Sunday, June 12, 2005

Knitting Yarn???

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 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.


MomThatsNuts said...

I have been crocheting since I was about 15 I cannot CANNOT seem to figure out knitting...hmmm I must not be HIP or COOL....its ok I will stick with my crocheting I like it...



Catana said...

Lovely rant. I know just how you feel. I suspect the real problem is that most young'uns these days haven't grown up learning all sorts of needlework and crafts. When they "discover" knitting or something else they can turn out in a hurry they think they've found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Life today doesn't offer much of a sense of accomplishment, and no matter how many missed stitches their scarf has or how crooked it is, there are loads of people who will ooh and aah. With so many ways to hype something, things get sort of out of balance, so knitting becomes the "in" thing, with its very own type of snobbery. Let them show off their $40.00 handmade scarves, you and I will still be doing a variety of crafts long after they've grown bored and gone on to the next fad.

LadyLinoleum said...

Oh Mom you are OH SO hip and cool! Don't you forget it!

And I agree with you Connie 100%, we were there B.F. (Before Fad) and will be there A.F. (After Fad) still makin' stuff and having a rip-roaring good time doin' it too.

Regarding the fad: I do think it's a good one though overall and I really hope that knitting (and the craft movement as a whole) are long-lived. Busy minds and hands are productive minds and hands! I know I stay out of trouble, well, sort of.

Deneen said...

I love reading your posts! My mother, who is only 18 years older than me, did nothing as far as crafts, so I am a first generation hooker. My great grandfather, did crochet doilies. He was a burly farmer and he did it to pass time in the winter. Yes, I have all of them and use them.

Knitters do tend to me more Hoity Toity about their craft and the yarns they use. I try to use natural fibers for clothes because it's what I choose when I buy clothng anyway. I do use acrylic for ponchos, etc.

I have recently acquired some very vintage yarn. In it are hanks (not skeins) of plymouth acrylic "knitting yarn"-how it's labeled. This stuff has the color and dye lot hand written on the label. I am also finding some skeins of "Sushi" yarn, from Lion that was their cotton blend yarn and similar to a cotton blend boucle and some other yarns long discontinued.

It's interesting to me to see the different labeling, packaging, etc.

I do find that knitters, the newly needle acquired ones, are very uppity about their art and talk about the $50 yarn like it's a common purchase. I can't do it and won't, never been one to run with the fad.

I'm off, I have some $8.00 ginormous ball of yarn waiting to be hooked and created!

Jessica said...

I just went to my LYS this weekend (a rare trip for me, since yeah, who can afford it?), and was reminded of this very thing. I mentioned I wanted a particular crochet pattern and you would have thought that I asked for a chicken to perform a sex act with. There was a long pause and then "Crochet"? [rolls eyes]

In their defense, they did actually have the pattern. But I would have done without the snottiness.

Ah well. Screw 'em. I enjoy crocheting and all my other crafts that fill my house. Do it yourself and you'll never be bored!

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I taught myself to knit, and desperately want to learn crochet. I have the books, but it hasn't clicked yet.

I wish I had taken advantage of my Grandmother's talents while I could. She was a master with the crochet hook.

My goal is to make the most hip granny square afghan the world has ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear. I still call it all 'yarn' although the old English term 'wool' sometimes slips out.
I linked to you from Naive Knitter's site, so hello. I just love your Chicken Nuggets (a few posts ago) and I'm so pleased I found your site. We keep hens and I'll wonder about their dress sense from now on.

LadyLinoleum said...

Okay Renee, "hillbilly knitting" is the term I am using from now on for what I (we) do! That is the bestest!

Anonymous said...

Hillbilly knitting! what a hoot. I too have crocheted forever but secretly lusted to learn to knit. Signed up for lessons and discovered I could teach myself since crocheting already taught me to read patterns, gauge (as if anyone checks it anyway), etc. Love your blog.

