Wednesday, October 30, 2002

It was Elvis morning at my coffee house, a place notorious for its eclectic music offerings. Throughout the morning we were treated to samplings from The King's entire career. By the time I left, the poor fellow had entered his final stage of bloat and sweat.

While I sat, hunkered over a pile of geek research for an upcoming writing project, I was actually doing something far more interesting: Being nosy.

Over the course of two hours I heard a man who felt tied down and suffocated by his marriage, a lonely California transplant who was having a hard time making friends, a goldsmith who was doing extremely well on his new antidepressant, an African-American woman who was used to having at least three or four boyfriend prospects in New York but could barely find one here (Maine is not known as a hotbed of diversity), and a woman who'd had her tubes tied at 22 because her then-husband was abusive but had the operation reversed at age 34 and had a son (who isn't doing well in school, fyi).

I also learned that the Pickwick Arms is a good choice if you can't find a hotel room in New York. Hey, you never know when this stuff could come in handy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

fall view
And from Clara's real window, we see...

Sunday, October 27, 2002

What a relief to know I'm not alone in my worries - your replies have been amazing. I feel tremendously reassured that there's still a strong and intelligent core that won't fray no matter what ridiculousnesses happen.

The common view seems to be that the media is the prime culprit. That is, they seized upon the knitting fad and are exploiting it until the very last drop has been squeezed out. To quote one of you (name withheld to protect the marvelously guilty), "Getting the print mags this past year has been like opening
up the fridge and finding just an old cold bowl of couscous and a hunk of week old roast beef."

At least we seem to have seen the last of the "Knitting is Hot on College Campuses!" articles (is it me or did every mag have an article on this topic?) as well as the "Knitting Relaxes You" articles (ditto, although I think the mags ran at least two of these before giving it up). I guess it's useful for people trying to decide between knitting and pilates for their new relaxation regimen.

Another of you - fella, you know who you are! - works in a busy knitting shop and remarked that most new customers only want quick, cast-on-this-morning-wear-it-tonight projects.

I'd like to think we're finally getting over our need for super-quick, super-easy, super-bulky projects and are ready to return to the realm of the more challenging. Fast projects offer a different kind of reward than the ones you've painstakingly worked on for possibly months and months.

Mind you, I'm one of the most impatient people on the planet. And yet recently I've started to eye fine shawl patterns that would normally give me a terrible headache just reading. Who knows, I might be ready to consider my lifelong dream of knitting Sarah Swett's Kestrals Alight Cropped Kimono from Knitting in America. (At 8 stitches to the inch, I could possibly be done before, oh, Christmas 2009?)

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?

Thursday, October 10, 2002

adorable CaseyThis is what Casey does when I'm hard at work on the newsletter. If you ever wondered why it's occasionally a bit late, here's your answer.

Monday, October 7, 2002

Clara's adventures in loomitude continue. I'm almost finished with the first weaving exercise in Deborah Chandler's fantastic book, Learning to Weave. As I sit on my chair (ridiculously ill-suited for weaving) and throw the shuttle back and forth, visions of grandeur fill my head.

Ah, the exquisite throws I'll create! Placemats and runners for everyone this Christmas! How they'll be in awe of my talents! I'll make my own curtain fabric and bedspreads and fine linen pillowcases and I'll even raise sheep for wool and feed myself exclusively from my garden and churn my own butter and chop my own firewood and learn to make scented candles from berries and... and...
Clara's first weaving sample
A sudden realization interrupts my reverie. "Hey wait a minute," I ask myself, "why are these rows crooked?"

Aaaaaah phooey.

In other news, on Friday I learned that Halcyon Yarn wants to carry my KR notecards and the Year in Yarn calendar. Halcyon is one of my very favorite places on earth, so needless to say this news is deeply gratifying. Tomorrow I drive to the town of Bath and hand-deliver their order. Any kind of road trip that involves yarn is a good thing, don't you think?