Passion: Knitting

24 MB MP3

Lisa Williams (here’s her blog: H2Otown) sent us this show idea: “Knitting has made a huge resurgence among urban hipsters, who have meetups in towns and cities nationwide, often in bars, to hang out and knit. There’s even one in a gay bar in South Boston… Overall, they’re “taking back the knit” from frumpiness, making and distributing patterns for sweaters with skulls and crossbones and iPod cozies.” There are also the oldtimers who never knew that knitting had fallen out of fashion–for these guys knitting is beyond fashion–it’s a way of life. Thanks to Lisa, we’ve plunged into the world of knitting and we’ll be exploring it on the airwaves in our next installment in the Passion Thursday series.

Some credit the knitting revival to the internet. Ordering supplies online, knitting chatrooms and blogs are all fueling the craze. Knitting blogger Joe Wilcox, Queer Joe’s Knitting Blog will be joinging us from Albany, NY

Stich ‘n’ bitch guru Debbie Stoller will be joinging us from Gotham City. She’s a relative newcomer to knitting, she started in 1999, and she’s been wrtingKnit-Lit ever since.

And last but not least……joining us in the studio are the husband and wife knitting duo Kevin Lundeen and Elise Goldschlag. They own and operate Flying Fingers . It’s a small shop in Irvington, NY, which is thriving because they are importing not only the finest alpaca but the best clientele. Flying fingers designed the Yarn Bus, which shuttles customers to and from Manhattan, which happens to be 39, 411 yards of yarn away.

knitting

Elise and Kevin are actually going to drive from Irvington, NY to our studios in Allston, MA in this spectacular vehicle!

Knitting even inspires poetry:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Clapotis

QUESTIONS TO LISTENERS: What does knitting mean to you? What’s the best Knit-Lit out there? If you aren’t a knitter was your mother, grandmother, great uncle? What did they make you? We want to hear your stories: 877-673-6767

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  • No problem 😉

  • johnbaloney

    I don’t know about knitting but I have recently gotten interested in sewing and I find it interesting how locked up tight the Pattern market is. Perhaps this is the case too with knitting. For instance try going online and find a pattern for something as simple as a men’s neck tie…. not so easy I got told time and again you have to go to one of the pattern makers and buy a pattern. How about an “open source” movement for knitting and sewing patterns?… Maybe I just don’t know where to look….

  • ermemaula

    Looking at how Urban Hipsters are “taking back” knitting is interesting. I think this fits into the resurgence of young people doing something trendy, where the emphasis really should be on taking back skills we should have anyway. How many young people know how to cut a pattern, thread a needle, or how to hold a knitting needle? The idea of “manual labor” is still a reality to most of us, yet with overeducated unemployed people, the division between the have and the have nots continues to divide. People used to sew because that is how clothes, blankets, and other necessities were made. These “passions” were traditions passed on between people. Have we become so technological that to gather together to do something individually yet as a group is seen as a luxury? In person communication? Tactile skills and the art of knitting, crocheting, and sewing being lost but only upheld by often priviledged hipsters? Just some early morning thoughts.

  • I think it points more to a revival of pride in craftsmanship and actually *making* things. Look at the revival in woodworking, car repair, and cooking. I also think that we tend to return to hobbies like knitting when we’re under stress. It is relaxing and somewhat repetitive. Being online and reading news of terrorism promotes anxiety, while sitting around in a group with a nice fiber in your hands while knitting is soothing and enjoyable. Plus, you get usable stuff as a result.

  • John,

    I know there are a number of people releasing knitting and crochet patterns under Creative Commons licenses, which frequently allow sharing and “upgrading.” Most of these patterns were developed by enthusiasts, and not yarn companies or via knitting books and magazines, so for now there are fewer of them. Don’t know about sewing, but I haven’t looked.

  • ermemaula: you make an excellent point. Knitting at this time is very definitely a luxury — it’s impossible for me to make a sweater for less than I could buy it for. In this sense, women were the first targets of outsourcing and globalization — clothing, for example, was one of the first big markets for industrialization.

    This has advanced far enough and rapidly enough that it’s changed between my grandmother’s time and my time. She knitted, sewed, was a great scratch baker. These were practical and enjoyable for her — but they were also a way to have nice things without spending money she didn’t have.

    Most of what is sometimes called “home economics” is no longer economical. It’s much cheaper to buy a sweater or a tie than to make one, cheaper to buy a pie than to make one.

