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first person

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Illustration by Erick M. Ramos

I hate knitting. There, I said it. To all my wonderful, clever knitting friends, I’m sorry. I love you, but I hate your hobby.

I admire the way you turn out those amazing Irish cardigans, baby blankets, hats, socks and even dog sweaters. Watching the finished products flow from your needles so effortlessly, I am mesmerized by the turning and twisting, dropping and adding, looping and winding to produce extraordinary results – a lacy cowl, a cabled pullover, a colourful vest of diamonds and squares or a pair of fantastically striped socks. I cannot get over the speed at which you work, even while talking or watching TV (or both). You always seem relaxed and stress-free.

There was a time when I naively followed you into knitting stores, those Eastern bazaars of colour, texture and smell. Where balls and skeins are stacked ceiling-high by shade and composition in storage cubes on every wall; where huge baskets overflow on the floors while beautifully finished samples float overhead, fuzzy phantoms that enticed me to glide my hands over and through them.

Beguiling knitting ladies always wandered around offering assistance, their hands in constant motion and their knitting an extension of their bodies. They were like woolly sirens of the deep, drawing me in with the clicking of their needles. The stores are a warm and cozy cult of craftiness. They lure the unsuspecting novice with promises of beginner classes and drop-in-anytime help.

Soon I was hypnotized by the overwhelming array of colours and textures. Plunging my hand into a basket of the softest Merino transported me to New Zealand hills.

“Touch this silky baby yarn, spun from bamboo fibre,” one Siren murmured.

“Caress this gorgeous alpaca,” purred another.

“No! No, I am not here for me,” I protested, dizzy from the riot of hues and shades.

But the soothing tones of the Knitting Ladies reassured me.

“A beginner can do this.”

“It’s a really simple pattern.”

“We’re always here to help.”

“Join a class.”

Their words are chant-like and enfolded me in their hypnotic embrace.

Weakened, I submitted and left the store laden with their mysterious wares – a pattern, a bag of yarn, an assortment of needles in various gauges and a selection of strange and wonderful gadgets – stitch counters and holders, coloured pins and a darning needle the likes of which I haven’t seen since my grandmother actually mended socks. This must be how Harry Potter felt upon leaving the wand shop for the first time – exhilarated, mystified and bemused as though wakened from a strange dream and wondering how he got there.

But here’s the thing: I now realize I like the idea of knitting better than the act itself. People who do it look calm, relaxed and happy. There is almost a Zen to the rhythm of the counting and the repetition when seen in the hands of others. It looks so soothing and meditative.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that knitting is nothing of the sort for me. In my attempts to master it, I found that knitting requires patience, nimble fingers and good small-motor function. Patience is not my strongest suit but I was not aware that the latter two were problems until lately.

Right from the start I stumbled, dropped stitches, lost count and forgot how to do the simplest of steps, like casting on or casting off. My temper flared, I ripped things out, started over and over again, until in frustration I threw it down.

Leaving a knitting project for a day or even an hour meant struggling to figure out where I’d left off and how the heck to get started again. Mistakes confounded me and I couldn’t find my way back.

I cannot, like you, watch TV while I knit, for to look up for even one second is to invite disaster. The thought of knitting in the car on a road trip makes me feel sick to my stomach. I have no talent for this and no amount of trying or practice seems to help.

Each time I hit a wall, I was transported back to Grade 8 home economics class when I snuck my sewing projects home for my mother to redo. There were only so many times I could phone a knitting buddy for help before they would begin to wonder if I was completely incompetent.

And those knitting patterns? They are obscure runes of codes and symbols from some forgotten time, decipherable only to those with the key.

I have a spot in the basement for abandoned projects – the half-knitted cardigan whose colours were so appealing, the forgotten scarf on big fat easy to use needles, the “simple” shawl from a kit that my mother will eventually finish for me.

My knitting misfires joined other unfinished crafts, like the scrapbook I started after one introductory class with a substantial purchase of cool stickers, fancy cutters and scalloped borders. Watercolour paints in dried-up tubes are stored beside a barely started embroidery kit. Needle felting? Who am I kidding?

So I give up. I will never be a knitter. I have come to terms with it and I am content.

Count on me for other things, like clever conversation, a funny story, help with your trivia quiz or crossword, or a chat about what we are reading.

Please don’t stop inviting me to come along on your knitting forays but understand that my wallet will stay firmly in my handbag. Keep including me in your stitch-and-bitch sessions; invite me along when you join others for craft night. I need to be with you.

Just don’t expect me to make anything – except the coffee.

Laurie Childs lives in Stratford, Ont.