knitting and the life I almost have around it

Sunday, November 02, 2008

running commentary

When I started this blog, back in July 2005, I really didn't have much of a plan. Basically, I wanted 'someone' to talk at. It was pre-SnB and I was getting to the point where my family and friends were probably going to kill me if I didn't shut up about yarn and gauge and blocking. It meant my diary could be easily read by me, and I could whack pictures in without having trouble closing a book. I could link to things so I would have an easy place to locate online sources I like to use. I could put my hand up for all the blogs I was reading and felt too weird to comment on, hence the People I Am Stalking list. I always knew it was public, and I liked it. It forced me to put a check on the crazy (believe it or not) and made it really easy for old friends to keep track of me when our lives just didn't synch up.
When I started getting the odd comment, I loved it. It was so exciting! I said something and then someone, maybe over the other side of the world, would put in their two-cents. It felt like all over the world, people were being brought together because of their love for yarn.
When I started going to SnB, other SnBers started (or admitted to) blogging and comments from people I had actually met would appear. Once the initial buzz faded, I relished the fact that people were there to offer guidance, sympathy and honesty. I loved that all the knitters I knew were completely different. For the first time I felt accepted for my mad need to make each knitting skill I came across my bitch. I knit a 4ply cotton camisole (my first real summer knit) and for the first time I had friends who could appreciate the skill and time and patience involved, even if some thought it was fugly and would never knit it themselves.
I met many specialists. There were knitters of elaborate lace christening shawls, knitters who churned out an endless supply of charity knitting, knitters who rescued and recycled yarn as a matter of course, knitters who spun, knitters who made brightly coloured accessories for children, knitters who knit for themselves, knitters who knit for therapy, knitters who knit for company, knitters who only knit at SnB, knitters who made detours in traffic so they could knit at traffic lights. My soul was filled with joy at the rich smorgasbourd of wonderful, clever, generous and creative people in my life.
Change is inevitable and, with knitting being jumped apon and trendified, a certain mainstream knitting culture was bound to emerge. I guess what I wasn't prepared for was the value judgements that would attach to this. I always thought that knitters would just knit what they liked and respect each other for doing the same. Some patterns are so different when they come out that everyone jumps on them, and I don't see a problem with everyone making a Clapotis at some point. I guess the issue I take is that a Clapotis is somehow more valid in our not-so-little community than a one-off, I-was-playing-with-a-stitch-dictionary type stole in a rescued yarn. Whereas once I would be frustrated showing a non-knitter a sock and being told "They're like $5 at Target", now I increasingly notice that other knitters will say "oh, have you knit Monkey or Pomatomus?".
When a new book, issue of knitty or a magazine comes out, I have this faintly hunted feeling that if I want to make something, I either have to pick something so complicated that there won't be many contenders or that I have to cast on instantly so I can have something unique, if only for a week or two. What is going on?
And it's not just the patterns. Not do you have to knit something in the top twenty on ravelry, but it has to be Malabrigo or Cherry Tree Hill or Lorna's Laces or Filatura di Crosa. Don't get me wrong, knit with whatever rings your bell. I'm sitting on more than my fair share of hoarded 'special' yarns. But some of my favourite knits have been with plain old Patons. or Bendigo. or mystery yarns that were missing their ball-bands. And when you hunt around on Ravelry, some of my all time favourite knits were cheap substitutes and I admire and respect the knitters that can use their knowledge and skill to produce something fabulous out of relatively unknown yarn. And no-one seems prepared to acknowledge that one of the 'it' yarns might not be perfect. I've knit two pairs of socks in Lorna's Laces and I'm prepared to say: they pill like nothing on earth.
I guess what I'm getting at is that I miss the melting pot. It used to bug me when I was introduced as the 'Sock Queen' but it bugs me even more when you don't count as a sock knitter unless you've made a pair of Monkeys. Sure, it's a great pattern and yes, I've knit it before. But when I see on ravelry that there have been over 7,000 pairs knitted... I have no desire to jump on board.
I increasingly find myself hunting for obscure patterns. I make sketches and change patterns just enough to make them feel like mine. I find myself avoiding situations where I might be forced to discuss the merits of Malabrigo. I keep reaching for the Moda Vera yarns in my stash rather than the Rowan or Debbie Bliss or Filatura di Crosa.
And I recently noticed, in a distracted sort of way, that I hardly get any comments any more. I won't say it isn't saddening, because it is. I really do miss the community. Venting about a problem and having four or five suggestions within the hour was lovely. Working really hard on a new yarn or a new project and having people who understood the work that went into it cheer me on was validating. And being able to state my opinion and being respected for it, even if no-one agreed... well. That made the whole thing very real.
But the thing is, I blog because I need to write about my knitting and my life. I didn't start for comments, and while they were nice while they lasted, I'm not about to stop without them. I knit because I always have. If I like a pattern, I will knit it. I was never the type to do something just because everyone else was doing it, but I don't want to become the sort of person avoids something for the same reason. Neither is particularly sensible and in any way mature.
I read a lot of blogs and rarely comment. I'll say that now. If a question is asked that hasn't been asnwered yet, I'll comment. If someone I care about has a shite day, I might comment. Or I might call them. I never saw much value in 23 comments saying essentially the same thing 'me too, me too!'. I've got knitting to do.
So I guess if the choice is being myself and going without the comments or jumping on the bandwagon and commenting on every single blog, despite having nothing to say, in the hope that those bloggers will reciprocate... it's being myself everytime.
If you do read this blog I don't expect you to comment. If I say something you want to respond to, eg "Ms Spider, you're completely full of it", then by all means, fire away. The whole point of writing in a public forum is that people can disagree with you. But please, don't ever feel pressured to comment. When it comes right down to it, I blog for me and you blog for you. You read who you want to read and I read who I want to read. We've all got better things to do than type "that's pretty" 300 times a week, just because we feel we ought to say something (If you feel you need to say 'that's pretty" then that's fine too).

