Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's a compliment, but...

I've been making myself things for a while now: I've knitted scarves and hats and purses, I put together a terrarium for my desk a month ago, and just this week I made myself a silk half-slip (because I can't find one my size in my price range). I was talking to a co-worker about the slip when another co-worker overheard the conversation and said she wished I'd make her one and she'd pay me for it. The terrarium was complimented that way too--would I make one for them? They'd pay for the materials. Some of the knitting also generates this response.

People, this is not a compliment. I'm glad you like what I made enough to want your own, but telling me you'd pay me to do it again for you (and I don't mean in a hypothetical, "Oh, you did that so well, people might pay you good money for that!" way) transforms the conversation from being about me to being about you, as well as implying that I have nothing better to do with my hobby time than making you something for money. Any mention made of how well I made it, or how much you admire my work, is lost in your envy and your expectation that I will want to assuage that envy with my labor.

Leaving aside whether I want to do it, none of these people could afford to pay me a decent wage for the hours I'd spend making their project. Just once, I actually made an offer: I'd knit some fingerless mitts, and at least half a dozen people admired them and wanted a pair. I said I'd do it, if they paid for the yarn and bought me lunch. Nobody jumped on that grenade!

Since then I've responded with offers to teach or show them how to do it; not one person has taken me up on it. Most of these things I'm only beginning at myself. The slip is only the second garment for myself that I've finished to my satisfaction, that is, it fits and reasonably resembles what I imagined it would be when I started the project. I've been knitting for quite a few years now and I've knitted a reasonably broad array of items and techniques, but I still haven't knitted myself a sweater (working on it). Gardening--well heck, I always used to kill house plants within a year, until my kids grew up. I still lose about one in five of the plants I buy, whether for indoors or the yard at home, and I'm buying easy plants! Nothing exotic, nothing that requires me to check the soil pH or spray fungicides or other substances: I just plop them in the ground in what I hope is the right spot, with the right amount of sun and shade; water weekly the first year; and fertilize at least once a year if I remember.

For the most part I'm stumbling around discovering this stuff for myself. I read books, I look at resources on the intertubes, and I plunge in. I took a class to learn the basics of knitting, and I have a friend who is a proficient gardener and loves to help me discover the pleasures of gardening, but except for that class and my friend's work and advice once or twice a season, I'm on my own and I like it that way.

I wish I could just get the compliments.

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