Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I am not a Real Knitter. (Those of you who have seen my finished projects and are saying, "No shit!" can just shut up now.)

I'm a knitter, but not a Knitter. I know this because I have read the Yarn Harlot. Real Knitters all over the internets worship the YH. I finally got her first book when it hit the 3 for 2 table at Borders a few weeks back, and I read it. And I realized that if this is what a Knitter is, I am a fraud and a failure.

Because I didn't get it. I just didn't get her humor at all - why does knitting sound so hard and so frantic? Why does anyone let a hobby become so consuming and exhausting? I realize she was exaggerating for comic effect - at least I hope to hell she was - but I've read enough blogs to know that for many Real Knitters she's not exaggerating that much. I didn't identify. I did really appreciate two of the essays, about the knitting doula and the woman who had to give away her stash - this is not to say that the Harlot can't write, for she clearly can write beautifully. I just didn't identify with most of the book and thought it was kind of silly. But millions of Real Knitters did get it, so clearly the fault is with me.

I couldn't identify with any of the examples of knitting as an obsession. Before I read her standard of obsession I would have said that I was obsessed, but clearly, I've been kidding myself. And it made knitting as a hobby sound really unappealing to me. It sounded like it can be hard, frantic, consuming, exhausting - stuff like pulling all-nighters to get gifts done. I don't do that. Screw that. This is a HOBBY. Gift occasions with rush deadlines are why God gave us online shopping and FedEx.

Why take on complicated projects with rush deadlines for FUN? Complicated projects with rush deadlines are work, and I expect to be paid for that shit. Why let a project that isn't working out consume every waking moment and drive me crazy? Real Knitters are reading these books and identifying, and I read it and totally didn't. I am not a Real Knitter. And frankly, I'm fine with this.

My four days off are drawing to a close, and I have enjoyed every minute of doing as little as possible. I worked out, I slept at least 8 hours every night, I knitted, I did a little housework, I read, I watched a lot of junk TV. And it was good.

I am shipping the hairy, oily alpaca-wool blend to Geogrrl, because she spoke up for it. (Doesn't it sound wonderful when I describe it that way? Aren't you jealous?) I feel better since putting it away, it definitely was giving me a tickle in the back of my throat. It's very pretty red, not overly itchy and definitely lanolin-rich, my hands are very soft after wasting my afternoon knitting with it for a few hours. But I am resigned to the fact that for me there is no alpaca or mohair that doesn't cause allergies, contact lens distress, or just plain itchy bitchiness. But hey, I live in the South, so it's not like this is a terrible hardship.

But now that 10 skeins of hairy alpaca from a foreign land is leaving the stash, am I not totally justified with replacing it with something more suitable for a Pi Are Square for this climate?

I'm thinking Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Wool in sportweight. I keep coming back to the
Jeans colorway. It is definitely a Me color. 200 yards per skein - you think 6 skeins will make a decent Pi Are Square, or should I get 8?


Martha said...

Missy C.,
I have heard other folks say both what you said about Stephanie as well as what the other folks think of their own knitting - there's the "O" word & I don't mean Oprah.
Having met you & seen you knit plus reading your blog for so long, I beg to differ - I think of you as a real knitter.
"Real" means different things to different people. Honey, you are the real deal on so many levels.

Janet said...

Yeah -- haven't met you but have seen enough knitting here that I'd call you a real knitter. Me, not so much. But one thing Stephanie's books make me feel better about is my own level of obsession. My family thinks I'm weird if I want to bring something to knit on during a boring family gathering -- on the scale of YH obsession, that ain't nuthin! Take that, family! :-)

Also, one of the reasons I'm on hiatus from blogging is the "assignment" nature of things. I'm knitting much more now that I don't feel that I *must*, and if I have to rip I don't have the dread of knowing I have to explain!

Catherine said...

