Monday, January 29, 2007

Hip, my ass.

...or something like that.

I've had two people mention this to me in as many days, so it looks like it's time for another long, rambling blog post that solves nothing!

To wit, the problem of all these 'it's so hip to knit' books.

There appears to be a growing backlash, and I, for one, couldn't be happier. A quick search of Amazon has turned up no less than NINE knitting books with 'hip' in the title, including "Funky Knits, knitting know-how for hip young things" which makes me wish for a sharpened pencil and a publisher's back to bury it in. Plus there's a further slew of knitting books all trying to tell me it's a great and fascinating craft that is 'not my grandmother's' knitting. (And, incidentally, I want one of these - anybody got $500 and an extra room to add to my house?)

Since when is a thousand-year-old craft used to make socks and underwear HIP, and why in hell does it want to be? AND WHAT'S WRONG WITH GRANDMA'S KNITTING?

I know, I know. It's marketing. But you know what? It's fucking annoying.

Since seeing the horrifying list of hip knit books on Amazon, I've been sitting here trying to think of anything I've ever knit that could qualify as 'hip'. Let's see: a boat load of lace... no.... a lot of traditional sweaters... no.... some felted containers...? Probably not. I think the closest I ever got to hip was the twelve-color Starry Night ruana thingie, and since it's rather a classic design I doubt it qualifies as hip either.

What really gets me in all this is, by denying knitting's everydayness, it's blue-collar history as well as it's high-end trade good moments, they're ignoring what has made knitting great. The workaday wool jumpers that keep fishermen warm in cold weather to this day, the glorious silk nightshirts of royalty, the ladies' stockings at 25 stitches to the inch, all that skill, all that potential for usefulness and stylishness TODAY, all reduced to a dorky TV show and a bunch of books with fun-fur scarves.

Ah well, a lot of us know the truth and I have a feeling we'll win through in the end.


debsnm said...

This is the second time I can remember knitting being "hip" (OK, last time it was "cool") - this, too shall pass, and could be a very good reason why all the VK patterns are so strange.

Bells said...


It's the same reason i get really annoyed when yet another person seeing me knitting says, 'oh it's so trendy now. Good for you.'

When I picked up my needles for the first time in years in 2004, it wasn't with any sense of being 'hip' - a word I loathe anyway. It was because I wanted to. Then, after a while, i figured out lots of other people were doing it (and many were making dumb stuff, too, just quietly).

I for one am in for the long haul and will enjoy the process and the learning whether it's hip or not.

Sheepish Annie said...

I love the idea of knitting being something other than matronly. But I'm finding that much of that which is considered "hip" knitting is really just a lot of bulky yarn and garter stitch. Nothing wrong with that...I'm just not seeing the hipness of it all.

April said...

If I'm doin' it, trust me, it ain't hip.

Lee said...

Isn't there room in knitting for "hip"? There is room for cables and fair isle and intarsia and mosaic and lace and mitered squares and dishclothes and scarves and hats and mittens and pullovers and cardigans and shawls and socks...If "hip" is a way to bring new people into knitting I say, "Go for it." Many of these hipsters will not stay once knitting is, inevitably, uncool but some will. We always need new knitters and I'll take them anyway I can get them. It's not like this is some kind of special club that only the unhip get to belong to.

Teresa said...

THANK you!
As a sixteen-year-old knitting since age six when I learned at my mother's knee, I saw quite a lot of my peers crank out some eyelash scarves a few years ago. (I admit to one fun-fur monstrosity that seemed "fun" at the time but wasn't.) But ultimately, it's a fad and like everything, only the people who really want to keep knitting, in hipness and otherwise, (yay bells) will do it.

Catie said...

I've always been interested in knitting because my mom knits but I think that the boom in knitting really showed me how much there is out there in terms of patterns. And that in turn got me even more interested. I will say that it is a rare occurance for a "hip" book to look interesting to me though.

Bells said...

I'm one of the people who mentioned this hip thing to Julie a few days ago. I'd been in Borders looking at all the knitting books that were full of big, chunky, easy 'hip' knits.

I'm not into them. I wanted books I could sink my teeth into. I think that's part of the problem. with so many 'big, easy knits' on the market, those of us who like a little more meat in our diets are not well catered for.

