April 26, 2005

The Invisible Woman Knits in Public

Inspired by Ryan's account of her recent trip to take her car to the mechanic's, I'll tell you mine.

On Monday, I had my car serviced: lube, oil, filters, tires rotated. No big deal. Two plus hours in the waiting room. I brought knitting. I was ready.

When I entered the lobby, a woman who obviously worked for the dealership was in there, straightening out the magazines and newspapers. "Would you like a magazine?" she asked.

"No, I brought stuff to do," I said coyly. (I should'a said I'd brought knitting!)

I settled in, pulling out a big ol' ball of Plymouth Galway and a stitch dictionary, and proceeded to experiment with simple cables for possible submission for Level II of the Master Knitter program. (It was the cable swatches, a year ago, that brought me to my knees. The complexity and impressiveness of my lace swatches will more than be compensated for by the simplicity of my cable swatches, if you get my meaning.)

An hour and a half went by, during which time my little experimental swatch grew to an inch-and-a-half, got ripped back, grew again, got ripped again, etc. The receptionist at the front desk paid me no mind as she routed phone calls and tried time and again to get her computer printer to print out a page to her satisfaction.

Eventually, in came another woman who was waiting to pick up her car. She'd brought in her car much earlier, and the service techs were just finishing up with it. She had a few minutes to wait, after she paid her bill, while they brought her car around. She took a seat across the room from me. She whipped out of her bag a novelty yarn scarf, four feet long, and commenced to knitting.

Out of nowhere swooped down the employee of the dealership, the same woman who'd been straightening the magazines when I'd arrived about two hours before. She swooped down on this waiting customer and her four-foot-long novelty-yarn scarf-in-progress. "That's so beautiful! Oh, my! Those colors! You didn't make this yourself! You're so talented! So patient! I could never do that!" Etcetera, sickening etcetera. She even summoned over the receptionist. "Oh, Courtney -- come, look at this!"

And the woman knitting the scarf held up her little balls of novelty yarn and explained, "Oh, yes, I bought these at the yarn store down the street, they have classes, they can teach you to knit. It takes me about two hours to knit one of these scarves. Look, I have them in all these different colors!"

Who am I, chopped liver? I sat there on the opposite side of the room with my little swatch, just waiting for my equal time, trying to hold my knitting needles a little more forward so that they might glint under the lights , trying to click them a little more loudly against each other as I worked my stitches, all in a pathetic attempt to be a little more noticeable. The dealership employee never came over to marvel over my little swatch; Courtney the receptionist never batted an eyelash in my direction. My swatch wasn't glitzy, it wasn't novelty yarn, it wasn't four feet long, in two hours' time it wasn't appreciably longer -- what's to notice? I was invisible. I hate it when this happens. What do I need to do -- dress in more flashy colors? Speak more loudly? How to survive as an introvert in an extraverted world?

Even when my car was ready and I went to pay my bill, Courtney the receptionist never asked me what it was I'd been working on, if I'd been knitting or what....

Scott says that I should have stood up while the dealership employee was ooh-ing and aah-ing over the other customer's knitting, held up my knitting to the light, and exclaimed: What do you think about my stitches? Are they even?

Dear Reader, what would you have done to make yourself more visible while knitting in public?

Marti and Ryan are clamoring for pictures -- tomorrow, guys, tomorrow.

Posted by Karen at April 26, 2005 09:51 PM

In that situation? I'd have done nothing. These ladies weren't interested in knitting. They were interested in flashy yarn, and the fact that flashy yarn could could be made up into something wearable.
They may be nice folks, but they're not your target audience. :-)
I'd just have smiled and kept on working at my swatch.

Posted by: Janice in GA at April 27, 2005 04:28 PM

I don't believe it. That is maddening! That knitter was letting the yarn do all the work, and someone was impressed by it. Big deal. Our world is nuts. Talentless people make millions looking pretty and drawing attention, while trained musicians eke out a living. Don't let yourself be discouraged because some nimcompoop is blind and stupid. You are doing great work, and improving your skills with discipline and patience. That is worth a lot! I am sure that your swatch is beautiful.

Posted by: Anne at April 27, 2005 04:33 PM

They wanted cleavage, and you're not the type. :)

Posted by: Patti at April 27, 2005 06:14 PM

What Janice said.

Posted by: Katie at April 27, 2005 06:19 PM

I'm with Janice. Those people are so not your target audience. I promise if you bring your swatch on Thursday, that I will more than make up in the ohhhhing department for those women ;-)

People don't often appreciate the true breathe of talent and will often lean toward the shiny pretty objects instead. There is not much one can do but appreciate true talent when you see it. With true karma, another will appreciate your talent in the end too.

Posted by: Rebecca at April 27, 2005 07:52 PM

Thanks for affirming my worth as a knitter, you guys. I appreciate it.

What's particularly galling is that this incident came right on the heels of another incident of invisibility on Sunday evening. I was shopping in a woman's clothing store. I walked in, and the clerk behind the counter was on the phone. I found the blouse I wanted, went to the counter, waited to pay. The clerk continued with her phone call. Okay, body language will work, I thought, and largely, theatrically, obviously, pulled out my credit card. She continued to talk on the phone. A second clerk came in, coming back from her break. She went behind the counter, and, with her back to me, continued to sip on her latte (I guess she was still on break). The only thing that was separating me from these two women was the counter -- I was standing right in front of them, with a blouse ready to be paid for, and a credit card in my hand. And I was the *only* customer in the store. But I was invisible. When the clerk got off the phone, I gave her a piece of my mind: "How long do I have to stand here with my credit card in my hand, waiting to pay for this blouse?!"

