Wednesday, November 21, 2012

getting the respect we deserve, part two

Part one in this series posited that knitting does not get the respect it deserves because men don’t do it. But there has to be more than that. Given the health benefits of knitting, given its addictive draw, given how much we rave about the craft we love, there must be more to say.

Okay, let’s start by acknowledging the uninformed ignorance (in the politest sense of that word) of the non-knitting public. They don’t know the health benefits, they don’t know its addictive draw, they don’t get (or care) why we rave. And they don’t have the intellectual curiosity to find out. So they relegate us to a stereotype readily to memory: someone, probably female, probably elderly, probably at home in her rocker, knitting because she has nothing better to do.

I could give a host of uncomplimentary quotes that relate to this stereotype. We all have some. Instead, can we drill down to understand it and find solutions? Are there misconceptions about knitting (perhaps with some basis in fact) that we can understand and override?

Misconception #1: We don’t knit what people want
There was some survey done about the #1 dreaded Christmas present, and the answer was a hand-knit sweater. I don’t think this result is anywhere near the reality but is, instead, the result of one long-ago scarring event where a child was given a hand-knit sweater rather than a Red-Ryder Bee-Bee gun or self-wetting doll.

To be honest, I bear some responsibility in this because I have done it. Have not we all?  And I had a woman in class admit the following: she wanted to knit a sweater for her son and asked what he wanted; when he said a red, crew-neck pullover, she said If you want a red, crew-neck pullover, then you just go buy one!

Solution Knit what they want! If the person for whom you knit wears the perpetual gray hooded sweatshirt, knit him a gray hooded sweatshirt. No, it won’t wholly engage your knitting brain, but he’ll wear it day in and day out.

Misconception #2: We don’t know how to knit things that fit
Is there truth to this? Yes. Not to the extent of the recurring joke of the sweater with one sleeve a foot longer than the other. But yes, it is true. For many reasons, we have lost the skill of making things fit. And knitting patterns contribute by not noting where and how to change the pattern and make it fit

I know a woman who knit my Gray Cardigan and followed the pattern where it said a) shorten or lengthen for finished length here and b) widen or narrow for shoulder width here. The result was exquisite. The first time she wore it, someone said I love our sweater. It looks hand-knit but then I realized it couldn’t be because it fits you too well!

To be fair, a lot of the clothing we buy doesn't fit us all that well either. But what we make is perceived as even more ill-fitting. So people look at what we've knit and think Why would I want to do that?—make something whose sleeves are too big or too long or whose shoulders droop???

Not so long ago, fit and drafting classes did not fill. But this is changing. There is growing demand for these classes so we can make our knitting dollars work appropriately. Having said that, I recently taught for a guild who eschewed those classes, saying Our members don’t care if their knitting fits.

Solution Care! Don’t be satisfied with ill-fitting results! Rip and re-knit until you get something that works. Take a class that teaches this material. And before knitting anything, check its measurements against something in your closet of similar style.

Misconception #3: Knitting is cheaper than buying
Here’s a huge misconception of knitting--held from 50 years ago—that we knit something because it’s cheaper than buying. So someone sees us knitting a pair of socks and says Don't you know you can buy those?

If we are perceived as spending time making something we could buy in seconds, then we clearly have nothing better to do with our time. And what is our responsibility in this? Some of us hide what we spend on yarn!

Solution Tell people what you spend on yarn! Explain how this expenditure is essential to economic recovery! Instead of spending $80 on 3 sweaters made in China, we put money into a small local business to knit the one sweater we will wear.

I feel the propulsion of a rant! Clearly, there is more to say. But I need the calming influence of my knitting to lower my blood pressure and help marshal my thoughts before continuing.


  1. You are SO RIGHT! Keep it coming!

  2. I plan to! The final segment is now published.