Ok, that's my thought for the week. I would like to finish by saying nobody's perfect and with all the exposure to wool, it isnt surprising that we can be such sheep at times. ;)

Peace out,
Ms Spider xo

PS. Spun this week, slubby 2ply Blue Faced Leicester in EGMTK Hippie Haven..... yummeh!

PPS. This is not an attack on anyone in particular, just a collection of thoughts that have been knocking about for a while.

Labels: , ,


  • At November 02, 2008 11:32 am, Anonymous sunrisesister said…

    Hi Ms Spider :) I dont know you, but I do read your blog. I just wanted to say 'Hi' :)

    And, I am totally jealous of that handspun!

    sunrisesister (on rav)

  • At November 02, 2008 11:51 am, Blogger Michelle said…

    As a non-knitter, I can't comment on the knitting-popular-stuff stuff, but I suspect Ravelry has changed knit (and crochet) blogging forever, in both good and bad ways.

    On another point, I never, ever believed it when people would say that comments begat comments. But when I started commenting on other people's blogs, they commented back, and that was really nice. It felt more like a community. I haven't been able to comment much lately due to lack of time and my internet diet, but I have noticed a drop in comments (and that's OK - I can't expect people to remember who I am if I'm not going to be there for them myself).

    Anyway, what you have written is food for thought. Thanks for sharing it.

    PS Yummy yarn.

  • At November 02, 2008 1:52 pm, Blogger Sometimes Unwilling Guru said…

    Yes I can see were you're coming from,I pull by nearly everyday to see what youve been up and occasionally comment if theres time(I usually surf for ten minutes before going to work each day)
    I did feel sad when people slowed down and stopped commenting on my blog but I did find out that a lot couldnt because comments prevented them in the setup,havent worked that out yet.
    I took a step back and realised that although it was exciting to have that connection, a lot of people did read the stuff I warbled on about but essentially my Blog is for me to do just that warble,it released that need so I didnt bug others at home.The thing that annoy me was that a certain local found my site and I had to be careful what I said being a Gov Employee especially when I had the Sh*%s with someone.I feel Ravelry will impact or already has on the time to blog,I started surfing there instead of blogging but now am coming back to doing that as theres only so much you can do on on Ravelry, so many Projects/groups you can queue.
    Oops I better get off here!You've said exactly what I mean anyway,LOL
    PS great spinning as usual!

