My knitting friends and I enjoy showing each other our finished projects. One friend, however, cannot admire any piece of knitwear without picking it up and stretching it every which way. She is exceedingly complimentary to the knitter, which is always nice, but I have a really hard time seeing my newly knitted objects being put through the wringer before I’ve even had the chance to wear them. My friend also likes to try my garments on, but we aren’t quite the same size.
She is a sweet person and I enjoy knitting with her. I’ve started to stop bringing out items that I don’t want her to stretch. What should I say to her? Or am I being too sensitive?
I was recently in Texas for DFW Fiber Fest. I’d finished teaching four workshops and was well into my fifth when I realized that the bothersome thing that had been hovering around my face was, in fact, my left hand. Somewhere after the seven-hour mark it had taken on a life of its own and was tucking the same strand of hair behind my left ear, and then pushing my glasses up on my nose. Again and again and again.
I wonder if your friend has a similar disconnect between her hands and the rest of her body, or if she even realizes she’s engaging in full frontal combat with your beautiful, freshly finished handknits?
Your conundrum is real. I’ve shared it with designers and teachers and yarn shop staff in the hopes of gaining insight on the best course of action. Every single person was both distressed and stumped, fearing this problem without ever really having faced it yet.
Ironically, one friend who was particularly upset by your plight proceeded, not an hour later, to manhandle a freshly finished garment a student had brought to show her. Her hands went in for the kill, smashing and tugging and rubbing the fabric. Had I pointed this out to her, I suspect she would have been horrified but also a bit defensive.
Bottom line: Even when we do have awareness, what we think and what we do aren’t always in sync. (Which may explain why my partner’s definition of “tailgating” changes completely depending on who’s behind the wheel, her or me.)
Should you say something to your friend?
The answer depends on how much you’re willing to risk, and how confident you are in your communication skills. You mentioned that this woman is a different size than you. The minute body size enters any equation, the potential for miscommunication and hurt feelings can be enormous. And that, in turn, could do serious damage to your friendship.
You don’t sound like someone who is comfortable risking hurt feelings. You are being thoughtful about how best to approach a situation that has started to wear on you (and on your handknits).
The easiest out is simply to stop bringing your newly finished projects when she’s around. If nothing else I suggest works, this may still be the only solution. But before you go cold turkey on the show-and-tell, I have some other ideas.
For starters, whenever the project is a garment for you, simply wear it when you gather with your knitting friends. If it’s a cardigan, wear something skimpy underneath. It’s poor form to ask someone to remove her clothing—unless, say, you’re her doctor, parent, lover, or covetous sibling. Hopefully, your friend won’t cross that boundary. But if she does, you have far more leeway to answer an awkward but definitive no. “Unless you want to see me naked,” you can say, “I’d rather keep my clothes on tonight.” Or, “I can’t, I’m freezing.” Or, “I have a highly communicable disease and don’t want you to see all my open sores.”
Another thing you can do: When you bring out that finished project, also bring all the swatches you’ve knit for it. (Because you do [cough] knit swatches for your projects, right?) The moment your friend launches into her rubbing ritual, you can quickly hand her the swatch. “I brought this so you can really play with it,” you can say.
A Little Knit Night Theatre
If your friend still doesn’t get the hint, I have one more idea. Are you up for a little experiment? This one requires a third person, someone you really trust. It sounds like others may have noticed her behavior, making this experiment even easier.
It goes like this:
The next time you gather with all your knitting friends—including the grabber—bring a new garment to show off. Make sure your trusted friend sits right next to you. She has been instructed to take the garment from you before it can reach the grabber. Have her touch the garment appreciatively and then begin treating it like the grabber does—but when she knows the grabber is watching, have her stop and, clearly realizing what she’s doing, and apologize for manhandling your project.
Perhaps she could say, “I’m so sorry, I’m practically ruining your pretty new sweater.”
You can respond seriously—“Oh thanks, I’m actually a little worried about pilling” or “I’m trying to keep it looking good until I can take a picture of it” or “It doesn’t really hold its shape all that well,” or whatever may feel true to you. Better yet, respond with something a little more lighthearted, like, “Hey, this isn’t a felted sweater!”
You’ve just demonstrated to everyone how you’d like your garments to be treated. You didn’t confront an unsuspecting person, you didn’t discuss body size, and you certainly didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, because you negotiated the whole encounter in advance.
The best part is that if the grabber proceeds to tussle with your garment anyway, everyone in the group can reference the earlier encounter. (“Hey guys, Ramona’s still trying to felt it!”) You’ve also engaged the whole group in thinking about what constitutes over-the-top fondling. Which is a valuable awareness for knitters to have.
Because you do deserve to have your work recognized and celebrated by people who truly understand what went into it—without it being damaged in the process. And with a little creativity, you can do just that.
Readers – Do you have an idea for how our friend can protect her garments and her friendship? Please share it in the comments section below.
And while I’m at it, do you have a pressing conundrum? Email it to me at [email protected]. Together, we can find a way through.