Monday, January 15, 2007

Stop Insulting My Grandmother

There must be 500 new knitting books being published this Spring. And 475 of them have the word "young," "cool," "hip," or "easy" in the title.

I don't know about you, but Courtney and I are sick of it. We're sick of people claiming that what they do is "not your grandmother's knitting," as if there was something wrong with our grandmother's knitting.

(Hey, publishers--stop insulting my grandmother. I know that's not what you're trying to do, but I've had it. Eve Plotnick and Dorothy Myers were women of skill, patience, resourcefulness, and creativity. And if you think I'll ever think better of anything you're showing me because you tell me it's unlike what they did or would do, you're way wrong.)

And we're sick of all the books that promise to deliver nothing but easy projects. Guess what? Knitting isn't difficult. In other parts of the world, 4-year-olds do it. Every person reading this--everyone capable of learning to use a computer to read a blog--is smart enough to do any kind of knitting we want.

Do you hear me, publishers? Stop calling us stupid. Every time you tell us that it's all so easy, we hear what you're really saying: "Knitting is so hard. Numbers are so scary. Let us hold your hand." Remember the uproar over the talking Barbie that said "Math is hard"? Same thing.

So here's the new policy at Rosie's: We're not going to order any more books that have "Easy" in the title. We've told our book distributor to take us off the "automatic" program that guarantees that we get every new title that comes down the line. There's too much out there, and too little of it is good. We'll still have books--lots and lots of books--but they're going to be the best of the new (like Knitting Nature) and all the old titles that you may not know if you haven't been knitting for 15 years. (There's a reissue of Sarah Don's The Art of Shetland Lace coming soon. That's a book we'll carry.) We'll choose a few beginner books--some people learn visually, some people prefer verbal explanation, etc.--and keep them, but we won't get all the "Everything you need to know to start knitting!" titles.

I'm not saying everything you knit has to be an epic project. Sometimes you need a quick baby hat for a gift, or you knit the same simple sock pattern again and again because it fits well and you can do it on autopilot. The first mitten you knit probably won't be some 10-color Latvian tour de force. There's nothing wrong with that.

But there is something wrong with letting a new knitter knit one superbulky garter-stitch scarf after another, until she thinks she can't do anything else. We've never done much of that at Rosie's. (All you folks who've taken our Beginners Knitting class: do you have any idea how unusual it is to be knitting a hat in the round, using double-pointed needles, in your first knitting class? Call a friend who learned to knit in Kalamazoo or Los Angeles [Celebrity Scarves, anyone?] and ask her what her second project was.) So you guys are already ahead of the curve.

But now we're going to challenge you to take it a step further. We're going to challenge you, in fact, to challenge yourselves. We're going to give you every opportunity to do something new: to explore a traditional form like Fair Isle in depth, or to try something entirely unfamiliar like crochet.

I'm not saying we know everything there is to know about every single technique. For some stuff, we'll be learning right along with you (needle-felting, anyone?). But there's so much great stuff out there--you've seen it in books, you've seen it on blogs. And there are books about how to do things, and people to call for advice.

And you know what? We're smart people. We can figure it out.

100 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brava!

The next target- the every other book with 60 pages of 'how to knit' directions in it.

Bridget said...

Great post, Lisa! And I really can't agree with you more. I haven't mastered every technique yet, but I like to feel like if I want to, I can not only come to Rosie's for help, but find a book that might have something I want to make. Because I'm still not very good at trying to make up my own patterns, or adapting existing ones.

Personally, I'm sick of the "hipness" of knitting, but I have to say that I am relieved that people have, for the most part, stopped assuming that if you are knitting, it must be because a) you are having a baby, or b) a friend/relative is having a baby.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear! Rosie's ROCKS!

Pam Lewis said...

Lisa: Great post. I couldn't agree more. What has been the response from the book distributors?

Enjoy the show and California.

Bring back new/more Koigu --btw, that book is worth having.
Pam

Stuntmother said...

