Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

July 24, 2008

Chickenheads In The House

I have shocking news. At least it is to me anyway. Many months ago, I announced that I was going to start a hobby that involved patience and learned skill (and wasn't a sport). I'm happy to say that I actually followed through with it. So here I am to announce that, for a better or for worse, I am a knitter.

But before you get too impressed thinking that I am some dedicated, self-taught knitting prodigy, it is important to understand that my continued perseverance with this extremely frustrating hobby - one that I still pretty much suck at - is due entirely to the amazingly diverse group of women who stumbled into what has now become a Tuesday night tradition, only to be missed with an extremely good excuse.

On the surface, it's a tremendous group because of our varying skill levels that lends to everyone helping each other out. First there's Big Sis, whose idea this all was in the first place. Big Sis and I used to be neighbors and quickly became like family. She is just about to turn 50 and is an amazing single mom with two teenage kids. She started knitting only a few weeks before me so, for the most part, we were equally clueless and could struggle together.

A recent addition to the group is Big Sis' good friend Spunky (she is, but I know a better name will come to me soon - it will have to do for now), also just about 50 and married with two teenage sons. Spunky came into the group as a new knitter, but quickly remembered the knitting skills her grandmother had apparently taught her in her youth. No fair.

Then there's Big Sis' niece Miss Sunshine, a more experienced knitter who has the ultra cheerful demeanor of a kindergarten teacher rooting her slowest student on as she learns to tie her shoe. "Great job! You did it! You are such an expert knitter!" Uh, it was a slipknot, but OK. I'll take the compliment.

About the same skill level as Miss Sunshine is her coworker Rugby, a sporty and beautiful newlywed in her mid-30s who quietly turns out baby blanket after baby blanket as gifts for her clearly overly fertile friends. Rugby is far less talkative then the rest of us, but she makes her presence known with her occasional deadpan one-liners that elicit raucous laughter from the rest of us.

And last but not least, my personal heroine, Crafty, a superior knitter who has saved me from every knitting disaster I've managed to get myself into (of which there are many). Crafty is a high school friend of Miss Sunshine's who strolls into knitting group each week displaying another project just started or half-done (I've quickly learned that truly obsessed knitters rarely finish their work. The thrill is all in starting something new). Sweaters, shrugs, gloves, even Croc-like sandals that she trimmed with crochet designs. She never ceases to amaze.

At first I wondered why the hell Crafty even wanted to come to knitting night since she basically gets interrupted every five seconds with a whiny voice (usually me) saying "! I messed up again!" She grabs the bungled mess out of your hands and five minutes later gives it back, perfect and ready to go. Problem solved. But after a few months I began to realize that Crafty knits every single day of her life; she comes to knitting night to escape her projects, socialize and take pride in our learning curve.

So between the six of us, we've got just about every skill level covered and we are constantly tapping each other for ideas, assistance, patterns and, most often, reassurance. The other night I was almost apoplectic over a pair of socks I had been peer pressured into starting (FYI, just buy them. It will save you years off your life). I had no other projects in the hopper so my choice was just to continue struggling with socks that were clearly only going to fit me when I was 80 and weighted down with arthritic cankles, or sit and watch everyone else work while I fumed.

Sensing my frustration (perhaps it was my repeated exclamations of "Fuck" and "I suck"), the group quickly got into rescue mode, insisting that I just needed to put that project on hold and start another until I was ready to try again. In mid pout, I was not in a very proactive mood. So the next thing I knew, the group had helped me pick out a pattern, rummage through my yarn to find something that would work, and sort through their needle collections to find me the right size so I could begin something right then and there. Within the hour I was knitting and purling away, inspired by the thought of the hat I would soon have, but likely never wear here in Southern California.

Beyond the skill levels and emotional support (not to mention the wine and always delicious desserts), the group also provides an amazing spectrum of generational differences. Here is a scene from a recent Tuesday:

20-something who came of age in the early 90s: "I've had sex with five different guys" [clearly implying this is a lot]
50-something: "Girl, that was one weekend for me in the 70s!"

Or how about this?
50-something (obviously not the one from before): "I didn't have sex with a lot of guys when I was younger. I guess I had low self esteem."
30-something: "That's exactly why you should have sex!"

Or let's try this one.
Imagine a group of women knitting, chatting and sipping chilled white wine while a cool ocean breeze wafts in from the wide-open screen door. Suddenly, a glistening 50-something sitting closest to the door leans back and begins fanning herself with one of her photocopied knitting patterns. "Oh man. Hot flash." The two 50-somethings exchange knowing glances. The rest of us just shrug, knowing that someday we'll understand.

But forget generational differences. Let's talk gender. Most nights we hold knitting group at Big Sis' house, where her teenage daughter will occasionally join us when she's not feeling too moody. But a few weeks ago we changed venues to give my new place a try. I warned Wine Guy and he was prepared to spend most of the evening downstairs in the office in self-imposed exile (after saying hello and grabbing some food of course). At one point I ventured down to check on him. He looked just a bit confused. "Are you OK?" I asked. He replied, "Yes but, I don't understand how you can all talk at the same time?"

That got quite a few laughs when I went back upstairs.

Chickenheads. I've heard Wine Guy use the term before to refer to groups of women when they get together and start talking, talking, talking. Bock, bock, bock, bock!

Even if he is right (he is, sometimes on my way home from knitting night my head hurts form the nonstop chatter), I don't care. We Chickenheads find our Tuesday night ritual to be the highlight of our week. So there.

And if you are at all interested, here are two of the projects I've completed with the support of my knitting Chickenheads (a hat and felted purse - did you know felt is just wool that got wet?? I didn't!). I have yet to use either of them for anything beyond whipping out of my knitting bag to show people and say, "Can you believe I made this? Me neither!" When was the last time you were that proud of something you did?



mimi of 'sexagenarian and the city' said...

dt, gosh you guys in california have fun! i need something like that in nyc. btw check out the link on my blogroll to *kat with a k^ -- she's a knitter and also a food photographer. btw i'm not a knitter, but i like it that other people knit, if you know what i mean.

Forever In School said...

My mother in law used to knit. She made sweaters and hats for me. But every time she finished knitting something, she would say the same thing: "Next time I'll buy one. It's not worth the trouble." But They are valuable for me. More because of the amount of time and effort she has spent knitting them for me.

Anonymous said...

hurray, hurray, hurray! finally a post about knitting. you are a KNITTING PRODIGY. i expect to see weekly reports in the future. for the record, crafty and i have been friends since first grade. i cant believe i missed the sex talk last week. alas, i would have added nothing to the conversation, what with my one partner and all.