~drew emborsky~ said...

...amen sistah....

Anonymous said...

Ahhh..The Super Yarn Mart!!! My most favorite place on earth! I remember the one on Fairfax where the smoking ladies worked. I can still see the face of one of them....Black and grey Buster Brown hairdo, black rimmed eyeglasses, red lipstick and a cigarette hanging outta the side of her mouth. I think all of the ladies wore pink smocks too. Loved those free hand-drawn patterns and the dusty samples hugging the ceiling. I also frequented the Yarn Marts on Pico near 33rd St. (Santa Monica); the one on La Tijera in Ladera Heights (the last one to close on the westside), the store on Tampa in Tarzana and the one on Lake in Pasadena. My most favorite Yarn Mart was the discount factory store downtown on San Pedro near 15th. It was piled high with bargains. I still comb thrift shops and yard sales for yarn. When I see that distinctive pink Super Yarn Mart label, my heart skips a beat. I even have a collection of SYM shopping bags. None of today's LYS's or chain stores even come close to the Super Yarn Mart!

Rebecca said...

got my hands in the air wavin to your song - sing it sista!
hillbilly knitting - ha ha ha ha
an old crochet book i have refers to it as 'poor man's knit'

peeshaw! shame on them

sara said...

Hillbilly knitting? Oh that's rich! Love your blog and your VLA!

Contemporary Southwestern Artist said...

I've been trying to teach myself to knit for a week now. I get the cast on bit down. It's boring, but I managed to figure it out.

Then about 5 stitches into the first or second row I screw something up, and start wondering why in the hell am I screwing around with 2 hooks when 1 hook works just fine.

LadyLinoleum said...

We should start a Hillbilly Knitting webring. Now that would be funny!

Anonymous said...

You rock!

Amy O'Neill Houck said...

Great rant! I was taught to crochet (and sew, needlepoint, etc) by my Syrian grandmother (Sitto) when I was eight, and I thought and still think she was the coolest around. She never used anything other than worsted acrylic she bought at the Ben Franklin. She's 93 and doesn't crochet anymore, but her wild colored zigzag blankets are still my favorite treasures.

p.s. Count me in on the new Hillbilly Knitting cult.

Stephknits3 said...

Wow! I feel like we are kindred spirits except your creativity level amazes me! I have been crocheting and knitting for so long! My mom taught me crochet when I was 9 ( I'm now 34) it was so rare to find anyone who knew what I was even talking about. You are my new hero! Don't think I'm stalking you or anything but I would love to meet you and I hope our paths cross sometime! I live down in the LBC so who knows! Fo Knitting Hillbillies. I vote for a button creation! :)

Anonymous said...

AMEN!!! i've said the same thing myself..just not in so many! you're my hero!

Anonymous said...

ps..i'm 38 and i've been a hillbilly knitter since i was 10. I'll join the web ring!!

Kazen @ Always Doing said...

Love the rant! I totally agree. i saw the Stitch n' Bitch book at Border's and was like, "Where the crochet version?". My local knitting group seems to have an air of "Oh, we'll accept you crocheters, but only because we pity you." Sigh.

I've been crocheting ever since I can remember (I'm 22 now), taught by my grandmother. My other grandmother taught me how to knit and tat, and my mom taught me how to sew and cross stitch (does cross stitch really take that much thought?)... but crochet is my true love.

I think the knitters are just jealous that we can work something up so much faster than them. -_^

Anonymous said...

I am 29 and have been knitting for 4 years now, so am I part of the fad? My mother did not knit, my grandmother did not knit, so I did not have family to teach me how. Does that mean I should be left out? I was taking needlepoint lessons for a few years, when she started carrying yarn and taught me. Since then I am completedly addicted and it's all I ever want to do. I think many people are just discovering how great it can be, and yes I did make lots of scarves for the first year, but now I can make anything. I even dream of a career in the knitting world. There are those that do it because it is trendy, but then there are those that had no one to teach them and once they learned will stick to it.