Oh, Janet, F that crap! Like most of the knitblogging world is turning out "assignments?" Or focused on knitting? I read a lot of "knitbloggers" but the ones I really care about are the ones with lives beyond knitting. I check in on the Knit Onlys now and then. I'm more interested in real life, and as far as I can tell this is the majority opinion. I love life ruminations and baby pictures and travel and pets and family and work stories, with knitting as the common thread between us. We all speak knitting, but we are far more than just knitters.

Catherine said...

Awww, thanks Martha! What is the other "O" word? I'm slow today, and I mean that seriously. I know I'm a knitter, I've been at it for about 40 years, with a few years off here and there. (Aunt Honey taught me when I was 6, for those of you doing the math.) I'm quite comfortable with my identity as a knitter. :-)

Geogrrl said...

Hum. I'm guessing "overachiever".

I enjoy the Yarn Harlot's humour and the somewhat frantic way in which she goes through life. I think she exaggerates for comic effect, but I also think the YH is one of those people who enjoys that kind of frantic pace. She wouldn't know what to do with herself otherwise--I've known people like that.

While I do enjoy reading the YH, I have no desire to emulate her, don't identify with her for the most part, and am not one bit concerned that I don't.

I'm a knitter, and as with my cooking and sewing, I like doing things in my own way and in my own time. I'm a perfectionist and I will tackle insanely hard things. However, it can take me between a year and two years to complete some projects. I don't worry about it.

You're a knitter, all right, just one with a very different personality than that of the YH. And that's fine.

Geogrrl said...

Jeans is a lovely colourway, BTW. How big do you want the shawl to be? 5 - 6' across, I'd get more yarn to be on the safe side. When I made one it ate up more yarn than I had expected.

Mac said...

Honestly, I don't get why there are battalions of knitters who practically pee their pants at the mention of various famous knitters. I might plotz over gorgeous yarn, but I couldn't care less what words of wisdom these celebuknitters have to lay out.

ChelleC said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Yarngirl said...

Of course you're a real knitter - I wouldn't let a book that I think was written for entertainment purposes - and the circumstances under which I read it - effect you. I think she's funny. I was entertained. I don't identify with her. I wouldn't expect to. I wouldn't criticize her for that, though. Knit and let knit.
Looks like you might just have to go to Chez and replace all that itchy, hairy yarn - you can't go wrong with Lorna's Laces!!

Anonymous said...

Oh my god! I go away for a little while and the whole world didn't stop while I was gone!
I'm not a Real Knitter either. I love the new camera and all the pictures are awesome as are your finished shawls.
Happy Birthday! (late) and Happy Fourth!
- Auntie M

Anonymous said...

Agreed. I'm a young knitter w/ about 4-5 years of experience at this point. I have my moments, which is why I like reading Stephanie-- she's funny, it puts *anything* I do in the name of knitting into perspective, and I like her writing style. But I read that and I think, wow... that sounds exhausting.

So if you're not a Real Knitter (TM) you're in plenty of company!

I always love the looks I get when I explain that I rarely knit gifts. Occasionally-- if I know someone will LOVE something-- but otherwise, nope! I knit for me (and sometimes my husband) because I know I love the stuff!

Myshelle10 from KR

AmyJane said...

Your blog is a hoot :)

I agree-knitting just isn't fun if I am stressing over it all the time. I rarely knit anything too latge-as I enjoy the immediate gratification part of it all.

I seem to have issues with a few popular knitting bloggers who have published books...none over the writing style...just their methods of madness, I suppose :)


Brenda said...

Since knitting is experiencing such a resurgence, there seem to be allot of bad new knitting books being written by people that like to brag about how cute and clever they are because they knit. Where are the books by the real knitters, like Beth Brown-Reinsel or Nancy Bush? They approach knitting with such respect for the history of the craft---they are true scholars. I've knit almost every day over the last 35 years, and I don't think much of the Yarn Harlot, either. To me, knitting is like brushing your teeth or paying your bills---it's just something that I do without much thought on the whys and wherefores---it's a part of my life.

Love the bossy little dog pictures---
Brenda in Iowa.

poormary said...

knit and let knit.


Jeri said...

