Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Knitting Stereotypes

Occasionally knitting boggles my mind. Not the act of it, that tends to soothe the mind, actually, and there's something pretty cool about looping a piece of string around two sticks and ending up with something beautiful. It's more the stereotypes of it. Not the stereotypes that non-knitters associate with knitters - I'm quite used to it being implied that only old ladies or pregnant women knit, which is pretty dumb when I am clearly neither an old lady nor pregnant - but the stereotypes that knitters have created in and of themselves. Think about it. Here are a few that I can come up with off the top of my head:

Lace is hard. The second project I ever did was a lacy baby blanket. And trust me, it was lace. Lace is....lace. Lace is only as difficult as you make it out to be. It is knitting, purling, increasing, and decreasing. Period. I, never having been told that lace is supposed to be hard and that it was only for "experienced" knitters, had absolutely no problem following the pattern. There were times that I couldn't count right to save my life, but that has happened in pretty much every project I've ever done. We've started a "Lace 'Em Up!" support thread over in the Puck This! group on Ravelry, and it amazes me how many of the members have spoken up and said they are afraid to try lace. These people are some truly excellent intelligent knitters (well, there ARE a few Red Wings fans). It boggles my mind. Granted, lace does take a bit more attention (which is why I don't do a lot of it), and there are certain tricks that will make a project go more smoothly (stitch markers and lifelines come to mind, but, again, those can be used in pretty much any project, not exclusively lace ones), but when I am getting teased and consulted as a "lace oracle" by other knitters, it tells me that lace is not hard. It's just different.

Colorwork (of any kind) is hard. Let's see...I've done stripes, patches, squares, entrelac, intarsia, and fair isle projects. I've yet to see the "hard," but again, knitters seem to be terrified of trying them. Yes, entrelac does look really strange at first, and you really have to put your faith in the pattern starting off, and keeping an even tension is important for fair isle, but guess what? Your tension isn't going to get better if you never try it.

Sweaters (and other sized garments) are hard. Frankly, to me, a hat is harder than a sweater. I've gotten sweaters to fit great - I have never gotten a hat to fit quite right. A basic top-down raglan sweater in the round is just about the most mindless knitting project I can think of. You don't even have to keep turning the work like you do with a garter stitch scarf. The only thing you have to know is your gauge and row count.

Socks are hard. The Yarn Harlot, the ultimate sock knitter, can wax much more poetically about socks than I can. The reason I don't knit socks very much even though I LOVE sock yarn is because, well, I don't wear socks very much. I've done singles, two-at-a-time, toe-up and cuff-down. I've done plain socks, lacy socks, and patterned socks. I've used dpns, 2 circs, and magic loop. And I've only been knitting for a couple years. Now, turning a heel is something that is rather mind-boggling at first, but it isn't difficult to DO, just difficult to figure out why it works. However, if children were expected to be able to knit socks 100 years ago, I'm sure that today's educated adults can manage them quite easily.

Anyone can knit, but only women of a certain age (shall we say) actually know what they're talking about, the rest just knit because it's a fad and only use cheap yarn and/or fun fur. This one drives me particularly batty and is one of the main reasons that I really have to work up the effort to go to an LYS. I hate getting watched in a store as though I am a fascinating new species of humanoid. Particularly when I can ask intelligent questions about yarns and patterns and needles and actually seem to want to spend money on quality items instead of crap. And the only time I ever buy muppet pelt (aka fun fur) is when I'm making a hedgehog for someone. (Omg, felting! You can felt, too?!) Apparently even other knitters seem to think that one magically becomes an expert knitter at the age of 50 (I'm guessing) and until then, any one else is a prodigy or just blindly following a trend.

From the perspective of a 29-year-old single woman (okay, so I do have a cat) who learned to knit at the age of 22 backstage during a production of Hamlet (true story), ideas like this, which are passed and learned from knitter to knitter, drive me a little crazy. I don't consider myself a good knitter, or an experienced knitter. I don't think I'm particularly gifted over any other knitters I know - usually quite the opposite. But I guess the upside to being mostly self-taught is that what you don't know really can't hurt you. And ignorance is bliss.


Melanie said...

every stereotype you listed is so true haha, i used to think all of those were crazy hard until i tried it and found it more fun then straight up stocking knit or garter because i got to put more thought into it :D


ps fun-fur makes me cringe :)i like the nick name "muppet pelt"

Kim said...

Well said! My first knitting teacher said, don't ever let anyone tell you what to knit!