Hooray! Hooray! It's all part of our insane "youth culture" obsession where young=hip=good=right=alive and old=dull=bad=wrong=dead.

My grandmother's knitting was beautiful. I hope to knit as well as did she.

amber dorko stopper said...

*seizuring with joy*

Carol said...

Oh yeah, baby. Bye-bye, fun n funky knitting for chunky hipsters! So long, simple knits for easy knitter-grlzz! Later, chic knits for knittin' chicks with stix!

Hello complicated stuff in fine yarns!

And the next time I see "EZ" it better mean Elizabeth Zimmerman.

Anonymous said...

Lisa,

I couldn't agree with you more. Our grandmother was a knitting goddess, and I have a closet full of her work to prove it.

Erica

p.s. I love Knitting Nature.

Jan Tucker said...

OK, how many comments would you like from us knitters in Kalamazoo??? Sheesh!

Jan

pippi said...

Sing it!

I woudn't be knitting if it wern't for my nana. Nope.
I think it is great that Rosies is going to take this proactive role.

Lisa M. said...

Jan--

I wasn't casting aspersions on knitters from Kalamazoo, or anywhere else for that matter. My point was that, if you learned to knit just about anywhere but here, you probably didn't do very ambitious stuff right out of the gate. I chose two places at random. *Was* your second project a hat?

Heather said...

I see the same thing with crochet too (I knit and crochet) and the whole 'this isn't your granny's whatever' drives me nuts, it's such an insult, because most of us learned from older women or have at least gotten advice from older women. I wish they'd market to the younger generation in a way that didn't reject the whole history of the craft and those more experienced in it.

Anonymous said...

Well said! I learned to knit at a shop where the teacher told us to pick our own first projects. I chose a hat knit in the round, with a turned hem, with colorwork! I didn't know it was "supposed" to be hard. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Lisa: I once taught a young mother to knit. Her first project was an aran sweater for her son. I have found that when people really want to learn to knit, nothing stops them. I also taught a 60 year old surgeon to knit on size 2 needles -- his surgeon recommended it has therapy to help him regain his dexterity. He knit an incredible tank top for his (young) wife!! Enough with the 3 sts to the inch garter stitch scarves.

Pam

Jan Tucker said...

My 2nd project was an aran sweater, actually; but I learned to knit from my grandmother, too --and actually agree with your campaign to both support all knitting (including grandmother's) and encouraging knitting challenging pieces. I also knit socks -- a great little canvas for trying out different stitches and exploring the relationship between yarn and needle size. I just couldn't resist a little tweak back from here in Kalamazoo! No asperions cast!
Jan

Anonymous said...

At last, a bandwagon I can jump on. I restarted knitting when I was in my late 30s, during a wave of 'hip, young urban' knitting. I had also moved out of the city to shorten my commute, and I'm a scientist; i.e., not young, not urban, not hip. My mother taught me to knit, and aside from her predilection for patterns from the 70s, she was and is a very skilled craftswoman. She didn't need an internet craze to get her knitting socks--she had a diabetic friend who needed loose socks, and she made socks out of anything and everything available in the 70s and 80s. My timing might have been suspicious, but I really started knitting again not because I wanted to be one of the cool kids, but because I wanted to reconnect with her and learn from her. At the time I was deeply suspicious of the rafts of articles and books touting knitting as a hip hobby. I'm even older now, and probably even more unhip, and continue to find this stuff tiresome. I want to grab these cool hip urban knitting writers, who act as though they have summitted Everest without sherpas every time they do something new (to them), and say 'My mother reclaimed and reknit sweaters 65 years ago! You didn't invent it on your last trip to the thrift store! Neither did you invent how to make a sock, or a scarf or a hat! You might have a nifty color combo, but for god's sake, even EZ herself called them 'unventions' not 'inventions', as much from a sense of her place in the continuum of knowledge as from a slight tendency to the precious!

And now I will get down off my soapbox before I fall and crack a hip.