    Proof of the transition of “home economics” into luxury pursuits? Two words: Martha Stewart.

    But you could also say this about a show like Norm Abram’s New Yankee Workshop, where he makes furniture from scratch. Both Norm and Martha engage in a sort of “time porn.” People watch the shows, and what they’re dreaming about is not the food or the cabinetry but having the time to do things like that.

    After having taught myself sewing, knitting, crocheting, and how to make a damn good pie, I have a different idea of what “home economics” is — I taught myself basic plumbing. A plumber’s $38 an hour — $38 I can keep if I fix the leaky faucet myself. Now that’s “home economics.”

    Perhaps home economics in the future will be less about replacing “store bought” manufactured goods with homemade ones and more about replacing pricey professional services used to maintain your house with home know-how.

    Next, on to figuring out how to put solar panels on my roof…

  • johnbaloney

    Lisa– Thank you for setting off to look through Creative Commons. If nothing else I’m finding a number of Blogs that touch on what we are discussing here.

    Also to your point about luxury pursuits… I love your “time porn” analogy. I find the whole DIY – Media phenomenon quite interesting.

    I recently purchased an Akimbo video on Demand player –sort of Tivo via Internet– One of the recent content providers for this is Scripps Communications who produce most of that content for the DIY network, HGTV etc… Perhaps they have a way to make the word flesh… its interesting how it has spurred on the field of Scrap booking (not that I find a lot of what people produce appealing but it is interesting none the less) There is an area where the “time porn” model breaks down… people are really doing it…. but ultimately you are right… I watch Rachel Ray’s 30-minute meals but probably go out for dinner 4 nights a week…

    I really think they don’t teach home economics because it is highly un-American. The direction of our education system is to create good consumers. A good consumer is not one who is wondering if King Arthur Flour is better than Gold Medal. A good consumer knows baguette is better than wonderbread and the point of my education is to get me to a job to be able to afford baguette.

    Back to Knitting — the boom is real, not just in articles in BUST magazine. I see the movement at the trendy knitting store on my block in downtown Brooklyn and I see the 10-16yr old knitters and sewers at the discount fabric store 3 blocks away on Bridge Street. Those girls know that if they want unique fashion they have to make it themselves. But they learn how to do it from their sisters/aunts and shopkeepers and not in school.

  • Hi, John — You have an Akimbo player? You can get my friend Steve Garfield’s videoblog — The Carol & Steve Show through it. It sounds incredibly cool.

    You may be right about the reasons that home economics are no longer seen as “relevant.” — it’s also true that cheap goods have made them uneconomical. Of course, making stuff for yourself has a value that’s not quantifiable in market terms. It’s very hard to learn any skill that doesn’t teach you something about life.

    I love the “baguette job” analogy. That’s funny!

  • Vanessa

    Did you know that June 11 is World Wide Knit in Public Day?

    http://worldwidekipday.blogspot.com/

  • johnbaloney

    Sorry last minute but… another person you might want to consider to speak about Stich and Bitch — the knitting and the make it yourself movement is Elissa K. at http://www.sewfastseweasy.com/who.html. She has developed online knitting and sewing classes and has a set of kits for sewing and I think for knitting. http://www.sewfastseweasy.com/ No I don’t work for her I’m just a happy customer.

    I like the idea of kits, and using an online tools like a blog, wiki or message board to monitor progress of working with a tactile medium. I can’t tell you how much I wish this was around in the ’70s when I was building Heathkit radios.

    Which brings me to an interesting parallell for me between my electronics hobby and my new found interest in sewing and Knitting. I’m not sure if people recall Radioshack and how it got its start as Tandy a store chain of do-it yourself leather crafters selling leather projects. (do some radio shacks still have these leather craft projects?) I wonder if the vibe in the ’60s and ’70s was similar to what you find in Knitting stores now where people come and just knit, hang talk about knitting or what what ever else…

  • amy

    It’s interesting that you mention Sew Fast Sew Easy in the context of knitting groups. They’ve been the source of a lot controversy in the knitting world, due to their rabid cease and desists over their supposed ownership of the term stitch n bitch. Here are a few details: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2005/05/09/231721.php

  • Yes, knitting does feel like a luxury now. Its a luxury to have the time and money to knit. What I see in the community of knitters we have here at Circles, is a strong desire to reconnect, though. Its not about luxury, per se. We talk about the fact that we don’t knit to aspire to the K-Mart or Target asthetic. We knit as a form of self-couture. I think we discuss this to ease the our minds (and those of our partners) about the money we invest in our hobby.

