Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Laughs I’ve Enjoyed at the Hands of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

In my knitting group, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is like the Keith Urban of the textile world. People make pilgrimmages to Webbs in Massachusetts, planning months in advance of her speaking engagements. They speak excitedly about her upcoming books. They quote her one-liners, laugh over her humorous anecdotes.
Her latest is “Things I Learned from Knitting ... Whether I Wanted to or Not” (Storey Publishing, $10.95). A tiny, slim volume, the book details 45 “things” or bits of wisdom. Chapters like “Knitting Teaches Generosity,” “Haste Makes Waste” and “Goodness Has its Own Reward” give no indication of the witticism, hilarity, intelligence and apt insight contained therein.
Even non-knitters will delight in her seemingly banal aphorisms which yield knee-slapping anecdotes.
You read one of her sentences and think, “I’ve thought that!” or, more daringly, “I could have written that!” But, before you get too far making those wings, Daedalus, check that pride.
Only Pearl-McPhee could spin such brilliant yarns.
From “A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed”: “I have learned, from watching the thousands of kindnesses enacted by knitters around the world, that there is little a knitter will not do for her fellow human in wooly need. ... Except at a yarn sale, when the gracious and generous knitter who just went thruogh her stash and volunteered the needed skein of purple merino to a desperate fellow knitter now body-checks you into the sock-yarn display because that hand-painted laceweight she like is 50 percent off and it looked like you might get there before her.”
From “It’s Funny Because It’s True”: “Knitters entirely understand the non-knitter’s confusion about why on earth, if you need a sweater so badly, you don’t just walk into the store, pull one in your size off the rack, and be bloody done with it. ... We’re not just making clothes. Three is a reason the hobby is called ‘knitting’ and not ‘sweater-making.’ If it was just about getting a sweater, we would totally do it the way everybody else does. ... What we know and try to explain is that when you knit a pair of socks, you don’t just get clothes. You get satisfaction. You get art. ... Best of all, you get to have something to do while all those non-knitter stand around in their standard-issue store sweaters and talk about how silly knitting is.”
From “It Takes a Great Deal of Pressure to Make a Diamond”: “A few years back, in a misplaced gesture of fondness for my sister, I decided to knit a pair of kilt hose for her rather unworthy, bagpiping boyfriend. ... Fortunately for bagpipers, but unfortunately for the knitter, most babpipers have two feet, so a knitter must complete this feat of derring-do twice in order to get a pair.”
Most amusing — with laugh-out-loud certainty — is her chart: “5 things worrying non-knitters have warned me about.” It relays the absurd misunderstanding of our craft — in a style worthy of “Waiting for Godot.”
“1. Knitting needles are very pointy. I could put out my eye at any moment.
2. If I were knitting in a car and there happened to be an accident, I could be impaled or even killed by my own knitting.
3. If I’m not very, very careful, I or someone else could become entangled in my yard and be unable to elude or escape danger.
4. If I am a victim of a crime or terrorism, my knitting needles could be grabbed and turned against me as a weapon.
5. If I’m sitting and knitting in the presence of children, one of them could run into my knitting while playing and be impaled, have an eye put out, become entangled, or, heaven forbid, all of the above.”
Pearl-McPhee is those rarest of birds of the writing variety, brilliantly plumed and infinately talented — the 100-percent cashmere, 400-yard skein in the bottom of the sale bin.

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