Marian

mindy said...

Alright! I always bristled at the whole "not your grandmother's..." too. Grammy taught me to knit, and I will always be extremely grateful that she did.
Your book shelves will be the most interesting book shelves in all the yarn stores.

Cara said...

Very well said. Thank you for this.

(And maybe, too, when they get through with dumbing down the knitting, they can get some tech editors for the patterns? I'm so tired of all the mistakes.)

Lola LB said...

Aaaaameeeennnn!!! Please give us more knitting books that stretch our mind . . .

Miss T said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this! I'm glad that there are enablers (I mean yarn store owners 8) ) who encourage knitters to challenge themselves.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that!

Lisa W., fargo14@aol.com said...

I know it was an off the cuff remark, but to paraphrase your own title, "Lay off the knitters from Los Angeles!" Most of us know NO celebrities, nor are we tanned stick thin idiots sitting around knitting novelty yarns. We have Koigu and Anne out here too!

Anonymous said...

Well said. I wish more stores would make this move so that there was less of this type of book getting published.

Alina said...

Amen! "Easy", 3-stitches-to-inch, huge needles knitting is also so boring! My grandmother would have never touched such ugly projects.

Anonymous said...

Oh My Goodness!

I have never laughed so hard, because some of these comments are SOOO true :)!

I agree. Those 'Fisher Price' mass-market-style books are SOOO boring, over and done with.

-K

Michelle said...

Amen with a capital A!

rams said...

Ahem. I agree that insults by implication are to be avoided. And as someone whose Beginning Knitting classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts produce a circular hat in Fair Isle stranding whose top is finished on double-points on a regular basis...well, I know you didn't mean it. Exactly. And I can't speak for Los Angeles -- but since you specified Kalamazoo, I needed to defend our honor(especially since I agree with your main point.)

Anonymous said...

Maybe every knitter in Kalamazoo and Los Angeles can knit a complicated fair isle hat and send them to Lisa, just to show her that....

oh never mind.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Lisa,

I think the whole knitting world will benefit from empowered knitters.

Good to see you and Courtney, too!

Take care,
Linda

ted said...

Thanks for writing this, Lisa.

About 3 years ago I stopped buying knitting books because there's just nothing in them that speaks to me. (Exceptions are Sharon Miller's "Heirloom Knitting" and XRX's recent "Victorian Lace", but then my knitting is my grandmothers' knitting. I've had "Art of Shetland Lace" since the first hard-cover publication.) And I ain't hip, young or cool. I was wondering if it was "just me": maybe it was time to hang up the circulars and move on to something else like pottery or triathlons or meditation or something. I'm glad to see others are weary of simple, easy, stuff.

Thanks for taking your stand.

Ted
over from Carol's blog; you're lucky to have her on yer staff, I think

Anonymous said...

surfed over here Bridget's Blog, The Ravelld Sleeve. Kudos to you! As a fairly new knitter, I am already sick to death of the easy projects that I see in all the popular knitting books. How many scarves and ipod cozies can one make?

I started on my 2nd pair of socks which had short rows and started toe up, my first pair made was made at a LYS class(that I moved too fair from). I could not figure how to pick up the stiches from the pattern so I went to my new LYS. The clerk was no help at all, said the pattern was too hard (it is wendy's generic toe up sock), that she never heard of short rows and that she thought socks were "better bought than made"

No, I am not making this up.

C. Knoflick said...

Thank you Lisa, I wish I lived closer to PA so I could at least visit once in a while ( I'm in Scotland most of the year and in the state of WA the rest!) I'm a 57 yr old, white haired-not a grandmother yet and just go bonkers on this grandmother thing. As if there is something weird about what I knit. So support coming strong from this side of the Atlantic. I too am sick of the innuendoes.

Thanks for speaking out. Connie

Ms. Knitter said...