    At the core, the reason we are willing to put so much time and money into it is the sense of connection. Connection to a lost time when people made so many things for themselves. Connection to the first person who ever picked up a stick and some string and figured out how to manipulate the tools to create a fabric. There is a connection to the land through the purchase of fibers brought to us by self-sustaining fibers. There is a connection to others as we sit together, make things together and share our lives together. Deep bonds are developed amongst knitters who spend time together regularly. In our fast-paced, over-popluated urban environment it feels essential to pursue something slow and sit with others without an agenda. A knitting circle is the ultimate in open source contact.

    Perhaps the deepest connection, however, is to oneself. I’ve watched so many knitters self-observe. The motion of knitting and the movement in and out of concentration creates a rhythm where there are quiet moments. And the work product so clearly reflects our inner state of being. When we are anxious, our knitting is tight, when we are relaxed it is loose. As we try to figure out some set of instructions or correct a mistake we can watch how we handle a challenge or adversity. When we allow others to witness our process, we find acceptance and often very gentlel loving assistance or guidance to a new perspective.

    So, while knitting to produce clothing is a luxury, the experience of knitting and what we gain from it may be life supporting. The sharing of the sensual aspects of knitting, the joy of transforming, the embrace of others is all very soothing to the soul. It is nothing short of healing. I have watched knitters help each other through every gritty aspect of life: birth, death (to illness, accidents, murder), abusive relationships, and the list goes on.

    They don’t set out to be this for each other. They come together to knit. They are old, young, gay, straight, many races and ethnicities and religions, but in time their lives are knitted together and they care deeply for each other. Then the healing comes organically. Joyous applause when someone has left an alcoholic partner. Silent circles to allow someone to re-enter safely after a loss to murder. They become unafraid to share everything and offer all that they can. When you see this, you know why the knitting is a passion. You cease to care why knitting is now popular, whether it is elitist, whether it should be basic skill set. All these things don’t matter when people find something to pursue that leads them to so much rich exchange with others. Where all the artificial social constructs of separation of erased and healing just happens. Of course they never want to live without that again. Of course, the knitting is a passion. What knitters experience with one another is something lacking in our society. When they knit in a circle, they find their heart’s desire: to connect.

  • amy

    Like ChristinaP said, in addition to the community aspects, people are returning to knitting (and crafting in general) because of the pleasure of creating something tactile.

    Most of us have jobs that consist of a lot of time spent on the computer. There is something very satisfying about leaving that computer world behind and making a cozy little scarf or sweater. Of course, we then turn around and snap a digital photo of it and upload it to the web so we can share that cozy little scarf with the world on our blogs or on sites like Flickr or Craftster.

  • Wow, Alison. Awesome.

  • Chris

    Alison, Lisa, John… We’re in awe, and a little daunted. The definition of victory on air now is to live up to the standard of these comments. Lisa, thank you for the spark that started this. Allison, you write like an angel. What do you sound like. I’d also like to note that I’m offering this show as a sort of farewell token to my onetime sister-in-law, Susan Gordon Lydon, who wrote The Knitting Sutra, and died two weeks ago in Florida. Do any of you know Susan’s writing about knitting? Shall we talk about it?

  • Chris,

    Thank you for the lovely compliment. Yes, I know Susan’s book. I read it many years ago and have given it as a gift or leant mine at least 50 times. I found it so inspiring. I am very saddened to hear of her death. May she knit in peace.

    We must absolutely talk about her book. Her exploration of knitting and how it impacted her life, the connections she made, the journey she took and the personal growth she attained exemplify the power of this craft. It is a craft of transformation. For me, and the over 1200 women who are part of the community here, this is the compelling aspect of knitting. People discuss the low-tech versus the high-tech, the making of things versus the buying of the things and these are indeed a part of the draw. But they are avenues to the core; the experience of bonding and transformaion.

    How do I sound? I couldn’t say. Don’t really know what my voice would sound like on air. This topic, though, probably brings out a different voice. As long as we get past how pretty and soft the yarns are and beyond the attempts at vernacular politics. Perhaps we could speak this afternoon and you could decide whether mine is voice worth hearing.

