An Unexpected Lesson (Cross Post from

In this morning's catching up with the computer an email made me realize that I should have cross posted this item over here on menwhoknit. It's been a rocky couple of days and I should have done this from the start but when I posted this my mind was elsewhere. So, with all that said, I hope this helps a few of the knitters here:

We're going to discuss knitting today. I know, we discuss it a lot here at times, but since I seem to be doing so little of it (damn you spinning addiction and dogs that require walks!), I thought I would discuss it, and a little life lesson it has taught me.

Well, knitting has taught me a lot of lessons actually. Like the importance of reading the pattern. Or the fact that I do not know it all nor ever will. I have actually had that last lesson down since I was probably 6, but it's good to be reminded of it on occasion. But knitting teaches you a lot of things you don't expect to be found among a couple sticks and string. One of my favorite bloggers, the Yarn Harlot probably put it best when she wrote this little doozy.

“Knitting has taught me patience, honed my intelligence, sharpened my ability to solve problems, and shown me how to handle big tasks, knitting-related or not. The one thing it’s taught me that I wasn’t expecting; though, was humility. All knitters make mistakes, and some of us handle them better than others, but knitting is good practice for accepting our flaws and learning to be somewhat graceful about it. Note: Throwing yarn isn’t graceful.”

Though, she is kind of wrong in regards to the throwing bit, it can be quite graceful as it arcs through the air. However I've found what causes one to throw yarn, particularly the temper tantrum preceding such hank hurling, is far from it. But there is another lesson I've gleaned from knitting that I would like to discuss in depth. And that is the art of saying "No". And I use the term 'Art of', to separate the times where you artfully and tastefully tell someone no, compared to the times you've warned them if they ask you again you will give them a nice ball of yarn and pair of size 25 needles piercing of the butt cheek.

You see since I learned how to knit; even more so after I've learned how to knit well, I have had to tell many many people no. No I won't knit you a halloween costume. No I won't knit your childs Christmas present. No, I won't knit your nieces new baby a little something. No, I won't knit your boyfriend a weeny warmer. Seriously, that last one has come out of my mouth several times. I don't have a weeny warmer so why would I worry about the warmth of a strangers weeny? 

I have come to understand that people who do not do hand crafts of any kind, simply don't appreciate the effort, time, or work that goes into the creation of items. To the point that they assume that I'm simply standing around waiting for someone to bring a project to me for me to jump for joy, clapping my hands together in the eagerness to donate my time, materials, and know-how to make it for them. And when the word no comes out of my mouth, they are truly astonished that I am not going to do that little dance and hand clap and hop to with their request. I have even had some people get offended that I would choose to knit items of my own choosing and for my own reasons above their own. And ooooh boy, if you offer to teach them to knit so they can do it? It can become quiet tense.

So, in an effort to keep the tension from your life let me tell you something that took me way to long to learn. If you have no interest in knitting something other than the fact you feel guilty because someone asked you to do it, you are not going to enjoy knitting it. It will become one of those projects that loathes you with the same strength that you yourself loathe it. It will ruin needles, tangle its yarn, and find other ways to make you take longer and longer to finish it up. Don't believe me? Wait until that scrumptious skein of yarn in your stash that you splurged half your rent on (okay, if it cost half your rent you may have a spending problem but you get the hint, right?) becomes the object of hate filled baleful glares from across the room because you can feel it staring at you while you work on something else you wanted to knit after it was selected to make your neighbor a shawl that now appears to be half a jacket that the Salvation Army deemed to sad to wash and re-sell. Just save yourself the time, tears of rage and self hatred, and anxiety by saying 'no' when the issue first bares it's ugly little head.

With all this said, yes, I am good now at saying no. Last weekend at work I told three different co-workers that I would not knit them or their kids a little jacket like that blue baby jacket with the buffalo nickel buttons I showed you previously. However, I am not always good at saying no tactfully. I have been known to say, "Not even no, but **** no!" when approached with items that look like Grandma Elma wrote the patten in 1962 for her daughter to wear to prom. I also informed the co-worker who had requested the weeny warmer for her boyfriend, that I had no intention of knitting it nor did I need to know the length, shape and girth or lack there of, of said boyfriends weeny. And I also once accidentally coughed out a laugh when shown a requested project and said something along the lines of, "You're shitting me." None of these responses nor the reaction they garnered would be what is called 'artful'.

