Monday, October 22, 2012

Coming out of the Closet

As you'll see by the note at the end, I wrote this in Sept 2011.  It's now Oct 2012.  So much for keeping up.  Anyway, now that I'm finally getting around to starting the blog - I'm putting this in as my first post.  - Bart

Coming out of the Closet
As a little boy I heard of how my grandfather, Joseph Barton, knitted socks for soldiers in World War I.   The story goes that he would go to the place where they handed out yarn and get enough yarn for only one pair of socks.  They would not give more than that at a time.  He returned the next day and asked for more yarn.  After 2 or 3 days of this they finally just gave him enough yarn to do several socks at a time.  My mother said he was the fastest knitter she had ever seen. I never saw anything he knitted, but I always thought it was cool that an old man could knit.
In my mid 20s, I was a young Lieutenant in the Air Force.  I got sick and knew that I would be home for a couple weeks with nothing to do (we didn’t have a TV at the time.)  I was reading a book of family history and thought of my grandfather knitting, and decided there was no reason to wait until I was an old man to start.  I sent my wife out for a book on knitting.  She came home with the book, The Bernat Book of Complete Knitting.

 I picked out an afghan pattern which was knitted as a set of long narrow strips using #13 needles (Note, the picture below is not my afghan, it's the pattern in the book.
The book gives detailed instructions on how to cast on and other basic knitting steps.  I looked at the pictures and figured out how to do it.  I couldn’t really ask anyone how to do it, because men don’t knit – and of course there was no internet yet.  I finished the afghan in those two weeks while I was home.
For the next few years, I knitted on and off.  I knitted nearly everything in the book.  I was very self-conscious about knitting as a man but now and then I would knit something for someone outside of the family.  Usually it would be a pair of baby booties (from the book) for a co-worker or for someone at church having a baby.  They were always very well received but very few people knew that I had knitted them.  Most thought my wife had done it.
Things progressed until I had the knitting bug bad.  I started to knit all the time.  During work I would think about what I would knit once I got home.  I started knitting something for everyone every Christmas.  (This is not something that should be started unless you are really serious – I’ll probably dedicate future blogs to this subject)  I remember once I went to pick someone up at the airport.  I was knitting something on circular needles so I decided to take my knitting along while I waited.  I really tried to knit there in the waiting room, but there were so many people there, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I was truly a closet knitter.
As the years have progressed, I thought one day I should write a book about my experiences with yarn.  I was going to call it Knitting in the Closet.  It would be about knitting from a man’s point of view.
Last year, during my usual marathon Christmas knitting, my wife and I went to Hawaii to visit my youngest daughter and her husband.  They had a new baby which we had to see – even if it meant traveling to Hawaii and spending a week on the beaches – the things we do for our children.  Anyway, I was in the middle of my Christmas knitting and couldn’t really see how I could possibly take off a week and still finish everything.  I decided I would be around strangers who wouldn’t know me so what the heck – I decided to come out of the closet (at least for two weeks).
I started knitting on the flight to Hawaii.  One of the stewardesses came over and asked what I was knitting.  I would have liked to have said, “A gun holster” but instead I told the truth and said, “Baby doll panties.”  Well she wanted to see the doll pattern, and the next thing I knew, I was in the back of the plane with her and she was showing me the linen stitch shawl she was just finishing for herself.  She gave me the pattern and made me promise to send her an email picture of the finished doll and of the linen stich shawl if I ever decided to make it (still haven’t, but it’s in my list of things to do – I promise to start as soon as I finish my current Christmas list.)  On that trip and at other public places, I was approached by countless women.  I got 3 email addresses from women I didn’t even know – all the time sitting next to my wife. 
This is something that should be taught to boys of dating age.  Knitting in public is a babe-magnet, more than a puppy, more than a baby.  Women come out of the wood-work to talk to a guy that’s knitting.  I recently read Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes again by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.  She mentions this fact and says it is an insult to men because women make a big deal when a man does something many women can.  Well, that may be true, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying the attention.
Now, I take my needles wherever I go.  I show off my projects at work.  I’ve even stopped a woman once to admire a sweater she was wearing and took notes on how parts of it were done.
That brings me to my blog.  I never got around to writing a book, so here’s the next best thing.  I’m going to try and put up something weekly.  Go ahead and nose around.  Let me know your thoughts, things you like, things you don’t, or even ideas for other things I should write about.  You’ll notice my title changed – I’m now Knitting Outside of the Closet.
-                     Bart Larsen, Sep 2011

1 comment:

  1. I love that you are now knitting out of the closet! Great Blog! I stumbled onto you on Ravelry (My username is picknknit) and I just think this is great :) My Dad taught me the basic knit/purl of knitting when I was really young, and then my Grandma took over from there. Although my Dad doesn't knit regularly, I love that he's the one that originally taught me. Keep up the good work!