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Will You Knit That For Me?

Posted By TNNA Editor, Thursday, July 13, 2017
Updated: Friday, July 14, 2017

 Will You Knit That for Me?

By Lee Bernstein

The Needleart Spotlight monthly column will shine a light on various sectors within the needlarts industry including needlepoint, knitting, spinning & weaving and counted thread & embroidery.

In the world of knitters, there are those who think of knitting as a hobby, those who think of knitting as a craft, those who think of knitting as an art, and those who think of knitting as a business.

In the world of non-knitters, the considerations are different. Many people assume knitting is for the meek, elderly, bored, or for those who are too dim to do something significant.

I’ll concede: There are reasons why some non-knitters might feel the way they do. They could have possibly fallen victim to getting a gift from someone who thinks they know how to knit—one of those squeaky-yarn-people who knits miles of irregular garter stitch to produce nothing short of . . .

Well, nothing.

Yes, there are bad knitters. But, there are also engineers who disrespect infrastructure, actors who are worth casting only as bad actors, sculptors who sculpt lumps, writers who don’t know the difference between a comma splice and an apple slice, and sociopaths disguised as business executives and politicians.

However, if you ask a person what she or he does for a living, and she or he replies “I’m a (n) [engineer, actor, sculptor, writer, business executive, or politician],” then people go, “Oooh.” People go all bubbly inside. People go on to assume she or he is brilliant unless proven otherwise.

If someone says, “I’m a knitter,” people go numb.

Unless they want something.

Here’s how it works: A non-knitter falls in love with something that’s hand knit which, all too often, was unearthed in a social media post. The knit is either:

Ridiculous: A hat that looks like a toilet.

Impossible: A barn cozy, knit in lace to illustrate the story of Charlotte’s Web.

Costly and time-consuming: Socks.

Or, it’s crochet.

Take my friend Sophie for example. Over the holidays, she knit a sweater as a gift for her niece. As her niece opened the box, her parents radiated those saccharine grins that only non-knitters can produce. “Oh, well, oh, my gosh! Just look at the sweater Aunt Sophie made. How sweet is that?”

Timeout. Let’s discuss Aunt Sophie. That “sweet” sweater is one of the most beautiful and intricate cable knits you’ll find. It is perfection.

Sophie designed the sweater. Her use of positive and negative ease makes the sweater fit perfectly, and her pattern calls for innovative techniques. Sophie published the pattern and sold an impressive number of copies. She’s even received critical acclaim for it.

This means Sophie is an artist. She is an engineer. She is a sculptor. She is a writer. She is a business woman.

Sophie sells her hand knits at high-end vendor fairs and online.. Her finished pieces are expensive, or at least as much as the market allows. She respects the trade, and while she usually doesn’t get a full return on the knitting time she puts in, she charges enough to make a profit.

Sophie wishes more non-knitters respected her work and she wishes they understood the reason why her prices are high. It doesn’t help when others undercut her by taking a loss on what they knit to sell online, or when they buy mass-produced items and misrepresent them as handmade.

It helps that Sophie’s pattern sales offset making a proper production wage, the amount of which should be . . .

Well, let’s think about it. Whether Sophie knits as a career or as a sideline, what should a person get paid if she’s one of the finest artists, engineers, sculptors, or writers? Whatever the amount, Sophie doesn’t earn it. Some of it is her burden for putting up with it, and she knows it. Yet she fears raising her prices might hinder rather than help.

And then there’s the curse of non-knitters such as her niece, who have fallen in love with a toilet hat and who know Sophie knows how to knit.

“Aunt Sophie, will you knit that for me?”

Sophie loves to knit, but here is what is going through her head:

I don’t want to knit a hat that looks like a toilet, and I have no idea if the pattern is impossible to follow or filled with mistakes. If it is, I’ll need to redesign it, which can be crazy-making and time-consuming.

Yarn is expensive. I don’t like knitting with inferior yarn. It isn’t enjoyable, and I don’t want my name attached to anything but the best.

In addition, I have issues with asking friends and family to pay for my knitting, even if I only ask them to pay for the yarn. HA! They’d choke if they knew how much it costs, and they’d think me a fool for paying it.

Oh, well. Maybe I have enough in my stash to make it, and I’ll not think about the price.

If all goes well, I might finish it in a few weeks, but only if I spend every spare minute on it, which means having to sacrifice knitting something I might have enjoyed or sold. So, not only am I losing time and money on knitting this thing, I’m sacrificing pleasure, income, or both, for every hour I spend.

Oh, am I?

The niece nudges again, “Aunt Sophie, are you listening? WILL YOU KNIT THAT FOR ME?”

A spotlight shines inside Sophie’s head, and as her emotional curtain rises, she becomes the finest actor in the world.

“I’d love to.”

Oh, dear. Now Sophie’s gone and done it. You think she’d learn. You think she’d remember the countless times she said yes to someone, only to swear she wouldn’t do it again. But, deep inside, she can’t resist. She knows that after weeks of what she prays will not be knitting torture, she will produce a treasure—a priceless piece of love. And love is what it’s all about, right?

Well, yeah, whatever. A person also deserves to enjoy knitting every stitch and a person needs to eat. A person should be able to relish her knitting without toilet-loving-non-knitters stinking up the place.

Will Sophie’s work be appreciated? Probably not. After all, in the non-knitting world, knitting is just knitting.

Yet, Sophie knits away. It takes her weeks to re-design and sculpt the hat, and when she hands it to her niece, she cringes as she watches the little love crumple it into a backpack and dash off.

Sophie sighs and asks herself why she even tries. For the next few weeks, every time she thinks about the work she put into that stupid project her heart and stomach duel in a battle to see which one aches the most.

Some people might wonder why a person would feel such remorse after doing nothing more than knitting a novelty. Why indeed. Even Sophie would admit that the resentment she feels is unhealthy and a waste of time.

As Sophie vows to never knit anything for anyone again, there’s a knock on her door. It’s her niece. The little love yanks the hat out of the backpack and holds it out to Sophie, as if to return it, but instead asks, “Aunt Sophie, will you teach me how to knit?”

In an instant, that hat becomes Sophie’s tour de force. Sophie smiles because she knows that teaching her niece how to knit spins the promise of becoming a masterwork to live throughout the generations. This time, there’s no acting involved.

“I’d love to.”

And then, there are those who think of knitting as a miracle. 


About the Author

In addition to managing a financial institution, Lee Bernstein loves to knit, design, and write ( Her work has appeared in numerous publications. To some, she is best known for having written “I Love You,” the signature song of the children’s television show Barney & Friends, but to those closest to her, she is best known for loving life, family (including pets, of course), friends, and a good laugh. She is an addicted knitter and intends to stay that way. 

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