Dear Clara: How Much Touch Is Too Much?

May 12, 2017

Leave a Comment

  • Dear Clara,
    crikey, you are GOOD. I would like to send you every social wobblety-cringe I ever have to deal with from now on, for the rest of my life. In fact, you are so good, I wonder if you can help tink the ancient ones, that come back to haunt me at moments of weakness or insomnia?
    p.s. None of these are related in any way to knitting. I hope that won’t matter.
    xoxo Quinn

    • “Wobblety-cringe”. LOVE it!

    • this!

  • Reminds me of something Paula mentioned on the Knitting Pipeline podcast a while back… I don’t quite remember the exact details, but someone actually used the end of the handknit shawl she was wearing to dab their eyes. Or something. Not quite blow their nose… but I remember her saying she was so shocked she couldn’t say anything.

    • Oh My!!

    • I am both horrified and strangely not surprised – but mostly horrified!

  • My daughter (14) laughed at the “covetous sibling” part– she has no sisters, but she’s constantly running off with the clothes I fit into when I was younger but can’t bear to let go because I’d love to lose weight and wear them again, or her brothers’ clothes (slouchy? Go for the 6’2″ 16-year-old’s wardrobe. Fitted and boyish? The 11-year-old’s clothes will do.). Oh, and dad’s clothes, including a sweater my husband has that looks like something from The Cosby Show. Only the little 4-year-old brother’s clothes are safe. 🙂

  • Sorry, I just say “Please don’t do that.” If they don’t like it, too bad.

    • I agree. But there are two types of people in the world–those who have no trouble speaking up for themselves and those who do. (I’m definitely in the former category, which is probably why I found myself in the career of lawyer.)

      If you read any advice columns (such as Dear Prudie, in Slate), virtually every question traces itself back to someone’s inability to just say what’s on her mind.

      There’s room for sparing people’s feelings, but not when it results in harm to yourself. Outright confrontation isn’t required, but direct statements are. Indirection does not get through to people who already have no social clue.

      • Well said.

  • This is so long-winded! Just ask your friend to be gentle with your stuff.

    • Exactly. Said clearly and with a friendly tone and body language.
      Much preferred than resorting to talking to others and scheming on the back of the “toucher.”

      That’s how I would prefer to be treated.

    • That’s nice, but some people are so clueless and think you could not possibly be talking about them. Those people you practically have to hit over the head with a rolling pin (metaforically speaking) to get their attention and respect your fine handknits.

  • This is the best advice that I have ever heard. Thanks.

  • Personally, I favor the anguished scream of horror. Not subtle but makes the person stop.

    • This!! Totally laughed out loud.

  • Knowing me, I would be concerned about insulting her and would end up half criticising the knitwork. With a ‘Oh, you may need to be careful, I’m not sure if I picked up securely, it one of my K3togs could have slipped a stitch’.

  • Different issue- giving socks to people who don’t appreciate the hours of work in a hand knit; worse, who wear them without shoes around the house or outside (teenage daughters!). Can you say “well clearly you don’t appreciate these awesome socks, give them back?”.

  • Key statement: ‘I’ve started to stop’. Wow, who are your ‘friends’ who don’t have a clue about handwork, and respect of others efforts?
    Dear Clara, this doesn’t require such a long article…

    • True, while I love your writing, and your sensitivity to others, speaking up in the nicest way possible IE: I love you Patty but hand knits will not stand up to stretching like store bought.” will stop the problem in its tracks. It’s all right to share your sensitivity about your knitted object. You let your friend share her insensitivity. Fair is fair.

      • Thanks Michelle and Alison! I hope she’s reading and can take in all these other perspectives on her issue and how she might respond to it.

  • Maybe only take photographs of your work to your get-together.

  • This only ever happened me once, when I produced a lace shawl after one of the knitters had been raving for about ten minutes about the fabulousness of some new make-up she’d recently procured. Same knitter proceeded to start stretching out the shawl.

    “Ooh, is that the new make-up you’re wearing?” I asked.
    “Yes!” said she delightedly as she continued to manhandle the shawl.
    I moved in closer and said “handle my shawl in the same way as you would have me handle your face”. She stopped instantly, mid-stretch, and laughed, and apologised, and it hasn’t happened since.

    Doing it jokingly, with a laugh and a smile, (without ever ACTUALLY threatening somebody, obviously!) while being firm, clear and leaving no room for ambiguity, is incredibly effective!

    And yes, we’re all still friends… 😉

    • I took a half finished lace shawl to my knitter’s guild meeting and at sharing time they wanted me to pass it around. What could happen, right? These are serious knitters. It came back to me off the needles. It’s hard to get lace back on the needles, what with stitches running and all. Took me about 2 hours to get 450 sts back on the needles, and it was not perfect. GRRRR.

      • Julie, that is just horrible!!

  • A very effective form of communication is a “when you _____, I feel ______ because______.” In this case you might say “when you pull on that sweater, I feel anxious because I know how easily this yarn gets out of shape.” Now, that can sound a little stilted. Try focusing on your feelings. You might consider this: Bring out your new hand knit and as you present it say to the group “here’s my latest project. Please handle it gently. I know this yarn and project really well and I am frightened it could stretch out of shape if it’s handled roughly.” Then if someone is rough you can touch them lightly and say “gently” with a big smile on your face. But the group will probably get into protecting your garment.

    • Superb advice!

  • How about a discussion at the beginning of a knitting group gathering? “It’s so wonderful that we share our newly finished treasures here because no one appreciates such things more than fellow knitters. Can we please talk about how we will handle each other’s creations? …” This way it is not specific to any one person, but perhaps it will get the point across. Also, I would then feel more comfortable gently reminding someone if they are not following these “rules”. “I’m glad you admire this so much, but please remember what we talked about.”

  • Could possibly claim a (hopefully) fake allergy that would prohibit you from letting someone else handle it, specifically try it on. I have major non-fake allergies to most general body care products and man do I have to be careful. What you use gets on your clothes, so um, thanks but nope you can’t try it on.

  • How about just politely but firmly saying “Please don’t do that.”

  • I really appreciate the diversity of reactions to this situation, and respect the straightforward approach some readers have advocated. I think it’s important to remember, though, how precious spaces where we can share our creativity truly are. There is a vulnerability tied to sharing projects, progress and problems with others that doesn’t exist in purely social gatherings. Finding a safe space and safe people with whom to create….people who don’t point out your mistakes or engage in one-up-manship or criticize you under the guise of explaining how they got over that horrible habit….can be hard. Touchy deserves to feel her projects are safe, but the stretcher deserves to feel safe too, and a seemingly tiny bit of public criticism can sour a safe space almost instantaneously. I would err on the side of gentle when faced with such a clueless friend….

  • Bring the garment on a hanger – the kind that has soft clips maybe for a skirt. When showing the details and offering to pass the garment say, please be gentle and also I would appreciate it if you didn’t take it off the hanger