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Improper form lands knitwit in doc's office
Special to The Seattle Times
Before Thanksgiving, I'm pretty sure I'd never said "skein" out loud. For me, the word was relegated to the stuff of myth and fairy tales — something Rumpelstiltskin might cackle between slurps of porridge. But having jumped on the knitting bandwagon over the holidays, I've since embraced a fierce love of the skein (the force of which is perhaps inversely proportionate to my talent).
Trendwise, knitting is hotter than a freshly singed potholder. Celebs like Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker are reportedly slaves to the needles, and one need only Google "knitting blogs" to discover the countless, lengthy yarns people are spinning daily, tracking their wooly endeavors. "Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook" and "Stitch 'N Bitch Nation," two sassy stitching guides written by Bust Magazine co-founder Debbie Stoller, sit comfortably in Amazon.com's top 500, with no signs of being cast off.
It's official: Knitting is not just for grannies anymore.
Since my crafting skills are best described as "don't quit your day job," I was little hesitant to catch the knitting wave. But over Turkey Day in Los Angeles, when I discovered my 17-year-old sister was a purling pro, I decided it was time to try my hand.
After offering me a set of loaner needles and "practice" skein, she led me through the basics, patiently correcting my dropped stitches and goofy loops. My other two sisters were in the room with us, and though my progress was lurching, none of the three made disparaging remarks.
"You're just learning," one sister said. "It'll look better once you take it off the needles," suggested another. "Everyone has their own style," the third assured.
A sampler of local yarn shops
All stores offer a range of classes for both struggling beginners and pros with special projects.
The Fiber Gallery, 7000 Greenwood Ave. N., Seattle, (206) 706-4197, www.fibergallery.com
Specializes in eco-friendly yarns, including soy chenille, bamboo, hemp, recycled saris, and undyed wool.
The Weaving Works, 4717 Brooklyn Ave. N.E., Seattle, (206) 524-1221, www.weavingworks.com
Been in business for over 30 years. Carries a huge stock with a remarkably wide variety of yarns.
So Much Yarn, 2302 First Ave., Seattle (206) 443-0727, www.somuchyarn.com
Belltown shop specializing in classes and a wide variety of fine-quality yarn.
Hilltop Yarn and Needlepoint Shop, 2224 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle (206) 282-1332, www.hilltopyarn.com
Miles of yarn in a cozy, comfortable Craftsman mansion.
Acorn Street Shop, 2818 N.E. 55th St., Seattle, (206) 525-1726, www.acornstreet.com
U District shop in business since 1979. Specialty: natural fibers and unusual buttons.
Seattle Yarn Gallery, 5633 California Ave. S.W., (206) 935-2010, www.members.tripod.com/yarn_gallery/
Features yarns from all over the world.
Skeins! Ltd., 10635 N.E. Eighth St., Suite 104, Bellevue, (425) 452-1248, www.skeinslimited.com.
Great Yarns, 4023 Rucker Ave., Everett, (425) 252-8155 www.greatyarns.com
Though I never imagined I'd be distracted by a 1982 gore-fest starring Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley, "The Thing" turned out to be a poor companion to knitting. Monsters were shape-shifting, scientists were turning against each other, and bloody appendages kept popping up in inappropriate places. When a minor character's decapitated head sprouted spider legs and skittered out of the lab, all four sisters in the room screamed, but I was the only one yelling, "I dropped a stiiiiiiitch!"
By the time the credits rolled you could read my Swiss-cheese fabric as if it were the script, each giant hole denoting another alien attack.
Despite this less-than-seamless first effort, I was hooked on knitting. When I returned to Seattle, it felt like an entirely new city, one that was rife with the promise of yarn. Suddenly, it seemed, there were knitting stores in every neighborhood, offering needles of every size and wool of every color.
My first very own skein was a thick gray acrylic-wool blend — nothing special, but it was beautiful to me. I could hardly bear to put it down, so enchanted was I with the scarflike mass beginning to sprout from the needles. I carried my project from room to room, dragging the elliptical gray skein behind me and calling it, fondly, the Kalakala.
When I showed my newfound skills to a couple of experienced knitter friends, they peppered their enthusiasm with tough love. "That's great," one said, "but you're making a lot of big, unnecessary movements." The other expressed concern. "I'm worried about your posture," she said. "Your shoulders are very, very high."
I didn't worry too much about my knitting form, which might be accurately labeled "Nixon at the Butter Churn," because I didn't have time. I was too obsessed with the craft, knitting at every free moment and asking any stranger wearing a scarf whether she made it herself. When I was supposed to be running urgent errands, I found myself instead driving slowly by yarn stores.
My fixation did not go unpunished. After spending several hours on a scarf one evening (despite the enthusiasm, I'm still limited to rectangles of varying lengths and widths), I awoke with a slight twinge in my right scapula. Weird, I thought, and went back to my knitting. The following morning I woke up and couldn't move my neck or head — at all — and my right arm was plagued with a slight tingly sensation. I took a hot shower, hoping to loosen things up, but found all too late that lifting my arms above my head to wash my hair was excruciating.
I called my doctor and was told to come in. So I drove over, sporting a fetching hairstyle founded on clumps of unrinsed shampoo. I discovered that whenever I needed to turn my head, which one occasionally does while driving, I had to move my entire torso, á la Frankenstein's monster.
When I got into the exam room the doctor said, "I notice you're holding your head cocked to the side." I hadn't noticed. "Did you do anything unusual this weekend?" she asked. "Just a lot of knitting," I said. "German or English style?" she asked, without a beat. "Um, oh," I stammered, "I guess I don't know." I was a little surprised by her question.
"Well, do you pick or throw?" she asked, palpating my shoulder blade. Though previously unexposed to this line of medical questioning, I knew the answer to this one. "I throw," I said. "Mm-hmm," she said, nodding. "You should really try picking. It's less physical."
The next morning, still largely immobile, I visited my massage therapist. When she asked what happened, I said, "I think it might be a ... knitting injury?" She sighed and said, "I am seeing so many of those these days. You people get started and you just won't stop."
The way she said "you people" made me feel I belonged to a special tribe: People of the Skein. I began to swell with pride! Until my neck cinched up.
Brangien Davis is a regular contributor to The Seattle Times: email@example.com
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