Maybe I am old school or have just been hiding under a rock for the last decade, but when did yarn go beyond its mere yarn state and become "knitting yarn"? I thought that all yarn was fair game when considering ANY needlework project. And when did all of these self-avowed knitters become "unionized" anyway? Read the first couple of sentences Amazon.com uses to pitch Debbie Stoller's book Stitch'n Bitch Nation:
"Join the movement! Millions strong and counting, hip, young chicks with sticks are putting a whole new spin on knitting - while turning Stitch'n Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook into a surprise bestseller (The New York Times)."
Okay, I don't know about y'all, but I've been knitting, crocheting, sewing, weaving (okay I didn't learn how to weave on a loom until college, but you get the point) and needlepointing (is that a verb?) since I was 7 (that's 29 years for all of you that are dying to know how old I am). When my grandmother (Eastern European lineage) taught me how to do all of these things she didn't tell me that crocheting was not as hip as knitting and both take a backseat to sewing, or at least they did a decade ago. Not at all. Furthermore, when we went to our LYS (another term I've just recently become familiar with) we were not confronted by leagues of young, hip knitters donning Isadora Duncan length scarves knit from eyelash yarn on ginormous plastic needles!
No, we went to our local Super Yarn Mart (anyone in Los Angeles remember those stores?) whose shelves were filled with *gasp* acrylic yarn and whose isles where heavily traveled by the blue-haired contingent. I loved it there! I loved that I was a little kid in a grown-up world who was able to knit-up a mean sweater in hours, intarsia even, and that I could make enough granny squares in an hour to fill the bed of a Dodge Ram truck. Oh yeah. I was good AND I was hanging out with my Nana whom I adored. What could be better than that? No, we were never confronted by the nouveauknitter wearing a scarf knitted using several 50 yard hanks of $46 fiber (you just cannot call 50 yards of $46 anything, yarn). No, we were greeted by other blue-haireds working the register inbetween cig breaks. Aaaaaah, those were the good ole days!
Okay, now don't get me wrong. I love that all of these women's crafts have become popular. I think it's great! However, what I do find strange is the fact that knitting is supposedly more highbrow than any other type of needlework. This my friends, is bizarre.
A decade ago, any type of needlework was (i) for women, making is marginalized by association (ii) for the aged, making it further marginalized, and (iii) just not cool in our disposable culture (why make a sweater when you can buy one at Neiman's, OMG). I guarantee you that there where no freakin' message boards about any type of needlework, no myriad discussions about froggin' or your LYS and not a whole hellava lot of $46, 50 yard hanks of fiber either. There was Nana and me hanging out at our local Super Yarn Mart buying $1 skeins of brightly colored acrylic (the super huge no dyelot skeins with like 400 yards on them) and some big ole balls of size 30 crochet thread in white or ecru because that is what they had available in the good ole days.
And Nana, she was a great teacher. I was seven and my first project was a sweater with cables! Yep, cables and sure I had a few holes here and there, but I was only 7 afterall. I didn't make a scarf or a blanket, nothing flat, nothing rectangular and nothing square. Nope, I made a sweater. After that project, I asked my Nana to teach me to crochet. So what does the woman do? Yep, pulls out size 30 thread with what seemed the tiniest hook ever and she begins by teaching me how to make the tiniest chain known to woman, then launches into pineapple-doily-mode. But with patience I mastered it and she was with me every step of the way.
Like my Nana, needlework became second-nature to me. I never defined myself as knitter nor crocheter. I was able to do both interchangeably and at that time (way back when) these processes were considered hobbies and not lifestyles. Though for me needlework took on a much more important role than just mere hobby. However, I never felt the need to define myself as either. I just mastered both processes like my Nana and went about my business.
So, until very recently, I wasn't aware that I needed to pick an identity that is more definitive (in simplistic terms) than an artist who is also a crocheter, mostly, who sometimes knits, but also has a penchant for needlepoint and hand-sewing(though I can machine sew with abandon), embroidery, silk-screening, felting (and not the knit it in wool and wash it in your machine kind of felting either, the real kind with wool shorn right off the sheep that needs to be carded and boiled and stinks like barnyard poo poo) are also not beyond my scope and I've been known to weave on a floor loom too!
No, I guess the next time I go to my LYS and the vegan sheep breeder behind the counter inquires about what I am making (therefore stating who I am, knitter or crocheter) I should refrain from saying that I am crocheting homicidal vegetables donning big bloodshot eyeballs with their $46 a hank fiber and instead reply, scarf. Monosyllabic answers are sometimes best.
I will just leave them wondering whether I am using *gasp* that "cross-over" craft crochet to make the scarf or their beloved knitting. And I will dream of days gone-by where yarn was a lot less expensive and machine-washable, where you could use whatever kind of yarn you wanted to make whatever kind of item you could dream up without derision. I will dream of days past where yarn stores were populated by wrinkle-queens and where the yarn smelled a little like nicotine. I will dream of those days gone-by where yarn was simply yarn, not knitting fiber or some other namesake. I will remember that what I have made has merit whether made by hook, needle or shuttle. I will embrace those days of yesteryear where we who knit, crochet, sew, weave, felt, needlepoint, embroider were of one tribe, with differing backgrounds, differing paths who came together at our local Super Yarn Mart to feel-up the acrylic and we loved it.