In this modern world, I am anachronistic. Or do I mean anachreontic? [Probably not - Ed.] I still have to get S to set the – oh, what do you call it? The box with the hard-disc in that watches telly for you and plays your DVDs [the DVR] – the DVR (thank you) for me. I hate [ Now, now. 'Hate' is reserved for Nazis and people who let their dogs crap in play-grounds], alright, dislike nearly all celebrities and I absolutely hate (yes, hate), the journalists who write about them. I think sitting in a park with a bottle of pink lemonade and the newspapers is a far, far superior way to spend an afternoon than going shopping. I can even cook, and by cook I do not mean ‘reliably reheat M&S gastropub ready meals and shred a cos lettuce’, or ‘do exactly what Delia says’, I mean cook. (Steak and kidney pudding. Fresh pasta. Roast goose. Risotto that is creamy and silky and luxurious and crucially not a solid lump of overcooked stodge welded together with grated cheese. Lasagne (with fresh egg pasta I made myself, bechamel I made myself, and ragu I made myself (we were once fed a ‘home-made’ lasagne when I could see the empty jars of Dolmio on the drainer behind us). Pizza from scratch. See? (Sadly, I am defective at cakery. Scones like bricks, alas alas)). And I like books, peace and quiet, opera, writing poems, and a nice cup of coffee and not, say, MP3-players, clubbing, all music written after 1980, watching reality tv-shows, and beer.
And, I can knit.
There are several standard, I-must-roll-my-eyes-now, predictable reactions I encounter when I accidentally let slip that I have half-a-sock in my satchel [of course she has a satchel. She dresses like an impoverished graduate student. She's in her 30's. It's so undignified]. They are :
- The Granny Surprise. Basically, the person who has spotted the knitting, is astonished that a woman under 65, with most of her own teeth and wearing jeans, can knit at all, and becomes convinced that I am therefore exactly as frumpy, sexually conservative, politically backward, intellectually fossilized and physically decrepit as the worst and most offensive stereotype of an old lady imaginable. The contrast of this mental image with my jewfro and Jerry Springer the Opera badge does their little head in, and they run away very quickly. Which is probably for the best.
- The New Black. This person, rather rarer than the above, has read an article in a newspaper about the craft resurgeance, or has seen a photograph of Julia Roberts knitting on set, and now thinks I am ‘being cool’. I am not being cool. My mother taught me to knit when I was six in a desperate attempt to get me to hush up and stop bothering her (didn’t work. ‘Mum, I’ve dropped a stitch… Mum, I’ve got too many stitches… Muuuuuuuum I can’t bind off… Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum it’s all tangled…’). Impressed at my cool, this person either a) demands lessons, or b) whips out his or her own knitting and suggests we get together. As (as I have mentioned) I have been knitting since I was knee-high to a grass-hopper and am really quite good at it, and the other person has been knitting for approximately fifteen minutes, I motor through a lace sock on five needles and they struggle with a garter-stitch scarf. And I can no more teach knitting than I can teach breathing. It ends swiftly, and we never speak of it again. It’s quite emotionally wearing.
- The WTF. This person is, temporarily at least, mesmerised. Especially when I don’t bother looking at my hands (I don’t need to, my hands know exactly what they’re doing. They only feel shy when I look at them). They even move seats on public transport so they can see me more clearly. They call their friends and tell them they are watching some bird actually knitting (or crocheting. Apparantly the difference is irrelevant to anyone not actively engaged). It’s quite sweet.
- The Entitled. This person is usually an acquaintance or relation. Because I knit, and enjoy it, they assume I want nothing more than another good reason to knit, and start demanding articles of me. Usually large, fiddly ones. When I point out how much the yarn alone costs, they look offended (for a jumper? In pure wool? £50, easy). Surely I’d happily spend £50 to make a sweater for someone I don’t even like that much, solely for the sheer love of knitting? Surely? Next time, I will point out I also charge £5 an hour, bargain at less than the minumum wage, and a sweater takes several weeks-worth of evenings, and the whole comes to £250 please. See how they like them apples. Never mind the fact that I absolutely do not want to knit a sweater/hat/king-sized blanket at the moment, because I am exploring lace, or socks, or fiddling bits of string, and did I mention I do this for my own amusement? This one can turn ugly, as the Entitled refuses to comprehend the ‘no, sorry’ and nags, then whines, then bitches about me and my vast and astonishing selfishness to others. (I once tried ‘I will make you a sweater when you make me a leather-bound note-book’ and got a lecture, and actual lecture, on the cost of materials and time. It took all evening to coax my right eyebrow back out of my hairline).
- The Impregnator. This person, not usually an acquaintance, luckily [or Reed would slap them], assumes that whatever I am knitting is for my gestating baybeeeee and goes on and on about my baybeeeeeeeeeee and meanwhile I am clearly making a sock for a man with size twelve feet or a sweater for a lass with a chest like two watermelons in a hammock. This was violently embarrassing when I was 18. Now, it’s more of a heavy-duty wound-salting, what with gestating babies being my greatest failure so far. I swear, I will not be knitting for a child of mine until its head is crowning. As for the gushing nitwit in front of me, nothing, nothing at all I can say in any tone of voice, nor the evidence of their own eyes neither, can convince them that I am not pregnant. Gah.
- The Indifferent. This person is, on the whole, the most relaxing. They do not care than I am knitting. They ignore the knitting. We talk about the weather, or Guillermo del Toro movies, or asparagus.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Reed, I carry on knitting.
And I do knit for entirely selfish, self-centred reasons (the Entitled are right about that). I do not actually want to make lovely things for my loved ones. Sometimes, I make something and think it’d look very nice on a loved one, so they end up with a present. Sometimes I get slightly insistent with a loved one, because I want to make this, and they’re the only person who could wear this, and therefore would they kindly accept it gracefully and stop fussing. Sometimes I have random scarves in the house that no one needs, but I am happy, because I knitted with a yarn that intrigued me and now my itch of curiosity is scratched. I make a lot of socks, because they are portable, and because a hand-knit sock can be cheaper than a high-tech hiking-sock, and yet fit better and not have a stupid bloody annoying seam scraping your toes raw inside your boots. I make a lot of shawls, because I am a mad young hippy and I am planning on a long and exciting future as a mad old hippy. But mostly, I make things because they’ll be a challenge.
I also knit because I’m good at it. Yes, because I’m good at it. I knit for the satisfaction of making a thing that looks exactly how I meant it to look, and fits how I meant it to fit. I knit to feel competent. I knit because what I knit exists, and is, self-evidently, a sock, and no one can tell me it isn’t. I knit because sometimes I have to pull whatever I’ve just made to pieces and start again, and because I know that, though tiresome, this is not a disaster. I knit because I know eventually I will work it out and make something reasonable. I knit because if I do give up and bin the sodding thing, it’s no big deal, it’s only a handful of string. I knit because knitting has no Editor [hey!]. I knit in the hope that one day I’ll learn to write the same way.