  • At November 02, 2008 1:53 pm, Anonymous 2paw said…

    I know what you mean. I often like TV shows, eg, until they get really popular and then, not so much!! I like to knit 'popular' things but often I make up my own, I'm not fussed. But then I am not cool or trendy. I enjoy reading your blog!! Hope you are feeling well and that school is not too end of termly!!
    The Word Verification is PHYLO and that makes me want to make lots of references to layers etc!! I have slightly restrained myself.

  • At November 02, 2008 2:20 pm, Blogger m1k1 said…

    I am glad you are there to express so well things I have thought myself, but haven't the wit.
    I've tried a couple of the en vogue yarns, just to see, but it's the process I enjoy regardless of the fibre. And I have to confess to sharing 2paw's "well if everyone is doing it, I don't want to" at times.

  • At November 02, 2008 3:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting thoughts on value judgements from mainstream knitting culture! I am more impressed by seeing a blogger's original designs (even just mixing a cool stitch pattern into a generic pattern) than by seeing their Monkeys or other patterns-of-the-moment. I don't always have much mental or physical ability for knitting, but I love watching what others can do with some imagination and tenacity.

    I'm with you on liking nice practical yarns, though. Fleece Artist and Koigu are tough to resist, but it's the sturdy plain worsteds like Briggs & Little or Patons that I go back to time and again.

  • At November 02, 2008 5:39 pm, Blogger Kuka said…

    Wow, the comment issue is big this week!
    As far as popular patterns, I've never thought about it like that.
    I've always assumed if someone talks about monkeys or whatever 'it' pattern it's just cos it's a common ground - you know a way of connecting with people you might not know much about except that they knit socks.
    Like, if I met someone else who likes Britney Spears (knitting socks) I might ask what they thought of her last album (pomatomus), but if they hadn't bought (knit) it I wouldn't think any less of them as a Britney fan (sock knitter).
    I also think that assuming people knit 'popular' patterns just because they are 'sheep' following the 70,000 other people who have knit them is not really giving credit a) to the designer for creating a gorgeous pattern and b) the knitter for recognising and wanting to knit something gorgeous, perhaps having been inspired by some of those other examples of it out there.
    It sounds to me like perhaps this isn't so much what others are doing/saying, but how you're reading it that's the problem.
    ps. gosh your spinning is beautiful!! You and Mandy make and ace team! (also, how it the starburst sweater going??? That's my favourite Jet colourway and I can't wait to see how it knits up in a lacey attern!)

  • At November 03, 2008 9:18 am, Blogger Bells said…

    I think popular patterns are popular for one reason - they're good. If someone hasn't knit one of the big ones, I just think they're missing out, but it's not a judgement! That's just crazy. If that's the worst thing people can get all judgey about, then they need to get a life. It's just knitting, after all.

  • At November 03, 2008 1:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Personally I think that the knitting-or-not-knitting the big name patterns has become something of a question of identity - eg I'm a person who wears labels, or I'm a person who is ROOLY U-NEEK (LOL), so as people wanting to express our individuality, we as knitters have started using patterns and yarns as those social signposts we all know about - hairstyle, clothing label, *image* stuff. To me, it's become just another way that we try to assess and interpret the people around us, because we're attaching meaning to these patterns, and the choices that we assume go with them.

    (on a related tangent to do with identity labels - anyone in sydney should get to the korean bath house there - it's a refreshing experience to go into a room where the customers all wear no clothes at all, because all of these identity labels disappear, and it's all just nekkid people. Very cool)

    Very nice thought provoking stuff, Ms Spider, and a topic taht's been the centre of attention at many Newtown SSK Snb's! :)

  • At November 03, 2008 9:59 pm, Blogger Kate said…

    The issue of Blog commenting is something I've also been thinking about lately and you've captured my sentiments exactly. I'm not too fussed about getting comments on my blog but I do feel a bit guilty If I don't comment on blogs that interest or entertain me. Thank you for an interesting observation.