So let's discuss saying no in a more appropriate fashion. I know, I'm not the person to educate this topic, it's kind of like me teaching "human growth and development" to a Catholic Junior High School class, but we're going to try anyway. Stick with me kid, this could get fun.

I have found that giving people a monetary amount often deters them. Last week when I was asked how much for another of those sweaters, I explained that this was at least 8 hours of work. If I were to even ask for current minimum wage rates ($7.25/hour) which my work exceeds that for what I should ask, this item would be $58.00. She scoffed at that price and we went on with life. But not only did she scoff, I saw her stop and think for just a sec, and though she scoffed at paying the price she didn't seem upset by my refusal to make her one. I also used this technique when someone asked me to re-create the beaded Celaeno shawl for her. When she laughed when I said she couldn't afford it I pointed out that the last row of the pattern that I beaded every other stitch and cast off every single stitch as I went down the row, took me over 5 hours alone and calculated that this single row alone would cost her $36, and explained to her that there were over a hundred rows she dropped the subject.

More importantly I have learned to just say no and not offer an explanation unless asked, and I typically run with the answer that I knit for me when pressed for an explanation. A lot of what comes off my needles is meant for others, but the actual act of knitting and the joy it brings me is for me. Due to this I knit items that I want to and therefor do not knit for money or others. Now, this is an over simplified reason as to why I knit, but at the heart of it I am a selfish knitter. My time, my energy, my joy is for me. Often I see a yarn or a pattern and think, "That will look lovely on So-n-So." It makes its way into my stash and queue and when I'm done I'm typically right and it brings them great joy too. But primarily, it's my joy that concerns me when I dig into that project. The joy of the project, the learning or exercising the skill or technique, and probably most of all, the joy of seeing their face when I give it to them. I guess you could argue there's some selflessness to my knitting, but I know the greedy selfish bugger I am and am assuring you now, it's all about my knitting wants.

Perhaps there is no "Art of Saying No". I think maybe it's more of a being comfortable saying no. I happen to be very comfortable saying it but I have found many are not comfortable hearing it. I will admit there is a wrong way and a right way of saying no. Suggesting that someone is insane for thinking to ask you to do something is very definitely the wrong way. Don't ask, just take my word for it. If in doubt please read the above section again. But be at peace knowing that as long as you are the one making those knitting needles, beading plyers, crochet hooks, sewing machines, or hot glue guns churn out your hand made items, you are the one that gets to decide what you make with the tools of your choice. And if they don't like hearing a polite no from you, send them over to me and I'll explain how stupid they will look wearing whatever they are requesting.


Nehkhasi's picture

This is the funniest article! LOL :-) Love especially ( items that look like Grandma Elma wrote the patten in 1962 for her daughter to wear to prom.) I've went over that explanation of time, effort and cost with some, but not all and it does solve the problem. I'm not the fastest knitter, but it can be a long time to spend on an item that you are not really wanting to do. I've done it once or twice and don't desire to be there again. I can say "NO" and as you've said, it's not always pleasant to the hearer. I do so many things for others, cooking is one, but knitting is how I pamper myself (mostly). There are MANY people who knit (MOSTLY) for others and less so, items for themselves. And though I do knit for other occasionally, it's mostly for ME! ME! ME! Enjoyed reading your blog. Too Funny! :-)


AKQGuy's picture

Everyone has a Grandma Elma who if alive still wears blue eyeshadow and drives an old T-bird, right? Never short yourself the time and patience it takes to knit. I think the idea of giving them a number in the queue is a good one too. I tend to knit items for others(without their knowledge typically) more than me, but the act of knitting, that's all for me.

MMario's picture

"I typically run with the answer that I knit for me when pressed for an explanation. A lot of what comes off my needles is meant for others, but the actual act of knitting and the joy it brings me is for me"

Amen, Amen, Amen.


MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

AKQGuy's picture

Hallelujah! Preach it Brother. Can I get a witness?!?

I think it's telling that I get more excited about yarn than I ever did in church. All bow to the mighty skein and needle now.

