Sunday, November 2, 2008

dirty little secrets

I have a confession to make. I don't really like knitting in public.

Sometimes when I go to stitch and bitch I am faintly embarrassed by the sheer size of the group, overtaking the whole bar, sometimes up to 50 of us pulling chairs up in a long snakey evergrowing line. I get self-conscious about the funny looks we get from people (and we get a lot of those). Sometimes we get openly laughed at.

I certainly don't knit much in front of my family (I don't mean husband and children, but my mother and sister specifically). When my mother saw the cricket vest she said 'is that what all the wives are doing is it? Making the husband's cricket vests'.

Of course the implication was that what I was doing wasn't special or important. I've tried to knit her a few wide lace scarves over the years, she nonchalantly gives them to her friends over cappuccino when they comment on how nice they are. "Oh this old thing! Have it! Ailsa churns them out like nothing. That's all she does. Knit, knit, knit. Quite mad really." Everything else I knit is declared 'repulsive colour' or 'makes you look fat'.

So, aside from a cashmere koolhass I made for a work colleague (in payment he brought me back a $1 chip from Las Vegas, which might come in handy if the dollar gets any worse), and the scarves I mentioned earlier, I've never actually knit a garment for anyone else. I write this in response to comments on my previous post who were suprised by this. Truth is, I don't know anyone who'd appreciate it, or wear it.

It's not like I'm completely selfish, although with the knitting, it's largely a solitary pursuit for me, save a precious few people I know who knit and of course, the internet.

To be honest, I don't really think knitting has really had much of a renaissance in mainstream society in Australia as I hear it has in the US. There was a flurry of feathers scarves a few years back, but I really don't know if the craft itself has really undergone much change. I know ravelry is big, but 5000 Australian knitters have joined the Australian Knitters group, it's not like we're about to take over the world, is it? I think the vast majority of Australian knitters are still the ones knitting the baby clothes in baby wool - be they mothers or grandmothers.

In Bendigo earlier this year, I was talking to a lovely woman from a local weaving company about the absence of Bendigo Woollen Mills as a sponsor and participant in the Sheep and Wool Show. I found it extremely insulting of BWM to 'ride on the sheep's back' without actually having to support the event financially. Guaranteed, every bus load of visitors to the Sheep and Wool Show went on a side trip to BWM. I bet it's their busiest weekend of the year. And yet, they don't feel any obligation to return anything to the community event by supporting it?

But who cares really, as my weaving friend pointed out, all their customers will be dead in ten years. Then where are they going to be? I found that quite a confronting opinion, and quite thought provoking too.

Hmm, I'm a bit introspective today, must be the lace..

And, speaking of dirty little secrets, don't say I never give you anything.


Bells said...

Yes, I was rather surprised by the non-knitting for others. I didn't automatically think it was because you were selfish, just so you know. I was just surprised and left it at that. No value judgment.

Renaissance or not, I don't care. I love what i do and it gives me a lot of fulfillment. On some levels it replaces babies and other stuff that I've lost or wanted but not gained. But mostly I just enjoy it. And knitting in public for me isn't about doing it in public so much as just making the most of times when I'm sitting still and could be working on stuff and being productive.

Strange about BWM. I did not know that.

The Scarlet Tree said...

Oh Man, don't I feel like a beastly friend. I hassled you about the vest the other day at SnB!!! Seriously! And by the way Johnny thought it was really cool. That is saying a lot coming from him, he really has as much interest in knitting as I have in soccer. But as far as knitting in public goes, I really have no regard for the stares or comments but I do sometimes feel the akwardness of knitting at the Novotel with such a big group of women. They must hate it. I have been felling more and more uncomfortable about that over the months. We should really leave the chairs as they are and sit in smaller more appropriate groups around the room. Or change venues...what you all think?

2paw said...

I thought it was strange that you hadn't knitted a garment. I do know lots of people who only knit scarves (MrsDrWho) eg. I always wanted to sew cute things for my niece, but my sister thinks handmade things are not as nice as bought ones. I had to find pseudo-nieces!!!Oh thank you for the wondrous gift!!!! Too many things to look at now, but I shall savour them later on!!!

knitabulous said...

