come. Even as knitting and other fiber arts have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity during the past decade, along with an increased interest in creating things by hand rather than buying mass-produced items, disparaging snubs against the crafts, or even just against making things in general, are still disappointingly easy to find. This latest slight hails from a recent article
in the NYT about spiritual tourism –– not a topic that has much to do with fiber arts until we get to the description of one of the tour guides. In that part-patronizing, part pop-ethnography style of “let’s peer into the thoughts and habits of these kooky folks!” that the NYT does so well, the writer of the article subtly presents facts about the tour guide to demonstrate just how far from normal she is. The very first fact the author lays before the reader? No, it’s not something related to her unique spiritual outlook that brings her to lead these tours where participants enter Egyptian tombs to connect with spiritual energy. Nope. It is the fact that –– are you ready for this? –– she knits her own clothing! Gasp! But wait, not only does she knit her own clothing, she knit her own clothing from fiber that she harvest from her alpaca (named Hopi, nice humanizing detail included as per Journalism 101) and spun herself. Double gasp! Wow, she must be nuts! I wonder what the author of the article would have made of any of our legions of knit-bloggers. Not only do they knit their own clothing, they spend time to write about it! How crazy is that?
I don’t know why this particular snub about those who do fiber arts bothered me so much. Usually these little snippets that reflect how society tends to view anyone who takes the time to create something by hand don’t elicit much more than an eye-roll from me. “Silly people, they don’t know what they’re missing out on,” I would say and move on. But this, this little insidious paragraph remained lodged in my brain for days. Perhaps it was just the last straw after the plethora (that has now thankfully died down) of articles about the knitting craze all written with a slightly disbelieving note of shock that “gasp, these knitters? They all seem to be stable, normal people!” Or the profusion of knitting books bending over backwards to reassure their readers that this is not the same craft as practiced by dull grannies and unfashionable women incapable of having fun, that this is hip, cool, and hey, something celebrities do! To all this, I just want to ask, just what exactly is so odd, so wrong with taking the time to create something from scratch? Is it better to spend the time vegetating before a flickering television? Does that somehow make a person a more “normal?” Maybe this continued snubbing is just a matter of the persisting stereotypes of those who “hand-make” things…the hippie, the granny, the socially-awkward wall-flower, and so on and so on. Maybe it’s all a matter of waiting for these seemingly indelible images to wear down and wear out as more and more people take up “hand-making” things. In the mean time, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn on the crazy and knit myself a sweater.