Saturday, March 1, 2014

Writing Exercise: "But Knot for Me"

Exercise: Pull up a random song on your music player and use the title of the song as the title of your next story.  My song: "But Not for Me," from the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack.
But Knot for Me

     Why, why, why?  Why did I ever think that this class was a good idea?  I could be sitting somewhere with an adult beverage and a pattern that doesn't make me want to tear out my hair, but instead I'm here on the verge of tears.  Happy birthday to me.
     I look around the room to see if there's anyone I can commiserate with, but the other students seem to be taking the new technique in stride.  Well, that, or they haven't gotten to the hard part yet - since I work so fast, it's hard to tell who's caught up with me and who is still blissfully ignorant of the horrors yet to come.
     The tangle of yarn in my lap mocks me.  I have tried this section so many times that I didn't even bother winding the yarn back onto the ball, I just ripped out the bad section and let the strands stay wherever they fall.  The next time I try to knit with it, I know, the yarn will stick to itself in clumps, making an already difficult pattern even more of a pain to execute.  But right now, I'm more likely to set the whole mess on fire in the parking lot than I am to patiently wind it into a tidy ball, so I keep my hands to myself.
     The pattern isn't that complicated-looking, at least once it's complete.  It's made from string manipulated with two pointy sticks, the same as any other knitted object.  How hard can that be?  I take a peek at the student to my left, and see that she's gotten to the part that has stymied me.  Her brow is furrowed in concentration, and she's not jabbering away with her friend like she was earlier in the day, but she doesn't seem to be as frustrated with it as I am.
     What is it that is tripping me up?  It's two sticks and some string, nothing to get myself in a tizzy over.  And yet ... knitting is supposed to be easy for me.  Ever since I progressed from that first scarf - the one where my stitches were so tight, they were practically impossible to work - knitting has come easily to me.  If I wanted to learn a new technique, I'd look at it in a book or online, try it a couple times, and boom, it was there.  My style might not be the most traditional - one knitting teacher who looked at how I formed my stitches basically said, "Huh.  Haven't seen that before," - but it's fast, and it gets the job done.  I can whip out a hat in a few hours, a scarf in a weekend, a sweater in a week if I don't have much else going on.
     But this ... this sucks.  "P2tog tbl" - the official abbreviation for the stitch I was failing to make - is evil.  Purl two together through the back loop, indeed.  Whoever came up with that little gem deserved a good thrashing.  This was it.  This was the thing that I would never learn, that would make me a failure in knitting, just like I was in everything else.
     I took a deep breath and looked out the window at the lake.  The water was calm, still except for the ripples left behind the ducks paddling around on its surface.  I felt like those ducks - outwardly calm, but paddling like mad where no one could see.  There were so many commitments, so many things pulling me in different directions.  Just keeping up with the house and my family commitments was taking everything I had - and knitting was supposed to be my escape.  It was the one thing I could count on, the one thing I knew I had down pat.  I could sit and knit and turn off my brain and not worry about everything else that was going on in my life.  I had planned for months to come on this retreat, to take this class from a famous teacher, and now here I was, paddling like crazy to keep up in the class.  It just wasn't right.
     I picked up my needles and steeled myself. This time, it would work.  This time, I would do it.
     I followed the pattern for several stitches, stitches that were nothing new, stitches I had done thousands of times before.  So far, so good.  Then I got to the symbol on the chart for "P2tog tbl" and I winced.  Now or never.  With a deep breath, I rolled my left wrist toward me so I could see what I was doing.  Counted two stitches over, then torqued my right wrist to insert the needle tip into the stitches ... carefully, so that they didn't slide off of my left needle ... and inched the needle further along.  I manipulated the yarn around the needle, wrapping it the proper direction this time, and drew it tight.  Now, for the moment of truth.  Slowly, carefully, I moved my painfully contorted wrists to pull the right needle out of the stitches, catching the new loop of yarn as I did so.  New loop securely held on the right needle, I popped the two old stitches - and ONLY those two stitches get back on there you miserable little cretins - off of the left needle and finally let out my breath.  It was done.  One P2tog tbl complete in under five minutes ... only ten more to go on that row.
     I worked carefully along the row, a stitch at a time, my normally blazing pace slowed to a crawl.  Knit. Purl.  Yarn over.  And then ... P2tog tbl.  I thought of revenge on the people who had invented that stitch, designed the pattern to use the stitch, and decided to teach a class based on that horrible, horrible pattern.  Fire.  Fire would be a good and reasonable response to the terrors they had inflicted upon an innocent knitting public.
     Only a few minutes later, I looked down, and I had reached the end of the row.  I counted my stitches with trembling fingers, hoping against hope that my number would match the one in the pattern.  It did!  I breathed a sigh of relief, then went on to the next row, which was blissfully absent of those evil, evil new stitches.  But only moments later, I was done with that row and ready to do the return row, which once again featured my friend, P2tog tbl.  Yay.
     I glanced around the room again while I rolled my shoulders to loosen the tension that had settled there.  I was getting a headache, and a backache, and I couldn't actually turn my head to the right without rotating my whole torso - that's how tense I had been.  Around me, the other students were falling silent, their own shoulders hunched and eyes squinted at the patterns in front of them.  Various oaths were muttered sotto voce, and more than one person was ripping back their work, one stitch at a time: tink, tink, tink.  Oh, thank god - it wasn't just me having problems with it.
     With a slightly gladdened heart I attacked the next row methodically: stitch, stitch, torque, insert, pray pray pray, slip, celebrate, repeat.  This time the row took incrementally less time than it had the last time, and once again I had the proper number of stitches when I was done.  Score!  Maybe I was getting the hang of this.
     Another easy row, and moments later I was back at the beginning of another row of horrors. Stitch, stitch, torque, insert, pray pray pray slip oh god oh god oh god no no noo get back on there you little piece of shit god damn it ...
     I slammed my needles down on the table.  The stitch had slipped off and run down the work, ruining a whole column of knitting that had been perfect only moments before.  Tears came to my eyes as I thought of taking out all that work to fix the mistake I had made - again.  I couldn't do it.  I couldn't force myself to go through that again.  I pulled out my needles and started to unravel the swatch.  Some people would leave the class with a beautiful sample of lace, but I wasn't one of them.  I looked at the hopeless tangle of yarn in my lap and sighed again.  For the other students there would be triumph, and a feeling of accomplishment, and something they could show off to their knitting friends.  But knots for me.

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