Monday, October 21, 2002

I finally visited the Border's at the oh-so-illustrious Bangor Mall this weekend. I must confess I was pleasantly surprised. It was far better than the one in Portland and closer to my memories of Berkeley bookstores. I went upstairs and discovered a thriving knitting section with the latest titles, many of which I hadn't yet seen.

Being the self-centered person that I am, I confess that my first act was to rifle through the new books' "online resources" chapters to see if KR had been mentioned. Of course, it hadn't.

Frustrated, I began leafing through the newest titles - sleek and colorful books promising simple, easy, fast, hip, contemporary knitting for cool people, not just those un-trendy folks who were knitting, oh, way back in the '90s. And I started to get nervous. I sense that we're at the verge of descending our mountain of popularity and returning to a place of semi-obscurity. But I fear that our recent pop status will tarnish the obscurity even more than it had been before, rather like quiche and rollerblading.

Most of these books were proposed at least six months ago when knitting was reaching its peak of coolness. After months of writing, production, publishing, and distribution, the books are now here but their impact seems already faded.

I wonder if those of us who've been knitters all our lives may not need to read another book promoting the positive qualities of knitting. We already know it. And even recent converts have also had their pick of books on this topic, not including this latest batch.

Don't get me wrong. I think it's extremely important for us to connect with the feelings, thoughts, sensations, and experiences we have when knitting. That's part of what makes this such a profoundly impactful pastime.

But I'm beginning to wonder if the market for knitting-makes-you-feel-good books and you-too-can-learn-to-knit-in-less-time-than-it-takes-to-get-laid-off-from-your-high-tech-job-thanks-to-these-easy-patterns books is now saturated. And if so, will book publishers be willing to venture into other areas of knitting, or will they simply abandon us altogether?

I don't know the answer. But I sometimes feel like a chef who keeps being sent articles about why the smell of apple pie makes people feel good. We know it. We feel it. We experience it. And it's a deeply personal thing that's almost impossible to describe in written words, or at least describe well.

How can we continue the dialogue and invite more knitters into the fold without becoming a cliche or alienating lifelong knitters? Again, I don't know.

I suspect we're a good enough bunch that we'll work it out, although increasing corporate encroachments do make me worry. A private investment company bought Patternworks and eKnitting simply to round out its portfolio and exploit a recession-resistant market (that's right, did you know we're part of a recession-resistant market?). The acquiring company appears too busy harvesting its fruits to do any noticeable long-term tending.

After the bloom fades and the work begins, I suppose we'll begin to see where things really stand. What do you think?

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