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Knit one, read two.

Posted Sep 14 2008 2:41pm

Sometimes I think I took up knitting and crocheting so that I wouldn't feel like a dork when someone asked what my hobbies were.

I think of hobbies as being productive, consuming, even if the product is unnecessary, so answering "reading" always made me feel a bit like a hobby slacker. A hobbyist, I thought, was a numismatist or someone with books of pristine stamps, someone like my former boss who is highly regarded in the world of miniatures. She once spent $8000 on a table for her French Chateau: ball-and-claw feet, fiddleback chairs, gorgeously polished rosewood. The chairs were less than four inches tall. She would chart elaborate patterns of cupids and cabbage roses and painstakingly needlepoint 8-inch rugs, and lovingly paint tiny masterpieces to go inside the wee gilt frames. She was profiled in the newspaper and several miniaturist magazines. Now that's a hobby.

My sister runs a live-action role-playing game. Playing those is enough of a hobby, but to run one takes a lot more. And the costumes! And making your weapons! Yet I was never able to suspend enough disbelief to play.

I play no instruments; I have few collections. I am reluctant to tell people that I have small collections of pitchers, for example, or vintage-style slips, because I fear that people will begin to buy them for me. I have never thought a collection should include as many items as one can amass, but items that one loves, even if there are only a few. Years ago I would have considered my massive stack of old concert ticket stubs to be something of a collection, but it was carelessly amassed, merely stubs thrown into the box after I returned home smelling like stale beer and smoke, although I partook of neither. There is a line between a "collection" and "things of which I have too many." I have a shocking number of shoes and art glass bowls, and while I collect Wallace's Violet silver, that is not a hobby. I cook in order to eat, and I garden so that my yard looks pretty, but I'm Zen about neither.

Several years ago I started to knit and crochet. At long last, I have a hobby. A few weeks ago the knitting hive was much abuzz over the visit from the Yarn Harlot. My friend Susan and I signed up to attend the lecture. The day before, we admitted to each other that not only had we never read the musings of the Yarn Harlot, we really didn't care about listening to her rhapsodize about our shared hobby. I do not have pillows with cute sayings about knitting, or have the accompanying t-shirts and tote bags. I do not read Chicken Soup for Knitters (I assume there is one); I just knit. Sometimes this makes me feel a bit like a hobby imposter.

Since I have been able to add "knitting," my list of hobbies has doubled. Previously "reading" sat there lonely, although reading to me is sustenance. I am weak in the face of a new magazine, and helpless to a new reference book. My stack of biographies and nonfiction is growing exponentially, finally starting to outpace the shelves of fiction that lie three rows deep.

Every few months I am possessed of the idea to take up running. Perhaps I'll do it one day--but I might just continue to enjoy the minutes I snatch from small hands, if I can keep them away from my needles and pages.

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