I believe the word your looking for is Obsessed, as in OCD.

Love those hammy dogs. Always good for a picture or 20! that's why I come here - the dogs - not the knitting. LOL :)

seriously, Catherine, you rock. You're for real.

Martha said...

Missy C,
O = obsess.
It could mean something else to others however ^..^
In the context of writing about the wonderful Harlot (I am a fan of hers - I want that quantity of energy!) & your post about her, I tho't the O word had a new meaning.

Catherine said...

I thought I was Obsessing. I really did. But Obviously I'm only an amateur. I really thought my reaction to the YH was sour grapes - hell, she's making real bucks off writing silly crap about knitting! But after reading the book, I realized that there was no way I could have written that. I wasn't that kind of knitter and I don't WANT to be. Chapter after chapter of "OhmyGAWDmystashissohuge!" and "OhmyGAWDthisproject iskilling me!"

Come to my office. I'll show you projects that will kill you. I knit for fun, for relaxation, to make things that are personal and special. It's not an obsession and not a spiritual quest. Jesus, people, it's just knitting.

Janet said...

Catherine -- you're right, I like the multi-subject blogs best too. I just felt like I was so woefully deficient in the FO category that I was pressured to pop some out. I felt like the WIP 'n' Rip queen! Of course, I'm also on hiatus to hide from the crazy dude. I'll be back eventually.

And as for Stephanie -- she's over the top in her way, but she seems happy, so more power to her. The only thing I passionately wish is that she'd learn that "its" is possessive and "it's" is a contraction. Surely she saw the edits in her books? I know, I'm an English major nitpicker, but that's the one thing that does drive me nutty! :-)

Stephanie said...

Catherine, you don't need to get it, and the books aren't meant to serve as validation of any kind, certainly not for every knitter who exists. (God knows you don't need my validation...nobody does really.) It doesn't matter what I wrote, or how I wrote it...there is never, ever going to be one way of writing or thinking about knitting that every single living, breathing knitter can identify with, and I find that refreshing and engaging.

Yes. I'm extremely passionate about knitting, no, you don't have to feel the way that I do to qualify as a real knitter, nor do we need to share a sense of humour or identity. Just being knitters doesn't mean that we are all identical.

"Why take on complicated projects for fun?" Why skydive for fun? Why collect stamps for fun? For the love of anything, why run marathons for fun? The whole world is out there doing stuff that I just can't get my head around, stuff that I assure you would not be fun to me...but that doesn't invalidate their experience, or the expression of their personality that says "Why, yes. I do shave my entire body with a straight razor. I think it's really super-fun."

As for obsessing at an advanced level, this is how I earn my living. I'm not just knitting to fill pleasant hours, I'm using it to support my family, and if I didn't spend more time thinking about it than most people did, I wouldn't deserve to. (Also, if most people spent as much time thinking about it as I do, they would be fired from their real jobs.)

For Brenda: I couldn't agree more about the plethora of bad knitting books out there (although I cringe at the thought of being called cute...I had no idea.) I think publishers have decided somewhere along the line that you can sell anything to knitters, and the standards are dropping. Vote with your wallet. This last wave has brought us lots of wonderful books we wouldn't have had otherwise, but man...tons of it is sketchy. (I know you think I'm in this category. I'm ignoring that.)

Finally, for Janet. Editors have been trying to get me to use its and it's correctly for years. I know the rule, I even think about it some days, but with the blog, the rule would be that you get what you pay for, it's a hobby for me, and I've found a way to go on and have a happy and fulfilled life, despite the occasional grammatical error. (I do cop to the fact that it seems to make a lot of knitters nuts though.)

Pooch said...

I appreciate and agree with your comments...so much so that I decided to leave a note to tell you! It is quite easy to fall into a herd mentality with knitting and blogging. If it's enjoyable--fine. If it makes one crazy---it might be time to drop back and take a breath.

I think your voice spoke for many.

Janet said...

Oh shit, my snarky Grammar Nazi self has been busted. At least I'm this way with everyone! {slinks off}