  • Chris

    Allison, you sound great to me. Call in: 877-673-6767, okay? See you on the radio!

  • Potter

    What a wonderful conversation. I used to knit. I started by knitting sweater for my first boyfriend as an expression of my young love. I knit a couple for my husband years later and then for my little boy. I turned to clay after meeting a potter years ago. “You don’t suppose I could learn to do that?” “Why not?”

    I still have my various needles in a leather bag and a bowl full of the most gorgeous soft turqoise wooly mohair waiting for me for someday again. What I miss about knitting is it’s portability. I could not throw a pot anywhere. I did take some clay with me when I was nursing my late father, but you can’t do this on the go. For me it is about centering and gaining control. And it’s all about the making ( I exist, I did this, I was here) and then the giving away. And it’s about the materials, the love of materials. You love the clay, the earth that it comes from. With the wool, you love the smell of it, especially the natural undayed stuff right from the sheep. Those are the aspects in common. With knitting you learn patience. With clay you learn perserverance and acceptance.

  • Regarding young hipster knitters and knitting as both passion and fad:

    I have been knitting for over 22 years. The recent development of knitting as fad has some of us shaking our heads, as we’ve known all along just how fun knitting is. And while I would never deprive the youngsters their discovery of the joy of knitting, I have noticed a “dumbing down� of knitting over the past decade which displeases me. Many, many of the patterns published today reflect an impatience with the process. They are either very easy, very small, or very large-gauged (few stitches per inch).

    I was struck when I acquired an issue of Vogue Knitting magazine from 1958 with how difficult and time-consuming the projects were at that time. (I was also struck that some of the models in the magazine were actually smoking, but I digress). Times have changed and all of us have less time for the pursuit of the domestic arts than we did, perhaps, in the 1950’s. But the great appeal of knitting is its ability to slow down the fast pace of life in the twenty-first century. We cannot appreciate the meditative and indeed, spiritual qualities of this wonderful handicraft if we are rushing to finish that tiny cell phone holder on big needles.

    The other trend in knitting is towards what are called novelty yarns. While radio cannot do justice to the colors and textures that are out there today, suffice it to say that the technology of yarn making has come a long way for the orlon acrylic days of Carol Brady. There are old-time (and young too) fiber purists who knit only in wool and cotton. But these wild flashy yarns with lots of fringe and glitter are very popular among the fad knitter set, and I think reflect the trend in our society toward letting technology do the work for you. The novelty yarns allow a very dramatic effect in knitting without a great deal of sweat equity from the knitter. They even hide mistakes in your knitting. Think about that.

    Yes, there is definitely a learning curve to knitting and beginner projects have their place. But the knitting trend seems to this old timer (I’m ONLY 42!) toward the trivial and way too easy craft, rather than towards apprenticeship and gaining mastery of an art. That’s a shame, for the young knitters out there and for the world of knitting artists that longs to embrace them.

    Here is my prayer for knitters everywhere:

    Dear God in Heaven,

    Allow us to knit.

    Let us become old women knitters.

    Take away our ability to rush and to worry,

    but allow us to become old women knitters.

    Preserve our hands and our eyes.

    Let us die knitting.

    And if there is knitting in heaven

    let us knit in heaven as we have on earth,

    and let our colors and textures and creativity

    forever glorify You.

    Thank you for giving us knitting.

    Amen.

  • One other comment The Knitting Sutra should definitely be discussed as part of the show. A seminal book.

  • aleedham

    I am hoping that this is Part 1 of an exploration of creativity and handwork. I’ve been knitting for half a century. It has become a craft for me over the past decade.

    Another topic suggestion – the generosity of fiber crafters. We knit, sew, craft for any number of charities, from Caps for Kids to Warm up America to knitting helmet liners for our troops. I could easily donate money to these groups. Instead I donate my time and my prayers, knit into every stitch, to help others – and get so much more in return. This knitting centers me and takes me out of myself into a special place.

    I do spend more on yarn then I ever would on a ready made sweater. The making, the process is the important part to me. The feel of the yarn, the rhythm of the pattern, the continuation of an age old process of covering myself (although most finished items are passed on to others) in a thing that is uniquely me are what keep me me.

  • Flangum,

    I have to agree about the slowing down. We talk about that a lot here at Circles. You can’t speed up the knitting. You can do smaller, easier, projects, but the stitches themselves are only going to happen at a certain pace.

