Recently a friend of mine who is not knitter (I know all kinds of people) asked if I would mind offering advice to a friend of hers, who is a knitter.
“She just finished her first hat,” said my friend, “but I guess she’s not happy with it, and she said the woman at the yarn store wasn’t any help.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “My advice isn’t likely to be any better than the advice from someone who owns a yarn store.”
“You do own a yarn store,” said my friend, indicating my apartment generally. “You just bought it a little bit at a time from lots of other yarn stores.”
“That,” I said crisply, “is stash yarn. It is not the same thing.”
“It looks like the same thing.”
“If this were a yarn shop,” I said, “you would be asked to leave the premises, and I would tape your picture to the register.”
“Are you going to help her, or not?”
“If I do, will you shut up about my stash?”
The next day, I got a text message. I won’t tell you the knitter’s name–let’s just call her Annoying. Annoying wanted to know if she could meet with me to talk through her hat issues.
She arrived at the coffee shop about thirty minutes late, and regarded me balefully. “I guess you’re Franklin, since you’re knitting.”
“Correct!” I said. “When I’m not knitting, I’m Alfred.”
“What?” she said.
“Never mind,” I said. “Have a seat, and let’s look at your hat.”
She produced the it from a brown paper Trader Joe’s bag and laid it on the table.
It was about four inches high.
“Oh,” I said. “I didn’t realize this was for a baby–I thought it was for you.”
“It is supposed to be for me.”
“Oh,” I said.
“It came out too small,” she said.
I took a sip of tea.
“Do you have the pattern?” I asked. She pulled it from the paper bag.
It was, indeed, a pattern for a very fashionable adult’s hat, worked flat on two needles. However, the first thing I noticed was that the pattern called for an Aran-weight yarn; and the yarn in the sweater looked closer to fingering weight. It might even have been a chubby lace weight.
“I did exactly what the pattern said,” fumed Annoying.
“Well, okay,” I said. “Except for one thing–your gauge is off.”
Now, who among us has not been the innocent victim of incorrect gauge? And Annoying was new to all of this, so I undertook an account of gauge that was a concise and diplomatic as I could make it.
“So I needed to use bigger yarn?” said Annoying.
“Yep,” I said.
“But I don’t have any,” she said.
“That’s where the yarn store comes in,” I said. “I’m surprised the woman at your yarn store didn’t advise you a bit better when you bought this.”
“I didn’t buy this at the yarn store,” said Annoying. “Her stuff is way too expensive. I got this at a garage sale for a dollar with the needles.”
“Ah. Well, yes–this is isn’t the right yarn. Much too thin. If you want the size to come out right, you should start with a yarn that’s about the right weight, and see what size needles you need to get the correct number of stitches per inch.”
“You mean the needles were wrong, too?”
“Well, I’m not throwing away more money on different needles. Needles should be needles.”
“But they’re not. I mean, they come in lots of sizes, so you need the size that will–”
“I thought knitting was supposed to save you money.”
“Um,” I said.
“Well, maybe I can get different needles,” she said, doubtfully. “Maybe I can borrow some from you?”
“Um,” I said.
“But how do I know what size to borrow?”
I explained, as gently as possible, how swatches work.
“So you knit the swatch first and it’s not anything–it’s just a swatch, and you can’t use it for anything?”
“So you waste all that time.”
“I’m starting to think it would be better to just buy a stupid hat.”
I took a long sip of tea.
“With something small like a hat,” I said, “you don’t necessarily need to swatch–you can just cast on and work on it and after a little while you should be able to see if it’s going to be way too big or small.”
She looked doubtful.
“And then if it is, I have to undo it all.”
“So I wasted my time anyway.”
“Not really–I mean, I would look at it like this. You learned something, and you enjoyed the knitting.”
“Oh,” she said, “I didn’t enjoy this.”
I drained the last of my tea.
“I just wanted the hat,” she said. “Ones like this in Lincoln Park cost, like, fifty bucks.”
I stared at the bottom of my mug.
“Meghan says you love doing this stuff, so maybe you could knit it for me.”
“She says you have a ton of yarn.”
“You wouldn’t even need to buy any.”
“My calendar is really full,” I said. “And I don’t knit things to sell, anyhow.”
“How long would this take you?”
“More time than I have, I’m afraid.”
“Meghan said you were an expert,” said Annoying.
“Heck no,” I said. “I barely know the difference between a knit and a purl.”
“So this has been a complete waste of an afternoon.”
And with that, I leave you.
Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book (Soho Publishing, 2016) and It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008) and proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. His publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Ply Magazine, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and Knitty.com.