How can I be invisible like this, two days in a row?! Maybe I need to take my vitamins.

Posted by: Karen at April 27, 2005 10:32 PM

Seconding (thirding? fourthing?) Janice.

However, as much as experienced knitters wish that all the newer scarf knitters out there move on to the next level, said scarf craze is very good news for yarn shops. You may only need one or two balls of fuzzy yarn for a scarf but that yarn ain't cheap.

Sometimes it takes experience to appreciate simplicity and recognize its elegance.

Posted by: Susanna in Seattle at April 27, 2005 10:36 PM

I'm with Janice. That said, I would have left the blouse in the store.

Posted by: Angela at April 28, 2005 12:29 AM

Hi Karen,
just taking a break from sock making,( about to turn a heel)
I needed to get up and stretch,,,so,,I thought I would pay your blog a visit,,
At my LYS, I see scarves,ponchos and more scarves and ponchos,,( one employee said to me quite sadly,,,no one makes sweaters anymore,,,,)
I found it very boring to say the least,,,then I did the Einstein coat which truthfully was MORE boring,,,( I dont know why, but it was not fun to work on,,,lots of people love it,)
One scarf was all it took for me to want to learn more,,,I dont own but 2 and have not made them as gifts either( socks,, no scarves)

Well,,,,this Christmas after making a great pair of socks as a present to my dearest friend in the world,,,she shows me a fluffy blue FIZZ scarf a mutual friend made her for Christams(,,she simply LOVED it,,,and there,,there were my poor socks,
( so now I am feeling really sorry for myself,,,)
Think she would know how much work went into them ,, I tried to teach her how to work with dp's??? ( she couldnt do it,,,) but noooo, she went on and on about that FIZZ scarf,,,,,,,,,,
Once she wore the socks she could only say wonderful things about them,,,so I felt better,,
and she will be getting a shawl for a BIG birthday she is having this year,,,,,,(she saw me working on it already and thinks its for someone else ,,)

Remember,,,,flash is flash,,and class is class,
big difference in life,,,,,big difference in knitting ,,,,,

Posted by: pam at April 28, 2005 02:16 AM

I for one, don't care if anyone notices my knitting or not, but your experience shows the image of knitting today: scarves and more scarves. I figure these scarf knitters will either get bored and progress to some REAL knitting, or they will give up knitting entirely. I am hoping for the former, as that is good for our LYS.

Just remember that you were benefitting your brain as you worked on your cables, not just your knitting. The other woman was on auto-pilot.

I used to live in Los Angeles and I couldn't believe how many scarves were being knit. How many scarves does one need in Los Angeles?

Posted by: Abby at April 28, 2005 04:09 AM

gah, all my friends here where i live LOVE those eyelash scarves. i did end up knitting one for two of my friends. when they go on and on about the scarves, i want to scream, i wouldn't be caught dead with one of those things around my neck!!!!

Posted by: vanessa at April 28, 2005 11:25 AM

Unfortunately, I think this is a reflection of the society we live in nowadays: people want everything fast, easy and flashy…
Sometimes it takes talent to recognize talent. The other knitter was probably a brand new knitter and was proud of her new accomplishments, which is normal. I just hope that this generation of new knitter who learn to knit scarves with those novelty yarns will move on to true knitting. Novelty yarns might be good for our LYS right now, but I am not sure for in the long term. I usually try to support my LYS, but they carry more and more of those flashy yarns and less and less of “plain” yarns. For instance, I love knitting lace, but I cannot find lace weight wool at my LYS. And more recently, I was looking for yarn to use for my Level I Master Knitting, but I couldn’t find any worsted weight yarn that was smooth, 100% wool and in a light color! They just don’t carry the “traditional” yarn anymore, so I have to look for alternative sources… This is sad.

Posted by: Christine at April 28, 2005 01:49 PM

Did you say something? Oh, I didn't see you there...

Yeah, me too. My knitting is my own reward, mostly. It's like the culture at large cannot believe that anyone would knit something complex, so they just assume it was done by machine or purchased from some overseas sweatshop. But quiet competence has its day in the sun from time to time...

And I've gotten pretty bold about speaking up for service!

Posted by: Janine at April 28, 2005 04:45 PM

I don't hold anything against the woman who was knitting the novelty yarn scarf for using a novelty yarn -- honestly, I don't. I was even slightly amused by the reference to the yarn store "down the street," since that was the store where I used to work.

But I do feel . . . slighted . . . perplexed at my invisibility . . . and grumpy . . . about not being acknowledged by either the other knitter or either of the car dealership employees. If I'm engaged in the same activity, and sitting only 10 feet away, you'd think they could included me in the conversation....

And it kills me that the employee gushed over "the colors." The knitter didn't do anything about those colors, other than to choose to buy that colorway of yarn. A designer put together that particular combination (in this case, it was reds and golds). It's not like she was knitting Fair Isle or entrelac or intarsia, had exercised skill and discrimination in choosing separate colors, and was in control of which stitch was which color.

Posted by: Karen at April 28, 2005 08:51 PM