    As for the ‘dumbing’ down, I think it reflects a common entry point for the overwhelming numbers of people who are picking up needles for the first time. I, too, am 42 and I love looking back at the knitting patterns from the 40s and 50s. I see some of that detailing seeping into the industry again, but I am concerned that people will mature as knitters faster than the industry is prepared for. I have a vision of a new approach to pattern design and more comprehensive type of knitting magazine that links the craft, the materials, the people and the fact that we knit garments that must fit our style. I am tired of patterns that would only be appreciated by other knitters. (Or no one at all because its simply ghastly)

    I would be greatly saddened to see all these new knitters walk away because there are only so many super bulky sweaters they can wear and only so many scarves they can stand to knit. They are starting to move on and we must move with them. It might soothe your soul to know that I find fewer and fewer knitters interested in novelty yarns. We carry almost none in our shop now. We have carefully nurtured an appreciation for yarns coming from U.S. farms and hand dyers. I have more and more customers asking for classes and workshops with more advanced skill sets.

    And for those who will always knit scarves or ipod covers, we must let the knitting be for them what they need it to be. It doesn’t detract from what we experience with our knitting. These voracious novelty yarn knitters have revived an interest, but also a respect for the craft of knitting. We wouldn’t have this dialogue here on Open Source today without them.

  • Yes I tried very hard in my earlier post to _not_ make this an “us versus them” thing. I too am grateful that the new popularity of knitting is bringing to the market some beautiful yarns produced in the US. (Indeed, if I were a yarn I’d be Brown Sheep Naturespun! )

    While I don’t think the Ipod cover knitters “detract” from what we more experienced knitters are doing, the fad of knitting is influencing knitting publishing in a way that, you’re right, must grow with the large number of newbie knitters out there. I stopped subscribing to ALL knitting publications about four years ago, because as an experienced knitter I just couldn’t take the ugliness any more. Does that disconnect me from a community, because I no longer buy a magazine? I just can’t see identifying myself with what passes for “knitting fashion”. So I design my own.

    Moving the new knitters along is going to take persistence and a commitment I’m not sure the knitting publishing world has or maybe is even capable of having. Whether the apprentice knitters take the lead and indicate to the publishers their desire for ever more complex patterns, or those publishers gently push the apprentices to greater art, remains to be seen.

  • Hi Chris,

    I am SO sad to hear about Susan Gordon Lydon. I loved The Knitting Sutra. It’s one of the few knitting-themed books I recommend. Her writing just flows and she captures every aspect of the knitting experience perfectly.

    You should definitely open up a discussion about her book.

  • Flangum,

    I know it is difficult to remain connected to those in such a seemingly different place. I don’t see you as disconnected because you have walked away from the mags. And I certainly didn’t intend to make you feel alientated. I don’t find much in them myself. Designing your own is at the heart of it all. And you can certainly do this while others are doing their thing. What happens is that we become the inspiration. I find that folks here are relieved to see me make mistakes, get frustrated, pull things out, try again, abandon ideas and projects and finally to see creative results. It frees them from the cultural expectation of looking like all is perfect all the time. Of course, I think all is perfectly, perfectly flawed and messy, all the time, but it is a different vision of how we can be together.

    I highly recommend that you keep knitting on your own path and see where it takes you and where you take others.

    Warmly, Allison

  • John,

    In response to my own search for great patterns, I recently started a business called The Knitting Vault. We sell downloadable knitting and crochet patterns at http://www.theknittingvault.com. Joe Wilcox’s patterns, as well as those of other talented designers, are available and sold throughout the world!

    Fredda

  • So, Chris, you fished several times for insights on knitting and community. We have a vibrant one here at Circles in JP. Perhaps we could have another discussion about how people in our contemporary culture find their way to a meaningful community. We could then touch upon how knitting so inherently lends itself to those kinds of connections.

  • RadarJ

    I guess I’m not convinced that knitting is a new fad. When your 19-year-old guest was too small to knit, many of the women at my first software company were knitting together at lunch. Some of us crocheted, and one woman spun dog hair into yarn, but otherwise every day there was some number of knitters clicking away in the relaxation area on our floor and very few of us hadn’t been knitting or crocheting all our lives.

