Friday, February 25, 2011

Can I get an "amen"

Today on Facebook, Vogue Knitting posted a link to this article, "A Young Reader Asks: Is There an Elitist Oligarchy in the Underworld of Knitters?" It's an extremely well-written, well-researched article written by an 18-year-old (!) crocheter. In it, she says several things that a lot of us are thinking but aren't saying out loud. As I read it, I remembered the way I felt when I was a new knitter, just getting into some online communities and just starting to read the popular magazines.

I'll start with the elitism. Holy God, yes, there is a serious, obnoxious elitism in the world of yarncraft. I encountered it when I was a new knitter, and had I not been the stubborn soul that I am, it would have really put me off. There's yarn snobbery, for starters. That drove me nuts. There are those who believe that everyone should knit only with certain fibers and even then, only certain brands of those certain fibers and still more restrictive, only certain weights. Just as I don't understand why anyone cares who marries who, I don't understand why anyone cares who knits with what. Knit with what you like to knit with. If you don't like what someone else is knitting with, who cares? How exactly does it affect you? If you don't like a yarn, don't knit with it. If you don't like the sweater someone is knitting, don't wear it. I have the fibers and yarns that I prefer, but if someone else wants to knit with a fiber or yarn that I hate, I don't care one bit. You know what? They're knitting, and that's what matters.

There are also the "old hands" (who are often also yarn snobs) who seem to violently detest new and/or younger knitters. They were there when I started 6 years ago and they're still here, still bitching, branding anyone knitting with a fiber, brand name, yarn weight or pattern that they don't like a "knitdweeb" or worse. They were here when Debbie Stoller (they love to hate her) wrote Stitch n' Bitch. She addresses them specifically on page 122, in the section entitled "A Field Guide to Knitters," calling them "Holier-Than-Thou Knitters." They were here decades ago and they'll never go away. They seem to wish that all new or young knitters would go away, but I don't think they realize that if new and young knitters quit knitting and more new knitters don't get turned on to the craft, all these great local yarn stores that are now everywhere, making it convenient to get all the best yarn, will go away. Magazines will fold. Yarn manufacturers will disappear. Books will stop getting published. And what they'll have is what they had 20, 30 years ago: few yarn choices and few patterns. Why would they want that?

Then there's the difficulty of patterns. I think a lot of patterns falsely get an easier rating than they should because people don't want to admit that something was hard. They adopt sort of a knitter's machismo, a "pfft, naw, it was nothing" or "you should see the other guy" kind of attitude. No one can see you clicking that "uber-difficult" rating, but it's still hard to do. You want to be with the perceived majority that thought it was cake. You don't want to feel like a "knitdweeb."

I have been wondering a lot lately about why things are the way they are in the more popular knitting and crochet magazines. I subscribe to several. In every issue of one of the biggest ones, for the last several years, it seems like every pattern in the magazine has to be "the hardest f'ing thing you've ever knitted." There aren't any simple, relaxing, knit-in-front-of-the-TV patterns. No knitting-as-therapy patterns. No patterns you can knit while your kids are still awake. Every pattern has some crazy stitch pattern with advanced techniques and lots of (often unnecessary) shaping. Yes, we need challenges to grow as crafters, but every pattern? In the latest issue of this magazine, there's nothing for the new knitter. Were I a knew knitter, I'd run away from it screaming. It would be extremely off-putting to a new knitter or a casual knitter. Even as a more advanced knitter, I find it a bit obnoxious. There is a place for crazy-difficult, drive-you-to-drink patterns and there's also a place for simple, easy to knit garments with simple shapes. Not every sweater has to be shrink-wrapped to your body and contain cables, lace, intarsia and steeking.

One more thing that Sarah, the writer of "A Young Reader Asks," addresses is that there is a big, big difference between the world of knitting and the world of crochet. You can see it in the magazines. I subscribe to one of the biggest crochet magazines, which is published by the same publisher as the aforementioned knitting magazine. Even though it's published by the same publisher, it has a totally different look and feel. The knitting magazine is sophisticated, high fashion. It looks like it's on the cutting edge and has a big budget. The crochet magazine, while still loaded with plenty of uber-difficult patterns, looks low-budget, backwards and out-of-touch. It has a "kountry krafts" sort of feel. The knitting magazine uses mainly expensive boutique yarns. The crochet magazine uses plenty of those, too, but also includes a lot of lower-quality big box craft store yarns that the knitting magazine has never allowed in it in the years that I've been reading. Why is this? Why such a huge difference? Crochet is really versatile, does some things better and easier than knitting, and can be just as fashionable and cutting edge than knitting. Why not try to elevate it to the same level and the same popularity as knitting by treating it the same in the magazine?

On blogs, on the Ravelry forums, on message boards all over the internet, knitters blast other knitters, they blast crocheters and the overall sentiment is unwelcoming and mean. If someone dares to ask a well-intended question on a blog's comments, other commenters descend on them like jackals and tell them to go Google it instead of offering to help them. People rip on each other's yarn choices and pattern choices. It's stupid. This "mean girls" mentality is not advancing knitting and crochet and not helping anyone's cause.

The way I see it, if someone is knitting or crocheting, no matter what yarn they're using, no matter what pattern, no matter what color choice, no matter what weight, GOOD. They are furthering the art forms that we love and ensuring that our favorite local and online yarn stores and yarn manufacturers will continue to exist. So...

Stitch and let stitch.


  1. Thank you so much! I'm a huge fan of yours! It's an honor to have you comment on my blog!