Thursday, 13 March 2008

Gooseberry Fool?!*

I am not sure that I am a good person.

Last night I popped along to an I Knit meeting at Craig and Gerard’s new local pub, in Lower Marsh Street (in lieu of being able to get to their shop relocation opening on Saturday).

Although they hardly know me, I like them both and as a London based knitter, I really appreciate what I Knit has to offer - it is not just a yarn shop, it feels to me like an important part of the London knitting community. So...

...there I was, tucked up on a squashy leather sofa, halfway through a large glass of Italian chardonnay, working my way through the last 30% of my Castle Couture hat pattern test knitting and quietly observing the knitters around me when...

…a slightly shy figure loomed up behind the knitter on my right.

She eyed the space on the sofa next to me. She had a mug of tea wobbling on a saucer in one hand (it had a teabag bobbing about in it that had gently stewed her cuppa to a very bright tan colour) and her knitting bag dangling from the other.

Then, with a sudden grit of determination that didn’t quite tally with her uncertain posture, she clambered across knitters, rucksacks and settled into position beside me, unpacking a pair of long wooden dpns (size unknown), a book and a plastic bag full of an assortment of odds and ends, mostly synthetic looking yarns.

In retrospect, the contents of her bag should have been my clue - no distinct project, no pattern, just odds and ends of yarn and a stitch book? Perhaps I should have stuck with my friendly welcome smile, then just kept my eyes averted, my head down, remained focused on my own knitting and simply sung quietly to myself (the pub’s ‘Best of 80s’ pop CD)?

Nope - that's just not us community minded knitters, is it?! To seal my fate, it just so happened that I glanced across (at the very same time as the knitter, sitting on my right) to find her very carefully applying herself to her needles, with her book open on her lap,

She took our glances as interest in her book, which she generously proffered in our joint direction. It was a well preserved library copy of a ‘Good Housekeeping - Knitting - Pattern Library’ (1981). In summary, she was very enthusiastic about it, was delighted by its vintage, 1970s aspect, it looked like she had renewed it twice from the library and she was living in hope to find a copy in a charity shop somewhere soon.

The knitter on my right dutifully thumbed through it (while Ann Budd’s ‘Knitting from the Top Down’ and Barbara G Walker’s ‘A Treasury of Charted Stitch Patterns’ poked out of the top of her bag) and then handed it back, making nice noises and suggesting some names of online second hand bookstores where it might be possible to find a copy. She went back to her knitting.

As the shy knitter reached out to take her book, it fell open at Gooseberry stitch, whereupon she declared, ‘I love that pattern - it is all bobbly! But I tried…and I couldn’t do it.’

I glanced at the instructions and without thinking, I said, ‘That’s not difficult.’

Yep, the next time you are in my company and this looks like it might happen, please feel free to pop a shoe in my mouth as it opens. Seriously - before I’d even closed my mouth - the shy knitter had pulled her current piece off her needles and was casting on again.

Now…I would be crowing like mad about my teaching brilliance right now...if the penny had dropped for her at any point during the 4 rows we completed of the 8 row repeat .

It is just that it did not. I felt so bad for her that every single stitch ended up being a replay of repeated explanation and demonstration. Also, I felt very frustrated that I was unable to show or explain in a way that she could ‘see’ it. Was I doing something wrong?

Our communication (both visual and aural) was hampered by the fact that she holds her needles in a very different way to me. So my demonstrations and suggestions did not work well for her. Also, the way that she positions her needles, made it very difficult for her to see how to move the yarn backwards and forwards during the bobbles.

The Good Housekeeping book ended up being treated like a phrase book. I would demonstrate and then she would flip back to the explanatory diagrams to see if she could work out what I was getting at from the book illustrations - completely hopeless.

The worst bit was that I had to run out on her before the end of the 8 row repeat to catch my train home. Before I left, I scribbled the stitch instructions down on a napkin+ and handed my dismal teaching baton over to Gerard who looked exhausted.

‘What? Gooseberry stitch? What’s that?’

I showed him. At that point, the shy knitter was in the process of trying to stab one of her needles through a p3tog, with a look of absolute concentration on her face. His tired face fell about an inch. ‘It’s not often that you’ll hear me suggest trying something a bit easier but…’

‘…Oh no,’ I interrupted, ‘she’s halfway through, it would be wrong for her to give up now?’

His face fell another inch. If I hadn't spent the previous hour or so attempting to explain p1,yo,p1,yo,p1 into the same stitch, I might have felt more sympathetic for his predicament?!

As it was, on my way out, I am ashamed to say that I chuckled (just a little bit, sorry Gerard).

Now d’you see? I am not sure that I am a very good person at all!

In fact (see photo) when I got home last night, I needed another glass of wine to recover.
PS, on my way home tonight, I cast on a gooseberry stitch swatch. I am not the fastest in the world but I did have a fairly good idea about what I was trying to achieve. As it took me half an hour to complete 4 rows, across 23 stitches, I now realise that the shy knitter was doing a pretty good job yesterday evening! (I hope that she didn't give up.)

I'll photo it to show tomorrow - apparently, Good Housekeeping recommends this stitch for things like cot blankets? Well, from what I have seen so far? Only if one is happy to spend a lot time trying to pick baby sick out of the bobbles with a pin.

* Gooseberry Fool (just in case you have no idea what it is)

+ For those of you shocked at my scribbling down a stitch pattern out of a library book, I went online today and bought myself a second hand copy of the book for 40p. (Just in case, it might come in handy as a translation device at any point in the future.)

1 comment:

Roobeedoo said...

Sounds fairly angelic to me. I think I might have called her stupid and stabbed her with her needles. (Joking!) Funnily enough I have been reading a book called "How To Be Good" by Nick Hornby. When it is made into a film you must go and see it! (Reading it is far too time consuming and traumatic - believe me!)