I'm on night number 6 of crappy sleep, is it showing?

CLABBERS's picture

Well said, Q.
I think that those who don't knit or engage in crafts don't fully understand that it takes time to make things. I also find, like you, that they are quite surprised when I tell them the cost of the yarn. Their eyes get big, they realize that they may have just committed themselves to forking over $15 for a stocking hat and another $20 or so for a matching scarf that they could by at Target or Walmart for $5 for the set. It's fun to watch them "gracefully" back out of the notion of purchasing handmade clothing without appearing as though they are a cheapskate. I went through the same thing when I used to sew my own clothing. When I finish the sweater I am making, I hope someone asks me to make one for them. I can't wait to tell them the cost, about $200 without including time spent, but it's been a pleasure to make and a HUGE learning experience. For me it is well worth the price simply from an educational standpoint.

Thankfully, I am still a closet knitter with just family and a couple friends knowing I knit. It's also a blessing that those who do know are artsy themselves and appreciate that any kind of art is very personal. I do enjoy seeing the expressions on those I give knitted things to. They are always so kind and appreciative. Should anyone outside of my close friends find out that I knit and request something, I have the following response at the ready..."You are number 48 on the list!" Knowing the attention span of some of these folks t hey will have forgotten all about the request in a day or two. Ah, the value of having ADD friends. ;)

Again, well said. I always enjoy reading your postings.


AKQGuy's picture

The queue standing is a great idea! I'll add that to my arsenal. However, I think your $200.00 is kind of a low quote. Don't forget the hourly wage minimum to be added to materials. I know I could easily spend that on the yarn alone if I let myself. Thank you Sir.

Tallguy's picture

Exactly right!

This is what I have learned a few years ago myself. All you have to say is no, and there is no explanation necessary. When pressed, I do quote a price, which is going to be horrendously high considering my extraordinary skill and training (ahem), and that usually deters them.

All you have to do is knit a project for someone on demand to realize how much you hate doing it for anyone. You may actually despise the person that asked you to do this awful thing! I'd hate that to happen to friends. I also don't lend money to friends for the same reason!

A good friend of mine, who is an excellent knitter, said she never makes anything for sale. She will make things as gifts for people, only because she wants to, but not on demand. I never understood her, until I had to do it for someone. Now I don't take orders either for anything I knit.

I knit for myself, not for others. That is a hard concept for many to understand.

AKQGuy's picture

And non-knitters always pick the project that will drag on ffffooooorrrrreevvvveeeerrrrr. Why is that? Can't they see that this is going to be either boring as all get out or huge as can be? Oh well. Thanks for the feedback Sir.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Well put, Q. I had to learn it the hard way. However, you've heard the story of the "afghan" that turned out to be a bedspread. That's why - if ever accepting a commission again - I will make sure I know exactly what the person wants and price accordingly, making certain they know that materials alone will not be cheap. And expected to be paid for up front, with provisions for additional payment if more yarn is needed.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

AKQGuy's picture

Ahhh, yes, the afghan. I do recall that. Thanks Joe!

AKQGuy's picture

Oops, I hit that sand save button twice impatiently not noting that it was loading the page. Sorry. I hate those double postings.

AKQGuy's picture

Ahhh, yes, the afghan. I do recall that. Thanks Joe!

Nehkhasi's picture

I'd love to read that one Joe! :-)


Thomasknits's picture

This whole post is just too true for its own good.


AKQGuy's picture

Thank you Sir. The truth can be a brutal thing.

SAPBrown's picture

Yep, I made the afghan mistake too, it still sits unfinished. Luckily Mom is patient. I have asked for a penny a stitch before (comes out to less than min. wage). This is why I say a hand-knitted gift is a "Gift of Love" You gotta love'em to put in that much work. It is also why I only give my knits to those who truly appreciate the time and thought invested in it.

as Always thanks for the delightful read

AKQGuy's picture

"It is also why I only give my knits to those who truly appreciate the time and thought invested in it."

And that deserves another Amen.

Potter's picture

LOL! I LOVE THAT POST! I think it is awesome!

AKQGuy's picture

Thank you! I was having a down day when I came up with it, gave me a bit of a boost.