Sure, the funky books will get the new ones in, some will even stay but can't we appeal to new, or even just inexperienced knitters, with something that isn't quite so novel?

No, it's not a club, but it's about the craft, isn't it? Any new knitters I've had any contact with in the last couple of years, I've steered them away from chunky, novelty yarns (because they're not actually that easy to knit with) and I've shown them basic, pure wool with medium sized needles so they can actually see the stitches they're making.

I think you can appeal to young and new knitters without being silly!

Jilly Bean said...

I find I grow really tired of the "not your mother/grandmother's knitting" cliches as well.

First off, neither my mom nor my grandmother knit. In fact they have been trying to figure out where this whole "make stuff" gene I have came from, because I certainly didn't get it from either of them.

Second, what the hell is so wrong with tradition? It's possible to do something in a different way while still respecting where it came from! As it is, what exactly is so different about the same novelty-yarn scarves that people have been making for the last five years?

I really like that some of these books are urging new knitters to branch out and customize their knitting, but that's pretty much the same thing Elizabeth Zimmerman was telling people years ago.

I guess these things just go in cycles, and those of us that knit for a reason other than it being fashionable can do nothing but laugh as the trends go by.

Terby said...

I'm tired of hipness, and am far from hip myself. I am a newer knitter, and I got sick of chunky very quickly on (and became obsessed with socks). However, I have to defend one book though - Hip to Knit was a great introduction to knitting book done by Interweave. It had only a few really silly things in it, not all chunky crap, and didn't talk down to newbies like me. I'd toss many of the books in my library, but that one is actually a worthwhile beginner level book, in my opinion.

Rae said...

Here here!!

k. said...

Delurking to say:

1. Yes! Indeed!;
2. welcome to the wonderful world of book marketing; and
3. even the target audiences of these books (new knitters, teenagers, etc.) will only buy one or two at most.

The teens I know who knit have one "hip" knitting book that they make one design out of and then chuck when they want to start making sweaters like the ones they can get at the Garment Purveyor of the Day (A&F, Old Navy, what have you). Which only goes to show that book marketers need to get a better handle on their target readership. Really, you expect image-conscious teenagers to wear scarves that 9-y-o girls rave about?

If publishers were smart, they would start applying "hip" to Elizabeth Zimmerman.

GrillTech said...

Actually I would have to say that the "felted" containers would be pretty "hip". Relax and enjoy the resurgence of knitting. I grew up watching my grandmother knit and not thinking much of it. Now that KnitTech is addicted I enjoy watching her knit and proudly wear anything she knits me. Even when its "hip".

Mary Lynn said...

"starry night ruana thingy" . . . where??? I've been wanting to make a ruana but have yet to find a pattern that I liked.

Love your blog . . . had to wipe the computer screen from the spray of laughter . . . I'm a sloppy reader.

Your daughter is beautiful . . . I wish my kiddos were that young still (or again).

Mary Lynn said...

By the way, I've knit since I was eight . . . and I am WAY PASSED EIGHT . . . it is amazing to me the number of people who have just started noticing. Duh.

Amy Lane said...

"Hip, my ass..." Or, "Hip AS my big ol' ass..." I'm so with you...trying to convince kids that they don't know EVERYTHING is hard enough without even knitting books insisting that, with big needles and garter stitch, they absolutely do...

Lisa said...

Is it also hip to knit while watching a PBS documentary about polar bears? 'Cause that's what this "hipster" was doing last night. Woo Hoo! I'm crazy with the hipness.

Bronwyn said...

I've got a love-hate relationship with the "hip" thing. I love traditional knitting and I love a lot of the new "hip" stuff- to me its the difference between it looking classy and it looking "Kountry Kraft Korner."

I like the innovation that comes with some of the "hip" knitting, but at the same time nothing tickles me more than a richly cabled sweater.

Raychill Canuck said...

Thank-you. I have to suppress a unholy desire to smack the next person who says "not your Grandma's xxxx" as in that wasn't good. I have some fab doilies my Grandma crocheted for. Not to mentiong some cool canning jar ring coasters. Part of the reason I took knitting and crochet lessons was because Grandma wasn't responding to subtle hints to make me the cool stuff I was finding. Not to mention, she doesn't like knitting socks and I love them.

I'm not saying Grandma is totally cool etc., (neither am I for that matter) but neither will the snot that said "not your Grandma's..." when she is 75.