Ravellings · Seen in the wild

“Hell of handicrafts”? Really? I mean… really?

Oh, Alex. You’ve gone and gotten the knitters’ backs up now. Again. So here we are, looking like a bunch of humourless harridans for taking offence at such a lighthearted piece; and fair enough, joke’s a joke. It’s a funny article. Really it is. I laughed, especially at your 10 rules. But it also made me cross, in ways that were just so completely unnecessary.

Not liking crafts is fine. Frankly I’m not a big fan of Crafts myself. (What? I’m not! I love knitting. Crochet is great. I have nothing but admiration for lacemakers, embroiders, and dressmakers of all kinds. All crafts, obviously. And anybody who enjoys doing pottery, bookbinding, beading, mosaic or any kind of craft at all, well, more power to ’em, and I will happily browse Etsy for your fine products. But the idea of Doing Crafts – rather than pursuing any specific interest – still sets my teeth on edge.) But why on earth did you have to be so insulting toward those of us who like to make things? It’s not just lack of clue. It’s breathtaking lack of logic and consistency.

I used to work with you. So my first reaction on reading this was: “Damn, I wish I’d had a chance to convince you that knitting doesn’t mean living a Fifties housewife existence.” But, hang on, you already have crafters in your close circle, whose crafts you admire. So it’s not that you haven’t had a chance to see that a person can whip up a beautiful lace scarf and still, say, hold down a job. Given that, how to explain statements like this:

“Luckily, I already have a scarf. I bought it with money I had earned by going to work instead of staying at home and making things.”

What on earth makes you imagine that crafting and careers are mutually exclusive? You do understand the concept of hobbies, as something that happens in one’s spare time, right?

Right! Because, Alex, you say your hobbies involve TV, and the pub, and football. Fine. Nothing against the couch potato bit, I love some telly myself, though I’d hesitate to glorify such a passive endeavour with the name of “hobby”, but whatever. You know knitting* has been known to happen in combination with all those things? True! Well, maybe not the football part… though in the US, baseball fans certainly get their Stitch ‘n Pitch on, and what a fine idea that is. Presumably you also enjoy more intellectual pursuits; you are after all the books editor, and suggest reading Hegel as a more worthy alternative to embroidery. Again, and as commenters have pointed out, it is quite possible to do both; and again, that should be obvious, unless you’ve found it impossible to read a book since buying a telly.

As it happens, knitting can also sometimes be combined with work. Ask Rachael Herron of Yarnagogo, who works as a 911 dispatcher;** she and many of her colleagues knit on shift. I’ve been known to knit at work myself. Not to mention knitting on the train or bus to work. So, knitters can and do do all the things you do – for money, for fun – but in addition and maybe even at the same time we create beautiful things. Things you admire. Things you can’t make for yourself. I don’t mean to make you feel inadequate, you poor hamfisted thing, but maybe lose that condescending tone? Hm?

And speaking of condescending tones.

…there are my ideological objections: not to genuine crafters such as Maggie, or another friend who has always made and decorated cakes and is irked beyond endurance by the current fad for home baking…

What the friendly fuck, Alex? What the fuck? What on earth is a “genuine crafter”? And what on earth is there to object to in seeing other people take up one’s own hobby? I gotta tell you, I’ve been knitting and crocheting for twentymumble years, and I’m nothing but delighted by the “fad” for knitting. More crafters = bigger market = more resources = more crafters = more friends who share my interests. It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. Sure, some of these new knitters may develop a lifelong passion while others just footle around for a while and then move on to something else. So what? How does this threaten me? Does your baking friend perhaps need some quality time with her therapist, or would a heart to heart with her evidently neglectful or unreasonably demanding mother do the trick? I’m baffled. Baffled.

I know that this suspicion of the “fad” for what might be seen as domestic arts is perhaps not entirely unfounded; or at least, it’s an interesting and complex subject, encompassing a whole slew of questions revolving around feminism, class and socio-economic pressures. As it happens, the subject was discussed extensively and insightfully in the notorious “pinny porn” thread on Ravelry, some years back. Do you know about Ravelry? It’s a social network (and much more than that) for knitters and crocheters. Actually, I’d say it’s the best social network on the web, partly because the standard of discourse is so high. With subgroups on anything you can think of, plus plenty of general interest conversations, it’s my first port of call whether I’m looking for help with computing or parenting – knowing my questions will be met with more comprehensive, intelligent and courteous replies than I could expect anywhere else. Incidentally, it also has an excellent feminist group.

