I’m going to write about knitting. because its fall and I’m being compelled to do a whole lot of it, so I am thinking a lot about it and why i do it.
i like knitting. its meditative and when i poked around a bit on the internet i found that its actually well known for that, and becasue of that factor its known for being very good for you. theres some real science behind it, pointing towards knitting as being beneficial to mind and mood and stress levels, and if you happen to have arthritis then knitting/crochet will help too. plus i really want my hands busy like all the time. if its not knitting then its something else, but knitting takes up my hands and then in the evenings after the girls settle and go to bed and we pick a show to watch, i don’t feel quite so much like I’m wasting time if I’m watching tv and my hands are busy.
but knitting is expensive. cheap yarn is cheap, but its made of plastic and i hate the texture and its gross. cheap wool is cheap, scratchy and annoying. if you want good quality yarn its going to cost you. i can buy it on sale, which helps, but the fact is that knitting is expensive and thats that. i don’t do a lot of knitting and i stay away from the crazy expensive wools and tend to check out the sale racks first, and generally only the sale racks. but it is very expensive and thats the downside thats hard for me to deal with and its hard for me to justify a yarn purchase like that to myself. i generally only make small things, which makes the cost easier to deal with. but if i were to make a sweater? we are talking between $100 – $200 in yarn. you can dampen that blow by heading to the sale racks. that better be a pretty damn amazing sweater. especially because i can find a good sweater at a thrift store for like $12. other things, like the girls hats that I made last year, come out to something more like $15-20 each which is what i would pay to get them from a store. not even a thrift store, but the baby gap or something. so it just doesn’t make sense that i would buy them un-assembled, and then spend like 2 hours knitting them up. each. so why do we do that? isn’t that just crazy? it is crazy.
knitting is very much its own culture. real-deal, serious knitters spend a fucking huge amount of money on their craft. they have bookshelves full of yarn. they are proud of having a closet for their yarn since they have so much of it. they compare ‘stashes’ and they buy silly things like specialized, cute tools. you can buy a pack of stitch markers, (and with stitch markers you can truly just keep buying and buying and buying and buying) or a special cable needle, or needles in every single colour under the sun, special bags, special clips, special needle organizer felt roll-up map things… seriously. its super materialistic and consumer-culture. then you need ot special shampoos and soaps for your knitted things. you need ball winders, a thing called a swift that helps unwind yarn to go on the ball winder, and then special mats and bins to “block” (shape) your finished thing. crazy.
knitters make jokes about successfully hiding another yarn purchase from their husbands and smuggling more yarn into their house. they joke bout having 457346 balls of yarn but none of them are the right one for this new pattern they just found. there seems to be a superiority to this, having the biggest stash wins. having the most luxurious fiber wins. alpaca used to be the next thing. then angora rabbit fur. now camel, but thats moving out of vogue now too, and we are now into bamboo, bison, and silk. you can buy wool by sheep breed. merino, Leicester, cotswold, romney. you can even buy wool by the age of the animal – the first lambs wool is expensive. baby alpaca more so. ITS CRAZY. for the record, buying fiber and spinning it yourself is not cheaper. it’s just one more step in the process of assembling your own things.
hardcore knitters knit constantly. they drive for hours to go to conventions to see other knitters and buy more yarn. they go to classes and spend lots of money to learn something that they could learn on youtube (this baffles me every time it happens, in every craft.) theres the TTC knitalong in toronto, where a bunch of people get together and go out in teams across toronto taking the TTC to visit knitting stores. the knitting stores put on sales on this day and offer discounts and free cookies to the knitters who do this TTC knitalong thing. i bet its super fun. its also a major cash-grab. knitters stand in line all day for a particular colour or brand, because yarns are only around for a while before the colour is discontinued. this creates a system rather like the pumpkin spice latte – get it now or its gone. difference is it doesn’t come back next year. so people buy up huge quantities of that yarn so that they don’t miss it, regardless of whether they have a plan in mind for it. theres this fear – what if you start a project, but that yarn is discontinued and you can’t finish your sweater because you didn’t buy enough yarn? better buy more of it. your husband won’t notice.
interesting – this happens in henna as well, because the crop is different from year to year and season to season. i do not like this spring 2014 henna. it’s completely different than the fall 2013 henna, grown in the same region and processed at the same mill, but I’m struggling with learning how to work with it. Olivia and i talk about our henna recipes at every event. “hey did you put sugar in this one? which sugar? it feels like you used molasses,” trying to nail it down. henna artists are STILL talking about the Jamila crop of 2010. artists tend to find a crop or a region that they really love and try to buy it all up and stretch it out to make it last because its never going to exist again. isn’t that neat? i do like that aspect of henna. but sometimes its a headache.