And 2paw - I got your lovely bag too! It is so cute and flowery, I will be placing my next sock wip in it very soon!

PinkPorcupine said...

I'm in the same boat as you - my mother thinks I should drop all personal pursuits and take my family as my sole job and enjoyment. However, my father actually requests and uses knitted items from me. He and my two year old are the only non-knitters I will make anything for. Sometimes I feel like a selfish knitter, but then I remember how much goes into the finished item and I remind myself that no-one can appreciate it more than I can.
Also? I just smile to myself when I hear people complaining about not being productive (waiting in queue, or at the doctor's, etc) while I knit away. I'll have a sock or scarf or what have you at the end of all my waiting...what will they have?

Rose Red said...

Perhaps if Bendigo advertised more, all their customers wouldn't be dead in 10 years...

I love knitting. I love it at home, I love it in public. I don't care what other people think, I honestly don't. I don't mind if they stare or ask questions (although sometimes my natural reaction is embarrassment but then I ask myself why I feel that way).

I think you are probably right though, I'm not sure there is a renaissance in Australia, as much as we might like to think there is! Interesting post, thanks Ailsa.

M-H said...

Interesting post Ailsa. As far as whether people stare or laugh, I don't really care. But I've never been to a really big event like the 'gong one. I can see why that might not be comfortable. At SSK we are fairly hidden away. I've never seen people laughing at us - well, it is Newtown after all. :) And I agree about the small number of knitters in Aus - it's what makes our connections all the ore precious. But in fact, I wonder if there really are that many knitters in the US - head for head it's probably still only a tiny minority.

I knit for my daughter and granddaughters. My daughter knits (and spins) but I like knitting for them anyway - and she can't keep up with their demands on her own! I also knit for my son in London and his partner. I recently made my son his first pair of socks and he is amazed at the comfort of them. He said that he thought that millionaires probably wear socks like that. He'll be getting an other pair. Or two.

Kuka said...

I'm too shocked about your mum's attitude to your knitting to even comment! =)

Michelle said...

to the contrary, i actually like knitting in the public. maybe i wanted to "tell the world" that knitting is not only done by grandmas!! haha.

as for knitting for others, i think i'd only knit for those who actually appreciates hand knitted items. luckily for me, my mum knits so the one and only item i've knitted for her is the entrelac stole and i'm glad to loves it :)

Leeanne said...

I have also noticed the looks we get from people at the Novotel. Maybe we could try to organise a room, even if we have to put in a dollar or two, it'd be more personal and we could talk easier instead of struggling to hear each other.

I wouldnt care what your relos think of your knitting. Your husband's vest is amazing and Im not saying that to make you feel good. Its the truth. Maybe instead of gifting them one of your knitted items, go to a $2 shop and get them something really tacky then maybe they'll appreciate the hard work you do.

LynS said...

Ailsa, I found your post so sad...I can't understand how people wouldn't appreciate your so-beautiful knitting - particularly your shawls, of which we know you can't have too many!

I'm not sure how I'd feel about knitting regularly with 50 others in a public place - I found it fun on WWKIP Day, but as Mary-Helen, said, knitting in smaller groups in Newtown is quite a different matter.

I've really enjoyed getting to know knitters over the last 18 months or so. They provide diverse friendships and networks that I never anticipated I'd enter at this stage of my life. But I am fortunate in that my family so far have liked the things I've knitted for them (or at least say they do and are wearing them when I see them)

I love seeing the things you make on Ravelry. They give me great pleasure.

Michelle said...

Your mother sounds like a complete goose. I wouldn't listen to her. I can share my mum with you if you like - she's awesome and crafts just for the hell of it.

But you feel how you feel about public knitting, and you shouldn't let anyone poo-poo your feelings on that.

Lien said...

Just reading through your older posts and thought I'd comment twice!! Welcome to my family!! I don't knit for them anymore because its totally unappreciated. Your mother and my mother must have met in another life. She says the exact same thing to me - Lien just knits, knits, knits.