He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, Stitches Events, Squam Arts Workshops, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.
These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel, two looms, and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.
Visit him at www.franklinhabit.com.
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Linda C in AZ
The person aka “Annoying” was definitely annoying. What was also annoying was that the person who was trying to be helpful found it necessary to lie to this annoying person. Rather than lie, tell this person the truth. Tell Annoying you would rather stick a needle in your eye than knit her hat. Tell Annoying your time is worth more than $50 so if you did choose to knit the hat, you would have to charge her $100. These annoying people don’t deserve our kind lies. They are not being kind. They are being rude and acting entitled. Be honest to these rudely annoying people. Tell them they are being rude and if they want something they have to pay for it.
So funny and so true. I tell people like annoying that I have to â€œ love you to knit for you.â€
Well done, Franklin. Your friend owes you big time too!
Gloria J Wilson
I would have been pulling my hair out! Non-knitters just don’t understand, do they? Franklin, you have a way with words. I almost felt like I was at the same table.
Oh my dear darling man, what an angel you are to have not killed that Annoying person! May God bless you and your yarn stash!
Jessi L Carvalho
TOO Funny!!! I love reading your posts!!! Lol… Nobody understands our stashes lol!!!
Thank you for sharing your story. I thought it was delightful. I can also understand your yarn stash. I have filled up one bedroom with mine and itâ€™s spilling over into the hallway and will soon start moving down the stairs.
Ha ha! This piece was hilarious!
How could your mutual acquaintance be friends with this person? She sounds awful and dull and completely devoid of personality. I know as the author we are only hearing your experience, but in my experience, you can’t make this stuff up. I crochet and have dealt with people similar to this but not nearly to this terrifying degree!
Wow, you have more patience than most would for a person as rude as her. If she’s not willing to learn or listen to someone that is willing to help, then knitting might not be for her. 😉
But I”m confused why there are a few times that “sweater” is brought up? Did I miss something?
It’s frustrating being a beginner knitter. I applaud Annoying for at least trying to learn to knit. However, that’s the only good thing I can say about her. It seems like she thought knitting wasn’t hard and she could whip this hat out in no time, with no experience on knitting. Knitting is a craft that a person has to set time aside to learn and practice constantly.
I feel the pain when people assume that because you’ve done 1 knitted or crocheted thing, automatically you’re this expert or pro for the industry. That is frustrating! I believe, people don’t realize it takes months to years, to get your hand coordination down to be a quick knitter. I’ve only been knitting for 1 year and still foul up.
Hopefully, Annoying gives knitting a chance again… Next time, with the right equipment.
Loved the story,
It irks my tater for people to think itâ€™s less expensive to get a homemade item. I could buy several baby blankets for the amount I spend on the yarn alone.
we are going to rename you St. Franklin…or maybe St. Alfred
you needed something stronger than tea 🙂
Right on the money! You made my day, Franklin. 🙂
Great story! I am going to forward this to my knitting group; they will love it, too.
1st your friend needs to be educated not to volunteer your time and materials to her equally clueless friends. You handled her annoying friend with more kindness then she deserved. I was informed by an acquaintance she had seen a sweater in Lenox Mass, chunky cashmere for $ 1,000 and she would let me make it for half. Several years later she is still waiting.
Tine Ditmar Unnerup
I usually compare knitting to sex: If I love you it’s free. If not, there is not enough money in the world to make me.
Ah, yes. And they were probably nasty needles, and the yarn was cheap acrylic, but the hat should STILL look like the well done ones. You deserve a weekend of Roz cuddles, all the adult beverages you desire, and to never answer the phone to the person who sent you Annoying, unless she has other redeeming qualities. Hopefully, she didn’t give Annoying your phone number…
Mary Lee Garrison
St. Franklin (or Alfred) indeed. You were a lot nicer & a lot more patient than I would have been. Thank you for the (painfully) funny story.
I have literally gotten to the point where I will tell people “You do not qualify as knitworthy.” It’s much easier than trying to find a kind lie about why I won’t knit for them.
About 14 years ago I was probably that knitter (though I hope I was less obnoxious about it!). OK, and I comprehended gauge and knew why I should knit a swatch. I’m embarrassed about it… but not everyone like her is a complete waste of yarn!
I wish I could have joined you at your table. Iâ€™m not sure I could disguise a smirk. Would have had a great laugh with you after she left.
loved this. 100%.