this knitting thing – its doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. we don’t have to do it. we no longer need to hand-make all our own clothes. we can even have our clothes more or less ethically made for us. we do not need to spend this time, hundreds of hours, making our own sweaters. and you know the best part? hardcore knitters knit so many things, they cannot possibly use them all. over the years, you can knit yourself 2 dozen sweaters. who needs 2 dozen sweaters? really? so then they give them away. now thats expensive. knitters make things because they liked the pattern, not because they needed a 43rd new hat. to me that seems gluttonous. i made a hat like three years ago. its my only hat. The girls have a hat each. Jim has two handmade hats, but I’m replacing them this year and ripping out one of the old ones and re-purposing the yarn. i made one blanket about 7 years ago. I dont need another 62 blankets, I have one, k thanks. but im considering replacing that one because its old, a bit shredded by the cats, and acrylic and i dont like it.
the knitting culture is trying to sell you a lifestyle, just like lululemon pants and roots sweaters and yoga is. the lifestyle is carefree, lots of big pots of tea and misty mornings and evenings by the fire with big knitted socks and shawls, and lots of reading. certainly no housework. lots of movies. there will be fresh flowers in all your vases. cabins, cottages, hot chocolate. you will look glorious, dashing and very french in your new lace shawl. actually you look like a fucking grandma, but whatever. all the knitting blogs are full of pictures of knitting next to tea and books and sleeping cats. photos of peoples yarn book shelves or yarn closets. or yarn rooms. photos of finished scarves being modeled by semi-ugly people , staring dreamily out of their windows holding a mug of tea. or, if you are luck enough to live in the country, you can wear your new sweater that cost you $200 and two moths of solid work and cuddle a lamb and sit in the hay looking chic and sexy. ITS FUCKNIG CRAZY.
at the beginning of this ‘knitting season’ which is about the time that you start to remember that the fall is coming, (so, like, mid-august) i was thinking about all of this again. and theres a lot of things that I want to make and want to own, but at the same time I feel like i cant justify that sort of thing. the price of the yarn, the hours put into it, and then walking around knowing that this thing I’m wearing cost $82, which could have been a chicken and all our groceries for the week from the market instead. not being able to justify it makes it feel guilty, like i should have a ruthless budget and really control myself and go by some rigid, conservative rules about what i can make and what i cant make and what my threshold is for money spent on one thing. but i thought, a while back, what would happen if i allowed myself to knit whatever i wanted?
and nothing really happened. other than the guilt about it dropped right out of my life. i can make whatever the fuck i want to. I won’t go overboard, i still stick to the sale racks and Craigslist, and i am conscious of the prices and keep my yarn collecting and stashing in check. i have one cardboard box in the girls closet and its stuffed full of yarn. when i went to a yarn store last i picked up a bunch of stuff, then put most if it all back again. i left with a pair of legwarmers, unassembled. from the sale racks. i have one project on the go right now, and I’m really loving it and its unlike anything i could find in a store. but its going to be more expensive than i had thought so I’m modifying it and changing the size so that it doesn’t eat up money. i made a hat for myself when I had dreads and my head was twice as big, so i tore it out and I may or may not make it again. is that time wasted? I’m not sure. i was happy to make it.it kept me occupied. it kept my hands busy. it kept my stress level down and I enjoyed that time spent working on it.
thats why i paint. i dont really do anything with the paintings. they actually just pile up in my moms basement, waiting for that day when it will ultimately flood and they will all be ruined. but i love MAKING them. i love that really deep quiet state i can reach.
i am trying to be realistic about what i can make in a reasonable amount of time, because i don’t actually have all day to sit around with a book and a pot of tea and a sleeping cat and no housework. I’m trying to not buy into that culture with reckless abandon. i don’t want to ever feel like i should be proud that i smuggled in more yarn and my husband didn’t see it.
but theres a happy medium. i can collect handmade things over the years. how nice would it be to have 3 or four perfect scarves, or 3 or 4 perfect shawls, that you wear for years and years? totally unique ones that you couldn’t have bought in the store. and when you are tired of them ,if the yarn is still mostly sound, then you rip it out and make it into something else. the quality is outstanding. thats the thing – these high qualtiy handmade things can last a long time, if you take care of them in the same way that we all used to take care of our clothes. rick and rheas house was built at a time when you had your regular everyday dress then your Sunday dress and your 2 pairs of stockings and one set of pajamas and one pair of shoes. you got one new dress each year and your old dress was turned into a dress for your sister or a rug for the floor. as a result, they have practically no closets. the family who first lived in their house were sheep farmers.
i don’t need 98 pairs of legwarmers. i have a brown pair and soon i will have a dark teal pair. it keeps me a little bit more sane. i look forward to my evenings with Jim on the couch, knitting and watching a show together. sometimes if both girls are at school and I am home alone, I will get some cookies and watch a show and knit and its glorious. if Jim is tutoring late in the evening and i get the girls to bed early, i watch a show by myself and knit and thats glorious too. yeah okay it doesn’t make sense on paper and it costs a lot. but i’m starting to be okay with that.