Thursday, September 29, 2005

Another View of Stitches

By now, Blogworld has covered the topic thoroughly, but I feel like I ought to chime in. These are going to be some pretty unformed thoughts, though, because otherwise you wouldn't see them until weeks from now.

I didn't see anything I wanted to knit. On the attendees, on display in other booths, anywhere--usually, a few things will grab me and at least tempt me to cast on. Or make me think about borrowing a design element for some other project, or something. Granted, there were some mighty attractive shawls on display, but I don't know that there were any I didn't already know about; it was more like, "Right, I'm always thinking about making Lotus Blossom, maybe I oughtta move it up in the queue."

Not that I disliked what I saw. But there were lots of very busy sweaters made of multiple different textures of handdyed and/or novelty yarns, and I used to really, really want one of them (cut me some slack--we're talking about the late 1980's here), but I'm over that now. These sweaters follow the same trend I see in yarns at Stitches: the visual environment is so overstimulating that everything seems to get "louder" every year in an effort to grab the shopper's attention.

And not that it was hard to find stuff to buy: I came home with laceweight silk/cashmere from Skaska in some mingled green tones, and laceweight yak/silk in a natural color that I have no name for: grey? taupe? putty? The kind of color I never like, buy, or knit with. I think I got carried away in everyone else's enthusiasm for it. And Linda MacMillan of Oak Grove Yarns, whose yarn I've been buying for 15 years now, has started doing a sock yarn, so I had to bring some of that home for Suzanne. (Two pairs' worth: one in Golden Roses, one of Suze's favorite colorways; one in Arabian Nights, which is mine--at least since Desert Dawn was discontinued).

And I bought these things why? I mean, did I have no yarn at home? The story all over the show floor seemed to be the same: people buying and buying even though they already had plenty of yarn. When was the last time you met a knitter who has no stash? A knitter with only one project on needles is rare enough, but a knitter with no yarn warming up in the bullpen is rarer still. I'm not really joking when I conjecture that there are two separate hobbies here: one is knitting, and the other is buying yarn. And part of me says, "If we're not spending the rent, it's a pretty harmless indulgence." But after awhile, I start to wonder. This is America, where so many of us have so much more than we need that we can't even always remember the difference between "need" and "want." What are we doing?

So I tried a thought experiment: what if I didn't buy any yarn? What am I afraid of? After all, my situation is sort of the ultimate test case: even if I wake up in the middle of the night and desperately need to CAST ON RIGHT NOW, I'm still only 4 blocks, one key, and an alarm code away from being able to get more yarn. (Note that "alarm code" item: don't any of you go getting any funny ideas, now, you here?) And I think that, for me, the problem is not that any single yarn I see is so beautiful that I think I'll never see one as good again. It's the fear that, even if I'm never more than 10 minutes away from more yarn, it won't be the right yarn: I'll suddenly want to make a baby surprise jacket, for instance, and there just won't be any boy-appropriate Koigu on that particular day.

Should I buy less yarn? Well, frankly, me personally, I don't buy that much (not just because I have such easy access, but because I can't justify too much knitting with yarns we don't carry in the shop). Should you buy less yarn? It would be pretty odd if I suggested it, wouldn't it? I'm not at all certain that the retail yarn industry could survive if all of us suddenly stopped buying any yarn in excess of what we were knitting at this moment. But at the same time, I'm deeply suspicious of the whole American culture of consumption and excess, and I wonder if there's maybe some saner and more satisfying approach.

Though of course not where there's Koigu involved.


Magda said...

Bravo Lisa-

Thanks for the thoughtful and honest reflections. I felt the same way after Stitches.
Maybe we could come up with "rotating custody" of each others yarn stashes. It would be like new yarn every month or so, like a traveling exhibit of sorts. I think my need for visual and textural stimulation would be satiated!


Anonymous said...

I bought wild amounts of yarn at stiches, but I felt the same way you did after Sheep and Wool this year. I tried very hard to muster up consumer greed, but couldn't. If your selection of Koigu wasn't so lovely and so dangerously close to knitting circle i could probably go months without buying anything.

I think what gets me everytime is looking at the works other people have on their needles. Until I met Regina I had zero interest in socks...I think I have about 4 waiting to be finished.


Sherry W said...

Of course, then there are us that don't have access to a yarn store 24/7 and have to make our own. :)

For some of us, especially those of us who are still newer knitters, these events are a chance to explore fibers, techniques and artists that we have never seen in person before. I think it's easier when you've 'seen it all before' to pass it up knowing you can get it again if you ever really want it. For newer knitters, more easily excited, I think it's harder to pass up that shiny handpainted wool, or tufted mitten kit.

My 'rule' is that I do try to buy yarn I'm actually planning on using on something, and not just buying it to hoard and pet.

Of course this excludes Anne. I have to get it when I can, so Jenn doesn't get it all first. ;)