Nana's Knitting Shop

Knitting tales of a lifelong knitter
and yarn shop owner.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Man Sweater Anniversary

Karen and I have been friends almost since I arrived in Chicago, a little over 10 years ago. We worked together at Northern Trust and even sat across from each other for a long time. Karen learned to knit a few years ago and because we lived so far apart, I didn't actually teach her. (I think the real reason is because we knew deep down we'd probably kill each other; after all, you do always hurt the ones you love.)

So Karen learned to knit locally and her teacher was fondly referred to as "Knitler." Now, from all reports, Knitler was the meanest knitting teacher that ever lived. She was overheard saying to a woman in Karen's class,

"You are the stupidest person I've ever tried to teach to knit."

Karen, who normally doesn't take any guff from anyone, kept her head low, did what she was told, and did in fact, learn how to knit. Several of her classmates were in tears much of the time, while others whose stomachs couldn't take the pain, left without ever finishing the class. Karen perservered and has been knitting ever since.

When I decided to open my Shop, Karen was my most enthusiastic supporter. She and I put together cubbies day after day, night after night until we thought our fingers would break. We discussed yarn, classes, and displays to the point that no one wanted to be around us.

Karen was also the one who guilted me into knitting a sweater for the Prince.

Karen came to the Shop last January 14 with her husband, Job, I mean, Chris. Karen had decided she was going to knit Job, I mean, Chris a sweater despite all of my warnings about appreciation, monkey arms, etc. And, like every man who's going to get a hand knit sweater, he chose a cabled cardigan. I have yet to meet a man who will buy himself a cabled cardigan for fear of looking like Mr. Rogers, but when it's comes to a hand knit sweater, men seem to throw the risk of looking nerdy to the wind and ask for a cabled cardigan. I personally think men have a deep-seeded fantasy to dress like Mr. Rogers, but can't openly admit it. While fulfilling their fantasy, if anyone asks, they still have the ability to say,

"Oh my wife made this little beauty for me and I didn't have the heart to tell her I thought cabled cardigans were geeky."

Chris looked through books and lots of patterns and finally decided on this cabled cardigan, called Jack's Cardigan, from the Men in Knits book by Tara Jon Manning. I shuttered when I saw the picture and looked askance at Karen who shrugged her shoulders as if to say,

"This is what he wants, what can I do?"

"Does he change the oil in his car?" I asked ever so subtly.

I've also come to understand over the years that doing something manly, like changing the oil in your car in your fresh off the needles cabled cardigan, is part of the reckoning process.

"Real men do wear cabled cardigans, so there."

Karen and I went over the pattern while Chris chose a beautiful shade of gray Donegal Tweed for said sweater. Karen was ready to cast on. In the meantime, there was some smug, secret conversation between Chris and my Prince who said regularly after this encounter,

"Geez, Karen's knitting Chris a sweater and she hasn't been knitting as long as you have. They haven't even been married as long as we have and Karen's knitting him a sweater."

As we all know, I buckled under the pressure and knit the Prince a sweater, but it was most certainly not the cabled cardigan he wanted!

And so time passed. I asked about the sweater often, but there seemed to me to be a lot of avoidance knitting going on...

"I have to knit a scarf for charity."
"Oooh, I just have to take the Lady Eleanor class at the Shop."
"That mitered square jacket is to die for. Count me in for the class."
"Oh for heavens' sake, can you believe I have to knit Chris' niece something?"
"I just inherited a gorgeous stash and it's just sitting on my fireplace staring at me."
"Julie would love that little curly scarf and I know nothing about short rows - save me a place."

Finally, after months and months (long after the Prince's sweater was done, I might add), Karen announced that she had the back and one of the fronts complete. She came to the Shop to show it to me,

"Look at that boo boo there. I hate that boo boo and it's so far down, I can never get back to it. Oh, look at that, there it is again. What's up with that, it looks like I made the same mistake in the cable over and over again. I can live with it. I'm just going to let it go. I'm going to let it go, aren't I?"

Around 10:00 p.m., shortly after that visit, my phone rang at home. I was already in bed and so by the time I got to the phone, it had stopped ringing. I checked my messages and heard this:

"She's ripping! She's ripping the whole thing! She's ripping it and I can't stop her. Oh God, she's ripping it and you're the only one I can call who will understand. She's ripping it! She's ripping it!

And then he hung up. It was Chris; and Karen was well on her way to ripping out his entire sweater. How do I portray the hysteria, the pathos in the poor man's voice? The only way is to tell you that I was instantly reminded of the Wicked Witch of the West,

"I'm melting! I'm melting!"
"Ohhhhh... What a world! What a world!"

Poor Chris. Would he ever get his sweater? (The Prince has been running around in his for quite some time now, Karen.)

I'm pleased to report that indeed he will get his sweater. It's back on the needles and Karen asked me recently how to pick up the stitches for the sleeves. Although I didn't ask directly, picking up the stitches for the sleeves means that the back and the fronts are done. This leaves the sleeves and the button bands to go. Yahoo.

Job, I mean, Chris, I'll try my best to keep her on track, but you know how well that works. I know it's been a year, but you must try to be patient for a little while longer.

Mark my words though, after all this work and rework, you're stuck with your choice and if you get the urge to do some manly, dirty job in your new sweater, stifle it or you too will be melting, melting right into oblivion.


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