In case you've been living under a rock (or are outside North America, in which case you're entitled to a lack of interest), the Rhinebeck fiber festival was this weekend. It's one of the country's largest festivals, full of vendors and farmers and knitters and spinners and weavers and other textile-related craftspersons. It seems like half the knitters whose blogs I read, headed there to max out their credit cards and wear fancy sweaters and network and pack their car with all the yarn they can carry.
Several OTHER people on the internet have come out against this orgy of delight. The excess of a house full of yarn bothers them. Crafting in general and knitting in particular is thrifty, the thinking seems to go, and so spending big piles of money on yarn goes against the grain.
I've been brooding over that for most of the weekend, the idea of craft as thrift, and you know what? I think it's mostly crap. I can run out to Wal-Mart and pick up a sweater for ten dollars. There is no way I could possibly knit something that cheaply, unless I were to buy said ten dollar sweater, unravel it, and reknit it. And of course that doesn't factor in the time investment. (There are people out there who do this - buy sweaters, unravel them, and use the yarn in new projects. That IS thrifty. More power to them. But they are a very small percentage of knitters.) Sewers, yeah, if they're clever, they can save money on clothes by either re-working old clothes or hitting major fabric sales. Knitters? Not unless they're using acrylic. Maybe not even then.
There are other crafts, embroidery and painting and scrapbooking and quilting, and on and on and on. Sure, most of them started off as ways to save money (quilting in particular), but in practice, in 2007, that doesn't often happen. Most quilters these days go out and buy new fabric, they don't make up something from their old clothes or worn blankets. Embroidery and painting both cost money, and always have. Scrapbooking? I won't even get started. But it's a money pit.
This does not mean that we don't occasionally save money. I do these knit doilies as gifts because I can produce an heirloom for $5. But it still doesn't factor in the time it takes to knit the thing, and I will never make anything remotely like money off them. The Blue Shimmer, last summer, was knit with pure merino wool yarn I got at one cent per yard. It still cost me about forty dollars. While you'll never find a ten dollar sweater like it, you WILL find a ten dollar sweater that you could wear instead.
We do what we do, because we love to create. It's not to save money. It hasn't been about saving money since World War Two, at the latest. I think active minds have a need to create, almost up there with breathing. It's what humans do. For those of us who use yarn as our medium, to make our thoughts take form, it's no different for us to buy yarn, than for a painter to load up on paints and canvas, or a sculptor to have piles of material laying about. It's a comfort, to have it near to hand, to look at and brood over, to decide what we want to make with it, change our minds, and decide again.
Mind you, I don't actually have THAT much yarn piled up in my house; three sweaters' worth sitting about. If you take away all the odd balls left over from twenty years of knitting projects, that's about all there is. Just a small emergency pile. You know, in case I get the urge to cast on for the Geometric Star at three in the morning. (You never know.)
There's also the flip side of the economic issue - we may not be saving money, but we're keeping an awful lot of small farmers and artesians in business. This new knitting boom, in the last ten years, has sparked the start of an amazing number of businesses. And it's the stashers who keep it going as much as the more active knitters do.
So, while I may secretly think that people with whole rooms of fiber are just a little nuts, I don't see anything ethically bad. It's like an artist with a lot of paint. Nothing wrong with it. Someone will knit it up eventually.
Even if it is your great-grandchildren.