  • At November 04, 2008 4:11 pm, Blogger TinkingBell said…

    I have been readiung and not commentint lately because iof my own issues and have (sometimes )felt free because of it. Yours was the first knitting blog I ever read - I found it after buying some of your sock yarn on ebay and felt an instant connection to this whole world of knitters - before them I had been knitting (and finding yarn on the internet) all on my lonesome. Then I found you, and because of you lots of other wonderful blogs. I knit some popular [attern, but not others. I'd like to think I knit the things I want to knit (and sometimes I get surprised because I hadn't realised it was popular. I'm often well behing the curve - but popular, or not popular I really am not going to run into it much in rural Tassie!

    I love getting comments too - because it still makes me feel linked to the community. It's nice to stay in touch!

  • At November 06, 2008 5:58 am, Blogger Daisy said…

    I always get so surprised when I get comments - you know, people actually READ my blog?! It still seems strange, even after several years. And I know what you mean about the cult projects and yarns. I suppose I'm sort of half and half about them. I did make a Clapotis, but ages after everyone else. And at the moment I'm trying to de-stash and use things up for projects, which keeps me away from the newest stuff! ;-)

  • At November 06, 2008 7:41 pm, Anonymous j said…

    Keep on blogging, won't you. What you say is always interesting, and the spinning results are always such a delight to see

  • At November 08, 2008 6:35 pm, Blogger Melinda said…

    I really enjoyed your post - I think it echoed a lot of things that I have been feeling. As someone who is not yet on Ravelry (at first I was slow to latch on...then didn't get round to kind of like being different), I find that few people comment on my blog. I find that I know the words - Monkeys and Clapotis and such - but I actually don't know what those patterns are, and have never knit them! But they are part of the lingo - like moving from the incorrect but touchingly Australian term 'wool' to 'yarn.'

    One of the things that most appeals to be about knitting is that it is a little different, a little kooky. That's why it's saddening when you realise it's becoming homogenous, and also a money-making market. I guess I want to be able to reject the trends if I don't like them. And be brave enough to knit something different.

    Still, the community is important. How do we retain the community whilst rejecting the homogeneity?

  • At November 10, 2008 1:26 pm, Blogger catsmum said…

    I've never knit a pair of Monkeys or a Potamus or a Clapotis - although I may one day - but whether or not I knit 'em eventually will have to do with whether I like 'em, or need 'em , not whether they are popular [ or TOO popular ]
    I'll probably never be able to afford Lorna's Laces or Malabrigo either
    don't care
    I'll use the best I can afford.
    Sometimes it might be a single ball of Louisa Harding or Debbie Bliss and it may equally be Patons or Bendy... or the Moda Vera in the stash
    I will admit to being a bit slack with the blog comments post ravelry but I am currently trying to be better about that
    I DO read you even when I don't comment
    keep it up

  • At November 17, 2008 5:13 pm, Blogger Caffeine Faerie said…

    A popular pattern is that because its designed well, looks good on a multitude of people, and even though there are thousands out there, no two FO's will be the same. There's an element of community in that.

    Ravelry has changed the face of interweb knitters, there are no longer isolated bastions of knitting dotted around the world. As a society maker and an invaluable resource, praise needs to be given.

    As for posh yarns. They're posh and popular for the same reason patterns are - they're dyed well and/or the yarn is exceptional.

    But then again, each to their own. Your rant sounds like somebody who took up knitting to be different, and now that it's fairly mainstream, you're upset because it is so popular and you're not one-of-a-few now. There are a a numer of ways to deal with that - embrace the community and know that you are and could be a role model to others, or, take up something that is not in-fashion or popular, and try be a trend setter again. Perception, as Bells has already pointed out, is everything.

    But like I said, each to their own...

  • At December 02, 2008 6:29 pm, Blogger amanda j said…

    Interesting post. I comment as much as I can, and sometimes just with a "Me too" or a "Very pretty" because that's what I think! I have knit many of the bandwagon knits and they have helped to improve my knitting and have also made me feel part of a group. I enjoy the social side of blogging and have met some lovely people, both in real life and virtually. I am with you. Each to their own and we should all support each other. KNIT ON!


Post a Comment

<< Home