That was me but the hat was a dog sweater. It went kind of like this:
I am knitting at a pub at a work related function.. I am approached by a co workers spouse, who says:
My dog is named piglet. I want a sweater for the dog just like the Winnie the pooh character. You like knitting, you should design a sweater from scratch because there aren’t any patterns for that and make it for my dog for free in your spare time after work. Well, I suppose I could buy the yarn at Michael’s. What do you mean you would charge me $50/hr for design work and $ 35/hour for knitting, and you won’t knit with Michael’s yarn? Dog sweaters aren’t worth that much! What? No! I can’t learn to knit, I tried once and it is really boring. …wanders away…
I knew from the response to your “when I’m not knitting, I’m Alfred” where this was going. I knew exactly what type of person this was! So sorry, Franklin, but I do admire your ability to graciously sip tea without spitting it all over her like I would have.
Been there…you are truly a gentleman!
That was me in the mid-1970s, when I was in my early 20s. (No internet then, and jolly few yarn stores, especially in rural farmworld where I was living). I found a pattern for a vest I liked, and I bought the yarn – the pattern said “sport weight,” but I thought worsted weight looked about the same, so that’s what I used. I had a grand old time knitting the thing, didn’t know about swatches, didn’t even occur to me to try the thing on halfway through. I was so proud when it was done – THEN put it on and discovered I’d knitting a lovely vest for an elephant. However – while in my head (after visiting a real yarn shop in a big city) I was thinking how dare they charge so much for this stuff?!?!?! – I was never rude and pushy to anyone. My next project was also a vest, this time I bought the exact yarn the pattern called for (grumbling inwardly at the price) and I actually got a vest out of it. A pretty raggedy-looking thing, but it did fit. I still have it upstairs in my bureau. I sorta, um, outgrew it. When I came back to knitting in 2009, there was Ravelry, and all those blogs and podcasts, and boy do I cringe thinking about 1970s me. No one is born knowing everything, but one could wish that everyone is trained by parents not to be rude jerks. You were very patient and kind, Franklin, and it becomes you.
The only thing I would have added would have been to tell her she’s got a baby shower present all ready to impress a co-worker or friend with. A hat will always fit someone.
Meantime, you were the perfect diplomat–well done. Note that the definition of diplomat around my hometown of Washington, DC is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip.
I loved your story. When I first started knitting my girlfriend’s daughter had a baby girl so I knitted the baby a sweater and booties, not knowing how complicated and long it would take, When I presented the gift she kindly thanked me and cast it aside. I was completely insulted and vowed then and there I would NEVER knit for anyone but myself again. Not that I wanted her to so somersaults but people who don’t knit have no idea the amount of thought and time is put into each garment.
I’m sure I’ve met this woman!
Wow, glad it’s not just me that this happens to!
I give afghans to the girls at work for weddings and babies. A coworker asked if I would make her one if she gave me the yarn. I said sure. She gave me THREAD and said she wanted it to be a QUEEN size bedspread! When I said it would take too long with thread, she said that was why she did not crochet it! Another coworker asked me to make a baby afghan for her sister who did not work with us. I said, yes if you get or pay for the yarn. Of course, she never did!
OMG Franklin, your post is delightful and oooh so true.
Hello from downunder….seems non appreciative non knitters are the same in whatever hemisphere we are located. I have had many similar conversations with people who want to suck me dry of advice and regard me as a sh#t if I don’t comply with their demands.
Here I am in bed on a cold Sat morning in Sydney Australia taking a break from making a warm jacket for my sister in law who at least does appreciate my time and effort. Her item is being made in Tunisian simple stitch and I am having tension problems just now despite me doing a swatch. I have many many years of experience as a knitter, a happy hooker (aka crochet tragic) and a Tunisian crochet addict. As for yarn stashed….my two storey 3 bedroom inner city terrace with a purposely built attic storage area for my craft stuff has a sprall of ufo’s (unfinished objects/projects) in every room except the loo and laundry. Fortunately I have my husband well trained to walk through the goat tracks, I joke not!!!!
I never laughed so hard. I’m an astrologer as well as an avid crocheter. One of my astrologer clients put me through the wringer because she didn’t like her rising sign and I couldn’t get her to understand that I didn’t make the decision; it just is what it is. I felt like I was experiencing deja vu as I read the encounter. Of course, my favorite is when I say I crocheted an item and I’m asked what kind of knitting needles I used. Even more interesting is when the person is quite shocked and says they didn’t know you could crochet with knitting yarn.
Thanks for the chuckle on this dreary day!