LadyLinoleum said...

Agreed are part of the fiber-addicted...who are you? Where are you?

Anonymous said...

I'm Natalie and I don't have a blogger account, so no user name hence Anonymous. I live in the Los Angeles area and live in all the knitting shops.

Karla- Stitch and Bitch is coming out with Crochet, I saw it on overstock. I've never been into any of their patterns, but it will be interesting to see...

Anonymous said...

Now see 'hea! We hillbillies are just more crative than the others. Sure we is poo', but we is able to make anything we take a mind to!

See, when great-great-great-granny taught me t' knit a few years back, we's had two needles. But then danged ol' Billy Boy went fishin' with one an dun broke it.

I had to make ALL of d' stuff with just one stick. But Paw, bein' t' good hearted fella t'he is, saw just how much trouble I was having pullin' those threads through,an' he done struk up on an idear!!

He sat out on the porch that night, the crickets a chripin' away, makin' sweet music. Well now, Paw, he took out his whitlin' knife and commenced to cuttin out the end of my only good knittin' kneedle! For shame!

But I shouldn'ta thought so little of my Paw. Twasn't but a little while afore he handed me the goldangest thing I ever did see. He had carved out this little knitch in t' end o my kneedle so's I could pull the thread through easier!

So we can all thank my Paw for creatin' this Hillbilly Knitten!!

Anonymous said...

I also remember Super Yarn Mart fondly from years ago. We had one in Oxnard where I grew up and there was one in Salt Lake City when I got here in 1989. I remember about every August they would send out a coupon for 10% off your purchase and I would use that time to stock up. I did then and do now many types of needlework depending on what mood I'm in.
I also have a memory from about 5 years ago(before knitting became cool again). I was in a local craft store to get a new pair of needles to start a new project. As I was paying for them the young clerk said "I think it's so cute people still do knitting".

Anonymous said...

I have an old knitting machine. The label riveted to it says it is called a "Princess Kitty Weaver Machine Knitter by Super Yarn Mart". I loved that store. Wish it was still around. Remember how they used to hang crocheted or knitted samples on the wall with numbers on them and you could ask them for the patterns for free????
Do any of you have any of the old Super Yarn Mart patterns? I am in the Los Angeles area and I used to go to their stores in the San Fernando Valley. There was one on Lankershim just above Victory Blvd in North Hollywood and also one on Victory in Van Nuys. I went there when they were closing and bought one skein of each color of their Super Yarn Mart Acrylic Sayelle Yarn. I still have a few of them in my stash and treasure them. I use them sparingly because of the fond memories of those stores.

Anonymous said...

Yet another hillbilly knitter here! Thank you for giving words to what's been on my mind lately.

My granny taught me how to crochet over 25 years ago and it's my most wonderful memory of her. I crocheted a granny square blanket for my daughter when she was a wee one and she made sure to take it with her when she left for college two years ago. "A piece of Mommy's heart" is what she called it. Let the knitting snobs have their overpriced yarn. My daughter's feelings about her acrylic granny blanket are priceless to me.

I'm off to hillbilly knit my first acrylic boucle sweater (thanks to The Shrone) and if you want to put together a group of hillbilly knitters, count me in!

Anonymous said...

Oh SUPER YARN MART! I'm 42 and loved that place as a kid. I just ran a web search and on this blog.

for me it was just the place for kids who loved every color imaginable. I learned how to needlepoint from their kits. I bought my supplies for my daisy afghan during the summer of '76. Summer school at Hawthorne Intermediate: needlepoint and daisy afghans. What fun.

I'm primarily a quilter these days, but I keep a complete set of crochet hooks because every once in awhile, I need to do something different. I still have my small daisy loop that I bought at super yarn mart. My parents paid for supplies. I have some great crochety people in my family, some who are only within my heart and mind now.

