution? I bought needles, a skein of cheap, vile acrylic yarn-by-the-pound and a couple of teach-yourself-to-knit books thinking that I'd be wearing my jazzy new scarf by ChristMuccaKwanzzAnalia.
Stupid stupid stupid!
It took an entire year to learn to get the yarn onto the needle, otherwise known as casting on. I still couldnt make stitches though, so I gave up and occupied my time with bar hopping, picking up guys, and one memorable night in the Marion County lockup. Fun times. My ass was saved when I found out that my sister both knits and reads my blog, and that her mother-in-law knits as well. After wearing out batteries in a remote while watching dvd's, hands-on instruction, and lots (and I do mean LOTS) of practice, I could knit. Another or two after that I could purl.
Definitely not well enough to waste thirty-odd bucks on good yarn for my scarf. What I needed was a victim. A clueless test-monkey lab-rat who I could make a scarf for. Someone who wouldn't be inclined to find too much fault with the sorry-assed mess that would result would be great. What I needed was someone who was either blind, mentally challenged, or a sweet, trusting child. Ideally, all three. Enter my nephew. Five years old. Obsessed with the color red, the number five and James, of Thomas the Tank engine fame. He wouldn't care how fugly the thing was as long as it was red and had a James patch sewn to it. Plus, he's five, which meant that the scarf would be easier to make since it wouldn't be ungodly long or wide. Even though he isn't blind or mentally challenged, he was about as perfect a
That's when the descent into hell began, back in April. I bought a skein (number one) of acrylic yarn in fire engine red and experimented. And experimented. And decided on the pattern. I got to work. And messed it up. I started over, got further along, then messed it up again. Here's where I learned a hard lesson: It's nigh unto impossible to un-knit cheap-ass acrylic yarn without it going kerflooey and becoming impossible to knit again. Several failed attempts at different times taught me that one. I'm nothing if not stupid and persistent at times. It was painfully slow going, literally. Later on I found out that my shoulders shouldn't have become twisted knots of aching muscles whilst knitting, but I didn't know that then.
April turned into May. Towards the end of that month, a new co-worker saw my latest creation. Jack's scarf, version four. Still heinously ugly, but I was on yarn skein number two after having wasted the five hundred yards of yarn in skein one, so there had been some slight improvement. I still don't know if she's blind or just easly impressed, but impressed she was. Impressed enough to consider teaching herself how to knit as well. Misery loves company, so I gave her my copy of Knitting for Dummies and a set of needles. Meanwhile, my short attention span had caused me to mess up the pattern a few more times. By this time I was starting on the third bunch of yarn (that's 945 yards for those of you keeping count) and scarf version five.
May turned into June. The scarf was finally going really well. It was two feet long with no major setbacks. 2/3 of the way there! Then a visiting friend moved it off the coffee table to set down his gin and tonic. When I saw it the next morning it had been used as a play toy by the friend's dog. All things considered, I was probably lucky to not be cleaning dog blood off the carpet since he could have easily impaled himself on a needle, but it was back to square one. Again.
The scarf got stuck on a shelf for a bit because I would have set it on fire and laughed like Sideshow Bob if I had to keep looking at it.
I left it there to remind the five year old that this was hand-made and not some machine made dreck from Kohl's*. Like a five year old would care, right? My friend Becca visited over Labor Day weekend. We'd go out with friends during the day, but by 10:00, we'd be back at Casa Apathy. She with her beadwork, and I with my knitting. We must have made for a demented Norman Rockwell type picture... crafting and chatting in my white-trash living room with a huge Herb Ritts picture of a half-nekkid man, a cement lawn gargoyle wearing Mardi Gras beads on the 42"
Enough was enough. I was gonna finish this scarf if it killed me. I cleared my exhaustive social calendar, kept the tv off, threw in some tunes, and knitted. And knitted. And knitted. And finally, mercifully it was finished. Feast your eyes. Fifty inches long by 2 3/4 inches wide. Pretty harmless looking, eh? That monster ate up more than three thousand feet of yarn before I got it right, and I still have to put the fringe on it, but that can wait. I'm working on my scarf now, and it's going a damn sight better.
I did learn some things though:
Never knit poolside when there's eye candy about.
Likewise, never knit while watching Beefcake shows like Footballers Wive$.
Cheap yarn is Hell to work with.
Don't listen to music that's too mellow. On the other hand, Megadeth didn't work so well either. Guns 'n'Roses, Husker Du, NIN and the Cult were very motivational.
It's better to have a clueless patsy model your first attempts than you doing it yourself. That way they're humiliated by the person rolling on the floor rather than you.
*Oh, and I love Kohl's. Almost as much as Target.
In addition to knitting fine acrylic products, Mike blogs over here.
Thanks Mike. I learned a lot here today.
- Avoid learning to knit at all costs.
- Gerry Garcia Christmas ornaments are available.
I wouldn't put them away either.
Posted by: Dan | October 12, 2006 9:53 AM
Yep. Lesson learned: Don't attempt to knit.
Or: If I want Mike to knit a scarf for me, ask a year in advance.
However, I did get the idea to have an all Elvis Christmas tree this year.
Posted by: michele | October 12, 2006 10:07 AM
Someone tried to teach me to crochet a couple of years ago. What i ended up with was a string of knots 4 feet long.
Posted by: pril | October 12, 2006 10:28 AM
This serves as a good example.
If you ever find yourself asking "How hard can it be?" just run the Hell away.
The answer is, it can be crazy hard!!
Posted by: Bob | October 12, 2006 6:01 PM
My doctor suggested I try knitting as a stress release.
My mother had to take it away from me. Apparently I need to loosen up the tension (or some shit) in the yarn - you're not supposed to have to use physical force to do a stitch.
Kick boxing worked better for me =)
Great story - your nephew will love the scarf.
Posted by: Deb | October 12, 2006 8:40 PM