What I’m saying, Alex, is that – in my fairly extensive experience, as a lifetime knitter and one who has spent five years running a shop for knitters – crafters don’t really fit the picture you seem to have of them. We’re not obsessed with reliving the austerity years. (Seriously. Especially those of us who’ve been known to pay £40 for a skein of handpainted, beaded cashmere. Cashmere we bought with money we earned by going to work instead of staying home and making stew… not to belabour a point.) We’re not desperately seeking out obscure and random items of home decor to embellish. We’re certainly not tucked on the sofa all day and all night, with needles in hand but without benefit of books, TV or friends. Not to put too fine a point on it, we have lives. And – honestly – we do also have a sense of humour. It’s just that there have been a few too many jokes at our expense. So next time, maybe you could try a little harder to be funny without being a total idiot? Please?

‘Preciate it.


* For simplicity’s sake, and because I know the knitting world better than that of any other craft, I’m using this word. It should be taken as read that I am including other crafts.

** And writes books, by the way. Two novels and one memoir published so far. So, one gruelling day (and night) job, one famously difficult sideline, and knitting isn’t even her only hobby – she plays the ukulele, too. Yeah, you’re right. Crafters really are a bunch of saddos with too much time on their hands.

8 thoughts on ““Hell of handicrafts”? Really? I mean… really?

  1. Well said! I’m tired of people asking with incredulity “but why knit when you can buy xyz in the shops?!”

    I need to get a tshirt that says “Yes, I’m knitting. No, it’s not only for grannies. Now fuck off.”

  2. I think the whole point of this article boils down to a single quote:

    “There’s nothing like feeling left out of something you didn’t want to do in the first place.”

    So don’t bloody do it. The end.

    But I guess that wouldn’t have made her word count for the column.

  3. Honestly, I can’t find it in me to get angry about the piece as a whole. I get the concept (“Try out stuff you aren’t interested in from all these incomprehensibly popular books! Be funny!”) and a lot of it *was* funny. If only the random and frankly stupid insults hadn’t come into it.

  4. These sorts of articles don’t bother me much – it was clearly meant to be funny and bits of it were.

    I never expect people who don’t share my interests to get them – just as I don’t get golf, or fishing or trainspotting. And I’m sure in any attempt I made to talk about golf (fishing or trainspotting) and why it isn’t for me I would end up insulting golfers (fishermen or trainspotters) and displaying my ignorance!

    1. But I’m thinking you probably wouldn’t say flat out that you don’t fish because luckily, you go out to work *instead of fishing* so you can buy your own supper. I’ve never heard anybody say that. Similarly, insults that are handed out to golfers and trainspotters (of which there are plenty!) tend not to imply that this one thing is all they do, even to the exclusion of earning a living.

      It’s a very sexist attitude that comes out in these anti-craft arguments, and maybe that’s why I resent it so much. If a woman crafts (and while crafters of course aren’t all women, those described in print certainly are), the assumption is, she is not only rather weird and surely a burden to all her friends and relatives, dispensing as she must the lopsided fruits of her hamfisted labours every Christmas (it’s always assumed that crafters aren’t very good at their actual crafting, despite spending apparently their entire lives at it), she is also setting feminism back half a century at least. Because women clearly aren’t capable of having a hobby *and* a job. Or of knitting scarves for ourselves, for fun, without having the slightest interest in darning our husbands’ socks. That’s the bit that drives me crazy.

      1. True – I wouldn’t imply this was all they did – and in reality I’m a live and let live hobbyist. I know from experience I could never explain to anyone who wasn’t interested in knitting why they should be so I don’t ask golfers, fishermen and trainspotters to explain their interest to me!

        It this was a serious article the points you raised would DEFINITELY annoy me big time. Maybe I was just in a generous mood when I read the article and decided it was sloppy but harmless.

        (And the whole knitting as a ‘cost cutting’ thing is always good for a laugh. When that comes out I know the author knows nothing about the topic!)

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