B. J. Licko-Keel
I think I have met Annoying in the past. You were so much more patient and kind than I could ever be. When this person was introduced to me my by a mutual friend, she unfortunately also received my personal unlisted phone number (which was just the beginning of our problematic acquaintance). We had several phone conversations before she would reluctantly agree to meet me in person (because coffee at Starbucks costs money). After we met and started going through some basics about why she was having very basic problems, I asked her what else she had knitted recently, and was told–in a huff–that she was a very knowledgeable and experience knitter who had made many difficult projects. Since I wasn’t able to satisfy her impossible demands in order to even begin to help her, I suggested that she might benefit taking a knitting class that I would soon be teaching at a local community college (where I’m on the adjunct faculty) so that she could “review” a few details. Well, it probably is no surprise that this suggestion effectively ended our communications about knitting and everything else.
This was just the inspiration I needed to spend a long hot weekend knitting ( hot weather blech.) So funny – I love having conversations like these. Please tell me you also picked up whatever delightful project you’re currently working on and proceeded to speed-knit a few rows while she sputtered away….
Or, is it really Alfred, in this instance….
WaHaHaHaHa!!! I laughed at the cartoon before I even read the story, hahahaha! Love you Franklin Habit!
I’m so sad for you. That meeting was a complete waste of an afternoon. Swine Annoying.
I had to stop and take a moment several times while reading this! I have a friend who knows how to knit one dish cloth pattern and has one set of needles, she is very kind and pretty patient, but extremely daft. She knew I loved knitting and wanted to learn more. I told her to bring a pattern she wanted to learn and I’d help her. She just couldn’t get past the fact that she would have to buy more needles. I spent at least 30 min. Trying to explain to her why. That was our 1st and last knitting lesson because I almost blew a gasket!
Thank you for the first laugh, Alfred! I am patient and kind like that when someone “thinks” they want to learn to knit or is a beginner wanting to learn more. I taught myself to knit 53 years ago from a library book (Yes, a library book! Remember that libraries came long before computers!) had many trials and tribulations along the learning process and was grateful my accounting teacher was just as patient with my knitting questions as she was with my studies. My best students were the 6 year olds who I started with who all knit for 5 years before they discovered boys, sports and spring weather! They all did great and a couple were fantastic. Patience is something every knitter has to have, just to keep learning and knitting and sometimes even our patience runs thin with someone annoying which can sometimes be myself. ( like when I tossed out my last two projects to be rewound because they were just not working for me. One was my fault, the other a very poorly written pattern that was so bad I wanted to strangle the designer!) I have had several of my “friends” suggest I sell my stash. I think they are aliens from another planet and a cousin who thought I should whip up a hand knit sweater that was selling for $180 and wanted to know if I would make it for less. I told her I would charge her at least double and I suggested she buy it up quickly from the one who made it before I did. Thanks for the always inspiring and always amusing writing!
Dear Franklin, 1. I would not have waited 30 minutes. 2. I would have poured tea all over her. 3. I would have strangled her with my yarn.
You are a SAINT.
When a friend asked where my cardigan came from, I told her I had knitted it, so then came the usual comment: how much would you charge to knit me one…….[deep breath]……. well the yarn cost me $180 and then it took me nearly 3 months to complete [Aran weight, jacket style, cardigan with Fair isle pattern all over and the sleeves matched the body] without twitching once I said $5oo minimum. no reply and no request either……..
This was hilarious…doubly so as it is so t;rue for so many knitters! I have had all those, the why another set of needles, why a different yarn, and will you knit it for me. I used to have a terrible time saying “no”. One day, for some reason, instead of giving in, I said “I don’t knit with yarn I don’t like, I don’t knit a pattern I don’t like, and I don’t knit for people I don’t like. Your request falls into all 3 categories” I didn’t knit the thing, and she quit talking to me. Which is a win, win. Your are so much kinder than I am!
Lisa Santoni Cromar
Thank you, Franklin.
I really needed something light & funny today .
Nice way to put off Annoying 🙂 I have been asked by friends and co-workers about having a class on teaching them to knit and crochet. I’m new to these but people seem to like my completed items. I start with a pattern, make mistakes and incorporate the mistake into my pattern, rather than rip out my stitches. Any advice on, or gems of wisdom to share that may help make up my mind. I had bought bundles of related things looking toward my retirement years when I can give yarn my full attention. Thanks!