I want to learn how to knit; I'm far from CA now. I found a wool shop in Fredericksburg, TX that teaches knitting lessons, one to one if wanted, schedule TBA. I can knit one and purl one...stockinette stitch. I made a scarf that way for my husband (he loved it, still has it) This is ok for cuffs, but beyond that, I'd need more help.

knitphomaniac said...

I learned how to knit - and like most other girls, picked up this hobby from my grandmother before I turned 10.

I think it's what you're first exposed to, either knitting or crocheting, that becomes your 'thing'.

I had abandoned knitting for over a decade, and didn't pick it up again until I was in my twenties, and when I did reteach myself, I also initiated learning how to crochet, which I'm now glad I can do both crafts.

Fad or not, I've always enjoyed being crafty, and love the idea of making my own clothes. I hope it's something that I can pass on to my own children, to appreciate the quality of handmade items. :)

Anonymous said...

Katri said...

I hear ya! I'm 24 and I've been doing embroidery needlework since I was 7, and I taught myself how to knit and crochet at age 12. I prefer quick and happy crochet any day to painfully slow knitting. Anyways, just wanted to let you know there were some of us "youngins" that remember the days of the acrylic yarn stores and cherished buying as much yarn as $10 could buy which was quite a lot and is now maybe 2 skeins.

Anonymous said...

I've been crocheting for over 40 years but could never knit. About 6 months ago I began having dreams of me knitting I bought a book and some needles and am in the process of teaching myself. I am able for the first time to knit something that matches the picture in the book. I guess sometimes you just have to wait until the time is right. I have also noticed the knitting snobs,but I hate to tell you ladies they have been around for a long time, at least in California.

Skeggjold said...

I'm a relatively new knitter I'm 19 and I've been knitting for going on 4 years now, and I am not part of the fad. I learned how to sew when I was probably around 10 and I learned how to crochet when I was in my early teens, I finally learned how to knit when I was in my junior year of high school because I do not like to crochet. I learned how to crochet first but I do not have a brain that works very well with crochet for some reason, it does not make sense to me as much as knitting does. I pretty much taught myself how to do both, and somehow knitting just clicks better for me.
I personally can be a total yarn snob, because honestly as lovely as cheap yarn is like say red heart I'd have to say that if I'm going to wear it, it better be darned soft or no deal. I've spent a lot of money on yarn but I can totally understand why you wouldn't want to spend 50 bucks on a little bit of nothing that won't make you anything, I'm always looking around for I guess I would be an exception to the new knitter fad. :-) So hopefully I may improve your opinion of my fellow knitters a little, we aren't all bad.

Honore said...

Hee! I'm not a crochet expert, but to rant about Fad Knitting...I just stumbled across your site by accident. It's funny, I'd say I'm A WASP-y Knitter (My mom taught me to knit, needlepoint, embroider, and sew the most complex things with the finest materials when I was just a tiny tot, about age five or six or so -- I'm 33 now -- and I taught myself a bit of crochet at the same time. Enough to get by, anyway.) Believe it or not, The Nouveau Yarn Snobs are just as snotty to Yankee WASP Knitters as to your "Hillbilly Knitters." My particular speciality is vintage patterns -- the 1920s through the early '60s. I've been collecting vintage yarn (mostly unearthed on --GASP! HORRORS!! -- ebay), notions, and pattern books (mostly only three companies...and orginal copies, not the photocopies/PDF files which cost more than The Real Deal...something else people sneer at. Why? Some people collect first edition volumes of Dickens, I collect first edition knitting pattern books.) I've done so for years and years, so as to have enough on hand to make truly authentic items. (Interesting things which take more than an, say, suits...dresses...etc.) Nearly all items of these eras call for the finest of fine yarns (both of quality and thinness...perhaps the equivalent of two or three strands of embroidery floss.)