    This was the late 1980s and early 1990s. The women I saw at the yarn stores were my age, and some amazing stuff was being created by them, and many of those women were way too hip for my humble mode of existence. Still, they were my inspiration to make up my own stitches and patterns, which I still do (although I could do with some help figuring out a border for my currently stalled project).

    The point is that knitting felt like it had fad quality back then, and I certainly remember the fads for knitting and crocheting during the 1970s as well. My sister’s 4th grade class all knit projects together. In the early 1980s I knew some women who went head-over-heels for knitting machines, and progressed from there to knitting with needles.

    I can’t remember seeing a person a generation younger than me knitting, so I’m just not convinced that this is any more of a fad than it ever was. Your 19-year-old guest sees a lot of people coming to her store, and I hope the trend keeps up, but I wonder if it’s the increasing contacts she makes through knitting that make it feel like a fad to her. The ladies I see in the yarn store around from the corner from my software company in Cambridge are all my age or older, and longtime knitters. My feeling is that this “fad” is just a modern twist on a craft that never disappeared.

    (For reference, I am the caller who inherited the lacy afghans from her great-great-grandmother.)

  • jennie

    flangum,

    i completely agree with you about the spirituality of knitting, and that there are a few too many publications touting “quick and easy” projects in novelty yarns for the fast-paced, multiple social-event-focused person who dabbles in everything (which is not to say that those people never become dedicated knitters!). my favorite things about knitting are the process and the learning that comes along with it, and the time it takes, the time you HAVE to take to create something. the problem you are addressing, however, is one not just related to knitting, but to our society as a whole–it is entirely too fast-paced. i could not agree with you more about that.

    although there are a lot of new knitters who may not want to take the time to knit a longer, more challenging project, and may stop after one iPod cover or scarf as you say, it sounds like you are lumping all new knitters into this category and it is perhaps not nearly as common as you think. every person i have taught to knit in the past few years has surpassed me in project difficulty within a matter of months, and is completely addicted to knitting more and more challenging projects and new techniques. new knitters have to have somewhere to start, and they may start with a scarf, or an iPod cover, but for the most part what I am experiencing is that from doing these first projects, they fall in love with knitting and it becomes a passionate part of their daily lives. if you have doubts, i would encourage you to read more knitting blogs (which you may already do)– remember, many of these knitters are “newbies” too. everyone knows that people have been knitting for centuries, and it is ok for things to become more popular; it makes for more yarn accessibility for everyone, and adds an element to people’s lives that enriches them, whether they will make only one small project and move on, or adopt knitting as a part of their life forever. i don’t mean to quote martha stewart, but, embrace the fad, it’s a good thing.

    —-

    by the way–well said, allison, on all counts.

    —-

  • pearl

    I’ve been knitting for over 20 years and I absolutely love novelty yarns and small projects and knitting alone (it is my quiet time.) For the most part I could live without knitting cirles, cables, fair isle lace knitting, shawls and a lot of things that seem really old-ladyish and stale and just not to my taste. (I also don’t get sock knitting, but, hey, whatever floats your boat.) I’ve actually gotten a lot more exited about knitting in recent years BECAUSE of the new yarns, including the novelty yarns and other yarns that are not 100% natural fibers. So shoot me. I’m not sure why anyone else would care or judge me for this, but the comments here sure do sound snobby and judgemental. Since when was knitting a competitive sport? To me it is a very personal expression, but I’m not really sure what people mean by this ‘spirituality’ thing. It doesn’t seem very spiritual to have all these rules and regulations about what is ‘correct’ or ‘good’, which is also why knitting circles can be so tiresome – who wants to sit around and be watched and evaluated when this kind of attitude seems to prevail. I love knitting, but all this lofty talk really brings me down.

  • Who knew that a radio show would keep me up thinking into the night? But hey, it _was_ about knitting. Don’t we just love Chris, in spite of his Camille Paglia fetish! (Now THERE’s a gal who should take up knitting.) Anyway still thinking about this some more (I’m Frances from Port Townsend, WA btw) and thinking about WHY we long time knitters got involved in knitting in the first place. It humbled me, because, yeah, we got involved in knitting because of the Kaffe Fassett/Rowan fad knitting of the time. The difference was, of course, that the Rowan team was creating sweaters that were absolutely works of art, required tremendous skill or at least patience (intarsia with 200 color changes? Even I have not attempted such) which is a stark contrast to the novelty yarn that is bringing knitters to our circle today. That probably explains the contrast and the sense of hijacking that I mentioned yesterday on the phone. Even at the beginning of our knitting careers those of us starting with Kaffe Fassett sweaters ASPIRED to knitting as artwork. The newbie knitters today may get there, but they are not starting at the same place (better or worse, I am not judging) that we did.

