Monday, August 22, 2005


I really really want to believe that most knitters are nice.

Not nice in that cutesy but boring sort of way, but "nice" meaning that they like other knitters, and that they occasionally share their yarn, and that they tell funny stories (some of which may involve cursing: NORma!). I generally expect that when I meet a fellow knitter, that person is likely to be creative and funny and kind. I know that this is silly; I mean, any jerk can learn to knit, right? But I've met so many wonderful knitters, both in real life and online, that I carry on believing that all knitters are cool people.

And then I meet the knitter who isn't.

Last week I went to a small knitting get-together. It was hosted by a couple of women who I met a few years ago through a mutual friend. We don't hang out together outside of the occasional knitting group, but I genuinely like these two women and some of their knitter friends. However, a new woman has joined us for the past couple of groups, and she has not been--shall we say--a positive addition. She seems smart and somewhat interesting, but she is one of those women who has to monopolize the conversation. At one point, when another woman was discussing some issues she deals with at work--issues which the rest of us were rather interested in--Princess PointySticks announced loudly, "This is just making me too depressed. Let's play a getting to know each other game instead." Hello? I thought that's what we were doing? But no, discussing the three people (dead or alive, famous or not, blah blah blah) that we would invite to a dinner party is more interesting than real conversation. O-kay.

However, the thing that really threw me was the Princess's tantrum. She was casting on in preparation for knitting in the round, which she had never tried before. She asked the hostess what to do next, and she received some clear and pleasant instructions, and we all thought she understood them. But no, she did not actually join the knitting into a circle, and she did not realize this until she had completed an entire row. An honest mistake for an inexperienced knitter, right? But when Princess realized that something was wrong, she immediately snapped at the hostess, who graciously explained what had gone wrong, and who offered to help the Princess join the stitches into the round if she just tinked back a row. (We're talking fifty stitches here, not two hundred. Just so you know.) I was about to suggest that she just knit one more row and then join the knitting into a circle, closing up the resulting gap later (as the project was to be felted and it would never show); but before I could open my mouth she yanked her needle out of the stitches, angrily ripped them all out, and threw everything down on the table, snarling, "Forget it, I just won't do it then, I'll just sit here while you all knit."

Now. I have thrown the occasional knitting tantrum, and perhaps you have thrown one too. Perhaps one night you were knitting with some friends, and you had a glass of wine, and you suddenly noticed a mistake that you made sixteen rows and 2000 stitches ago that cannot be fixed without frogging, no matter what you do; and perhaps you threw yourself onto the ground and you cursed the Knitting Goddess, and you made your friend hide all the double pointed needles so that you were not tempted to harm yourself or others. And then perhaps you all laughed and you had another glass of wine and then you hid the project in the back of a closet until you felt better. These are the kinds of knitting tantrums with which I am familiar. These are the kinds of tantrums that do not make your fiber friends uncomfortable.

This other kind of tantrum, well, this is the kind of behavior I expect from my four-year-old. Not the kind of behavior I like, mind you, but the kind of behavior that is developmentally normal, and which--on a good day--I can respond to with the appropriate mothering mix of empathy and encouragement. When this kind of behavior is exhibited by a grown woman in the middle of a knitting group, it is followed by a long and awkward pause. (Which is possibly less awkward at a knitting group than at other times, because you can stare at your own knitting and pretend that you have not been paying attention to what the other folks are doing.) This is not the kind of tantrum that makes your knitting friends laugh in empathy.

The hostess, as gracious as ever, broke the silence by saying, "Oh, well, why don't you let me get it started for you? Because I'm not working on anything important." And she put down her own knitting, and cast on the new stitches, and knit the first two rounds, and then handed it back to Princess. Who was not particularly thankful.

I do believe that, had I been the hostess, I might have made a different response. You?