The upsurge in the popularity of knitting in the past half-dozen years or so, coupled with the Internet, has been a mixed blessing to me. Browsing the online knitting world, I am continually reminded that there are all kinds of knitters, many of whom I probably have little or nothing in common with.
It took me a while to figure out why "knitting" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. "Knitting" is really a medium, like "painting". Within each of those media, there is a truly breathtaking variety of scope. For example, in painting, there are:
- those who paint in acrylic, and those who paint in oils;
- those who paint the cathedral at Rouen, and those who paint "Dogs Playing Poker";
- those who paint portraits on canvas, and those who paint siding on houses.
As well, I imagine there are
- those who swear by Brand A of paint, and those who think Brand A is complete crap.
Sounds like knitting, huh?
I do have strong personal opinions on the subject of knitting, so I used to get far too annoyed at the oddball "stuff" some people insist on knitting. I mean, this is KNITTING we are talking about, which is practically a religion for me. But having had the above revelation, I now am secure in knowing that My Idea of Knitting is, well, mine, and no one can take that away from me – no matter what bizarre, unattractive items they may be knitting for themselves.
So, I no longer get myself in such a tizzy – though I cannot repress a delicate shudder — when I see that there is a brand new book out on knitted toilet paper covers. (For those of you who must… click here to see it on amazon.com: Toilet Roll Covers .)
I mean, honestly, isn't this kind of thing best left to crochet?
OK, OK. That was either a joke, or just one person's
lousy humble opinion, depending on whether you found it funny or annoying. Take your pick.
But, it probably behooves a knitter to figure out where she stands in the knitting world, if for no other reason than it will save her a lot of time.
What kinds of knitters are there? A lot of times you see debate about product vs process knitters: those who knit to produce an end result, and those who simply enjoy the act of knitting and don't care if they ever produce anything. I suppose you could consider yourself to be squarely in one camp or the other – if I had to choose, I'd have to be a product knitter — but if you held a gun to my head and forced me to knit a TP cover, I still don't think I'd be all jazzed about the product.
In my experience, the product vs. process thing really comes more into play during project selection, as opposed to the actual knitting. For example, I will never choose to knit a project based solely on the "yummy yarn". Fabulous fiber or no, it's still got to be something I want to make. That TP cover could be in beautiful pink MOHAIR, with sequins and marabou, and you'd still have to hold that gun to my head to make me knit it.
So forget process and product. As politically un-correct as it may be, here are some of the categories I've mentally compiled –
Craft Knitting: knitting a decorative knick-knack, or an entirely impractical object — mostly product-related. The aforementioned TP covers fall into this category, as well as cupcakes, and any item that would be at home in a publication with the word "bazaar" in the title. Often these are short-lived and look pretty funny just a few years down the road. Of course, the incomparable Stitchy McYarnpants has some great ones in her Museum of Kitschy Stitches – here's a fave.
Art Knitting: knitting to express an emotion or to make a statement — often process-related. A good example of this would be the knitted Ferrari. Another would be the woman who is knitting a big
nothing piece of knitting, in order to show us what a lifetime of knitting looks like. I think I saw this article in an Interweave Knits, probably within the last year or two, but I can't remember exactly and can't find it with Google. (If anyone else remembers this, please enlighten us all.)
Admittedly, the line between these two categories is a little blurred, but I think in order to make it into the second category, it has to look like it took a lot of time to do.
Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should: here is where I put the knitted digestive system, the knitted uterus, and the knitted dissected frog that I've only heard about. You can Google that one yourself, because I had enough trouble dealing with the actual frog in junior high, and I'm not going looking for it. I suppose these things could be considered Art Knitting, but I don't.
What these all have in common is, these kinds of knitting are relatively new. Leaving aside such wild and crazy stuff, there is the kind of knitting that most knitters do, and that most knitters have done throughout the ages. What do we call that? My first thought is Garment Knitting, because for me it is and always has been all about the clothes. But that doesn't include socks, scarves, bags, hats, gloves, throws, and the like: Classic Knitting.
Historically, knitters knit because they had to, in order to have something to wear. This is what knitting has been used for throughout centuries: clothing the human body, usually for warmth. Before now, knitting has always had a use, a practical aspect, which is probably one of the things I love about it. It wasn't something anyone did solely for fun.
In fact, this aspect of "usefulness" or "utility" is the reason you can't copyright, say, a sock: even if you have come up with a completely revolutionary way to make said sock. All you can copyright is your presentation of the instructions to make said sock. Works of art can be copyrighted, but not socks. Because socks are considered to be practical, not works of art.
However, the concept of "utility" doesn't rule out the idea of taking something that you have to do anyway, and doing it with style: For example, Middle Eastern and Estonian knitters throughout history have made useful socks that are also works of art, even though their knitting time was limited — of course, they generally knit these items for special occasions such as weddings.
Our generation is one of the first to be able to treat knitting as a creative art form, as opposed to a practical craft of necessity.
While I'm never going to spend a single minute of my time knitting a Ferrari or a uterus: just think about that for a minute, and think about how lucky we are!