    When I listened to the show last night I caught something that was cut off during my call. Elise attempted to comfort me by saying that a lot of the new knitters are moving down in needle sizes to nines and tens. The niceness police are gonna catch me on this one, but PUH-LEEZE! Nines?!? That’s like knitting with telephone poles! I just bought another set of one and a halfs! And one of my best knitting friends (a psycho that I want to be just like her) made her own needle case for five sets, 000, 00, 0, 1, 2. We don’t have to go _there,_ exactly, but let’s not pat ourselves on the back for “progressing” to nines, for godssake.

    Okay, off my soapbox. Thanks Chris for a wonderful show. I’ve been your fan for almost as long as I’ve been knitting.

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  • Vanessa

    Our Flickr friend Teruterubouzu posted the coolest photo of our website with her knitting:

    http://teruterubouzu.typepad.com/andknitting/2005/07/whinge.html

  • mk

    Knitting fads aren’t new – the argyle sock fad, the knitting for the troops in WWII fad, the elaborate intarsia art garmet fad mentioned earlier in the thread – it’s more like it goes in cycles.

    Flangum, don’t worry too much about the current knitting fad lacking spirituality – there was an article in the NYTimes a couple of years ago (excerpt can be read on the Making Light blog archives, as the NYTimes would charge you a fee to read it now), about children at a New Jersey elementary school learning how to knit with chunky #9 needles and getting that “serene buzz”.

  • JakeSterling

    I solved the problem of yarn being so expensive by learning to spin. Now I dye my own wool and spin it. In fact, I am drowning in yarn. Dyeing your own yarn is great, especially if you do Fair Isle knitting You can get colors that you never see in shops. Also, If you think knitting is spiritual, you really should try spinning!

    Finally, I want to recommend “The Twisted Sisters Sock Book” to anyone who is interested in getting started with small scale dyeing and spinning. It is one of the best how-to books I have ever seen. Takes you right through the process from dyeing the roving, through spinnning, and finally knitting socks.

  • What a wonderful program. I have been knitting for over 40 years and never lose my love of it. I also blog about knitting on my blog at Parlez-Moi Blog. And, I am proud to say, I’ve often visited Joe’s blog and I subscribe to Bust!!! I feel so “in”! ;o)

    Knitting is wonderful — thank you for an outstanding program.

  • I can relate to the spirituality of needlework as well as the concern over smaller, “dumbed-down” projects, and the expense of supplies…..the same things were said about needlework during the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution took hold!

    My husband and I support ourselves by our on-line http://www.jennyjune.com mail-order, and “brick-and-mortar” needlework shop in Randolph, Vermont. Just this week, we read about embroidery cafe’s springing up in Japan, where men and women go to drink coffee, eat pastries, and stitch! Wow!!! How cool is that! We’re hoping to get that started here in New England.

    Our sales increased a full four-fold during the months following 9/11, as women scrambled to embroider something for posterity, something they could stay safely at home and do, something that would comfort them as they listened to the news on T.V. Sales have dropped back to pre-9/11 levels now, and the Embroiderers’ Guild of America reports its membership is hemorraghing, but this is not due to lack of interest.

    All needlework has a rhythm to it which is soothing, while the satisfaction of making something is comforting in itself. We all need this, but particularly during stress-filled times. And with embroidery, even a small, simple project, if done well, provides this. What is a deterrent to learning and becoming more adept at embroidery, though, is the poor-qualilty supplies that most American manufacturers produce! We all recoil with horror when we see those ghastly orange, yellow and brown owls or mushrooms from the 1970’s, or the goofy, cutesy, country cross-stitch of the 80’s! Poorly designed kits, poor-quality materials, with insufficient instructions led to the decline in the popularity of embroidery here in the USA.

    Embroidery is decidedly low-tech, but the feel of the fabrics, the appeal of the colors, they rhythm of the stitches, and the beauty of the work are all rewarding to the human spirit, which is also low-tech.

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  • Do you guys have any idea what’s the best knitting app for the iphone? I’m thinking to get one for my wife. Thank you!