Marda A. Keith
I am a crocheter rather than a knitter. The one set of needles blew my mind. I have every size of hook in a variety of materials (NEVER plastic) and have found that different ones work better with different kinds of yarn, even if they are the same size and should, in theory, work the same. My favorites are all made of wood and cover every variety of wood from which a crochet could possible be made–one large one of unlabeled size was made by a grandfather for crochet rag rugs. It is perfect for that task and only that. I can’t teach anyone to crochet, although my professional career was teaching. My mother taught me the basics as a child, but I began as an adult using a set of beginners lessons. I probably haven’t progressed much farther even though I have crocheted over a hundred lapghans and shawls to give away to shut-ins. They, at least, pretend to be glad to receive my contributions. No one has turned one down. My stash is huge and moved 1400 miles with me two years ago. I got rid of many things, but the stash was sacred. No one understands the lure of yarn like a knitter or crocheter.
I tell folks that for me, knitting is like sex. If I love you enough, I will do anything for you. Otherwise, you can’t pay me enough. And some things, I do just for my own pleasure.
I have had a similar conversation with many of my students about swatching. My usual reply to â€œitâ€™s a waste of timeâ€ is â€œlet me know how that works out for you.â€ Iâ€™ve said this so many times that my former students who overheard me say this will tell the newbie â€œyou would be wise to listen to him.â€ Itâ€™s a never ending cycle. *sigh*
Annoying sounds like she’s really entitled. The kind of people to assume everyone is eager to do things for them, that good things should come at a rebate to them, and that their time is so precious, they can’t waste it on mundane things like practice to get better.
But, there is hope for her, because she is a knitter… An obnoxious beginner, but still a knitter. She did finish the hat.
Maybe some day, she will be touched by a true love of beautiful yarn, she’ll have enough respect for her own time that she will invest it in bettering herself and her knitting, and she will become not only a knitter, but a knit-worthy person.
I think we all have a friend of a friend (or a friend) like that! how selfish!
Oh, how many times have I sat in that seat…. You made me laugh with your story, Franklin!
How brave of het to be so annoying when sitting across from someone with those sharp, stabby needles!
How wonderful of your FRIEND to mention all the yarn you have to this taker.
Oh my gosh, this is like people who find out I sew so see no reason why I shouldn’t sew things for them, free of course, or teach them and use my stuff, I am talking about people I hardly know or have just met. I may do some things for charity and family but I have learned to say no.
Your story struck home and gave me a lot of laughs. Many years ago when I first got my store a knitter came in and told me that patterns were written badly she has been knitting for over 20 years and never had one thing come out the way it was supposed to (the fault of the pattern) I asked the usual questions about the weight of yarn, needles etc. and she informed me that she used the yarn she liked and the pattern she liked, end of story. I also asked about knitting a swatch but was told she did not have time for that nonsense. But she did have time for 20 years of knitting project that never fit her. I did my best to explain what the problem might be but she left with a pattern and unrelated yarn..
She did not score high on learning from her mistake but I did give her an A for her persistence.
Ah. I smile, I laugh, I can relate. Thanks so much for the article.
I’m guessing Annoying also didn’t apologize for wasting your time by showing up 30 minutes late and didn’t offer to pay for your coffee/tea. At least it wasn’t a complete waste of your time – you got a good story out of the experience.
I learned how to knit in nurses training,I dropped out of training in 2 years so probably saved a lot of people by doing that. I never could get to like crocheting as it had so many different stitches .I taught my son to knit & he loves it. My e-mail is under my husbands name. Happy knitting to all………Jan L
What makes a muggle feel like zero effort will yield desired results? The math doesnâ€™t work. Wave your sticks and shitty attitude somewhere else dearest. Franklin is cool enough without your breeze!
I don’t even make things for people I love anymore. Why waste your time making something beautiful, only to see it thrown in a drawer or put in the next yard sale.
Mary Scott Huff
Take Heart, Dear One. The universe sent Annoying to you so that you would have something funny to tell the REAL knitters. In such circumstances I’ve been known to advise my own Annoyings: “God loves you. And I’m working on it.”
The novice knitter in this little tale is just too over-the-top awful to be quite true. The contempt for the novice that fed the creation of this almost certainly made-up story is what has taught this novice knitter to stop asking for help from “expert” knitters. It too often turned into nothing more than an opportunity for the “experts” to point out how incompetent I was for not knowing how to do something I had never done before and then to regale other “expert” knitting friends with tales of my ineptitude. And what, exactly, is wrong with keeping one’s knitting in a Trader Joe’s bag? I like my Trader Joe’s bag. It’s got a pretty flower and butterfly design on the outside, and the inside is a cheerful orange. It’s just the right size and shape for my project. I am now learning from books and YouTube videos and doing fine. YouTube doesn’t care what kind of bag I keep my knitting in, and it never makes snarky comments and doesn’t ridicule me among its friends.