Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Man And His Hat

Like most knitters, at least the ones I know and like, I have several unfinished projects on the needles. This fact is both exciting, because it means that there is a lot of creativity going on, and frustrating because I don’t like to have unfinished talks staring me in the face. The unfinished project that is most upsetting to me at the moment is the fairisle scarf that I am teaching a class on at our local shop. Tomorrow is our last class and I am not anywhere near done. In my defense, there have been several more pressing things in the last few weeks that I have needed to finish – the current issue of Spirit of Knitting, posters for Fig Theatre, and then there is school, the one thing I do that I actually get paid for. Though I feel bad about my scarf class sample not being done, I have finished a project lately that makes me happy.

I completed a watch cap yesterday. It is nothing fancy – navy blue with a whit stripe in the middle. It contains no snazzy stitch patterns; it is simply a 2x2 rib for a couple of inches and a stockinette body. So what is the big deal?

Several weeks ago the Dallas Handknitters Guild had a booth at a health expo sponsored by a local TV station. The purpose of the event was to educate the public on health issues such as diet and exercise, blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and other things that contribute to our well being. Knitting happened to fall in to that latter category. As guild representatives, our task was simple, sit for a few hours, knit, answer questions about the craft and the guild, and share our thoughts on the health benefits of knitting.

Much of the population attending the event was Hispanic. I was surprised at the number of Hispanic men who were genuinely interested in knitting though we could not convince any of them to actually pick up the needles and try it for themselves. They offered to bring their wives or daughters back to learn. One man seemed sad when he said that in his culture a man knitting would not be looked upon kindly. What made this even more saddening is that this particular gentleman really wanted and handknit hat. But, he had no one to make it for him.

We had several sample items in the booth that had been made by various guild members. There were a couple of simple watch caps – one was maroon and one was black. The man asked if he could buy one. They were not for sale. He responded by saying that was OK because the ones we had were not really the color he wanted. He wanted navy blue with a white stripe around the middle. I don’t know why I was so taken by this man, but I was. I offered to make him the hat and mail it to him. I figured that he would not give me his information if he were not serious. He was definitely serious. Without hesitation, he gave me his full name, address, and several phone numbers.

Like I said, I finished the hat yesterday and put it in the mail today. He will probably receive it tomorrow, just in time to do him some good during our current brief cold snap. I suspect that he will be surprised to actually get the hat in the mail. Why would someone knit a hat for a stranger just because he wanted one?

It seems funny to me that we will make hats and blankets and booties for “charity”, but most people will not make or give something to a stranger on the street who asks. In the case of the stranger on the street, we have a human face to go with our gift. Most often when we give to charity we have only a face created in our own imaginations through the description of some agency whose job it is to appeal to our pathetic side. Is not the man who feels compelled to ask a perfect stranger to make him a hat, for whatever reason, equally as deserving of our charity?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not so na├»ve as to hand out money to every panhandler on the street. But, I am fairly certain that you can’t get much in the way of drugs or booze with a blue watch cap. I have to believe that he wanted the cap because he wanted a hat. I hope his head is warmed and maybe his heart a little as well. Making the cap was a simple but pleasurable task for me. Now, back to the fairisle scarf, the socks, Brooke’s sweater, the bear . . .