Recently, even though I knew it would probably be futile, after years of searching on e-bay for the proper yarn for a '50s suit I'd like to make, I went on a search of a substitute yarn at a Very Large and Famous LYS (which shall remain nameless), with a sample of the sort of thing I was looking for and my pattern book in hand. (Both by the chic and inexplicably now-forgotten Pauline Denham.) Naturally, they didn't have anything suitable for anything to be worked on size 1 needles, or for such a project. Worse, ALL of the sales people -- including a woman who looked old enough to remember such things -- MADE FUN OF ME. AND my yarn (lovely wool, incidentally)...poking at it gingerly, like it was some filthy stuff, which might possibly have been laced with anthrax, or some such horror. They looked at me like I had two heads. They sneered. They jeered. The snickered. They stuck their noses in the air, and turned their backs, and walked away en masse, leaving me standing alone at the counter. I mean, I wasn't looking for anything cheapo, merely something that apparently is to be mocked these days. Excusez-moi for daring to make anything more challenging than garter-stitch scarves (or those ugly hats) with $50 "hanks of hand-painted fiber"! (hand-painted?) And, indeed, when did YARN or WOOL become "fiber"?

And don't even get me started on that self-patterning "fair isle" sock stuff. (variegated it may be, but fair isle it certainly ain't.) Or how no one knows to use the thin strengthening nylon-wool mix for heels and toes. Or how to make a proper sturdy heel and toe, for that matter.

And WHY does everyone fawn over The Yarn Harlot, Stitch & Bitch (PS: I'm not a prude, but what do such names say about these people and their cult-like flocks of fans?), bizzare projects on, Vickie Howell, etc, etc? And treat one if one isn't in a knitting group like you're the nerdy, unpopular kid with bad skin, who has to sit alone in the high school cafeteria day after day? Sorry, I like to do my needlework in peace and quiet. It's relaxing. Then, maybe that's because I need to concentrate on something more complex than garter stitch, with nary a decrease or increase or yarn over) on size 10 1/2 bamboo needles, which have been hand-carved and painted by monks in Tibet, or whatev. Good 'ol Susan Bates aluminum is just fine with me. Good enough for my WASP-y mother and WASP-y grandmother, good enough for me, I say.

So, although I'm young(ish), falling it the same age as the Nouveau Knitters, old-fashioned WASP-y Knitters are looked down upon as well. But I hold my head high! Bah, I say, BAH! WASP and Hillbilly Kniters Unite!

Gawd, how I could go on...sorry for babbling...I really ought to have posted this on my own blog.

Well. Off to be a freak, and work on my (un-"frogged") absurd suit from 1934 on the absurd tiny needles with the absurd tiny "fiber."

PS: Felting can See Me In Hell, too. What's so clever about throwing a dismantled sweater in hot water in the washing machine? I think that used to be called "accidently shrinking my sweater."
PPS: Even the supposedly vintage/historical knitting and yarn groups on Ravelry (with which I'm terribly disenchanted) simply don't get it. Sorry, but 1990 does not = "vintage"/"historical" I was ridiculed and chased off the boards. Blech.

Honore said...

PS: A quick question about this Yarn Mart (which I'm not familiar with)...did they sell overstock (or the like -- seconds, perhaps?) from other companies under their own label? I recently found some "Velveen" -- a yarn introduced by Minerva in 1933, and continued to be made for a short while after they merged with Columbia (circa 1952). "Velveen" isn't a generic type of yarn; it was a name made up for the particular variety (a novelty yarn) by appears to be identical to the original stuff in look, weight, texture, and fiber content, only repackaged with a Yarn Mart label, with a Los Angeles address. Judging from the design of the label, I'd estimate it to be from the '50s, perhaps early '60s. Anyone know? I'm perplexed.

LindaSchmidt said...

I see that you used a Princess Knitting Machine. We recently found one in my mother-in-laws garage. I am wanting to use it but we were not able to find an instructions or other parts. Can anyone help me in locating parts or instructions???