Kudos to someone for saying all this. Personally, I tend to avoid a lot of the hip trendy new knitting books, since I have no interest in being hip or trendy. I have an interest in projects that challenge me in one way or another. True, I like my mindless garter stitch knitting as much as the next person, but most of the time, I want a challenge, and half the knitting books that are coming out aren't offering me anything that a trained monkey couldn't do.

Melanie said...

At last! Please let this be the start of something.

Donna said...

Best. Post. Ever. How I wish you were my LYS! :)

ivete said...

I agree that many of the new knitting books aren't worth much, but why did you have to say that "knitting isn't difficult," like it's no big deal and anyone can do? The attitude that "knitting is easy" is just as insulting as these books. It takes dedication, patience, and skill to learn knit, and we shouldn't put ourselves down by saying "anyone can do it."

I think this kind of attitude is why books targeted at women can get away with the kinds of titles you're addressing in this post. I've never seen a woodworking book titled, "Not your grandpa's scollwork", have you? You don't hear men saying "what I spent hours learning to do well is easy, anyone can do it" either.

Anonymous said...

Knitting is NOT difficult. It's as easy or as hard as you'd like it to be. That's the beauty of it. In all the years that I taught knitting at a yarn shop (not Rosie's, sadly), I only found one person who simply could not do it. Lisa is absolutely right--the dumbing-down of knitting is a throwback to the "Math is hard for girls" Barbie mindset. Far more insulting and discriminatory than "anyone can do it."

Thanks, Lisa, for saying what needs to be said publicly by a retailer. And putting your money where your mouth is, as it were. I've been screaming about this for years but when a yarn shop owner and author comes out and says it, it's got heft.

Anonymous said...

along with smart, we're also cool and hip. what's so bad about being all three? i love knitting scarves, i love knitting bulky and i've been knitting for over 20 years. i knit fair isle, lace, cables, socks and like the challenge. but i like easy too because sometimes life is so damn hard, you need to catch a break where you can get it. yes, be discriminating but you folks sound exclusive and judgemental. the yucky knitting shop stereotype lives on. no thanks. btw, my grandfather taught my mom and her sisters how to knit. he was a perfectionist and made them knit on laborious intense projects like long johns on tiny needles. you stereotype even through gender. ick.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I had a feeling someone was going to play the "snob" card.

If you read Lisa's post for what it really said, instead of what you want to react against, you will see that she agrees that not every project must be "laborious": "Sometimes you need a quick baby hat for a gift, or you knit the same simple sock pattern again and again because it fits well and you can do it on autopilot."

Her point is that knitting isn't just rectangles, and knitters shouldn't be patronized, treated like they can't learn anything more than knitting back and forth on thick yarns. Publishers see that Stitch N Bitch sells and they say "What's that about? Oh, how to knit for younger women? Fine, we'll do something to. Hey, how about chix with stix?" Whereas if they really knew something about the knitting world, they'd know that there is a whole lot out there beyond simple garter stitch. Sure, some days you might want to do simple garter stitch, but it's only a choice if you know what your alternatives are.

Reading comprehension, people!

hyunjee said...

Your post brought me out of hiding to say AMEN!

Let's hear it for all the grandmothers who taught us to knit!

Anonymous said...

"But there is something wrong with *letting* a new knitter knit one superbulky garter-stitch scarf after another"--

letting? that's assuming the new knitter is a moronic automaton led to each project undertaken without much thought and doesn't make his/her own decisions.

"reading comprehension people?" writing comprehension would be good too. and what of the gender stereotyping o wise one? no comment, anonymous or otherwise eh?

Anonymous said...

I thought the gender stereotyping comment was so nonsensical as to not require a response.

As for "letting" a new knitter knit something other than a scarf, I believe the blogpost is criticizing exactly the situation you are talking about: where the teacher or yarn shop employee refuses to help a newbie with a project that h/she deems "too hard" for a beginner. See Scarlett's post above.

Anonymous said...

there is nothing nonsensical about gender stereotyping. the whole blog post is about insulting stereotypes and assumption and breaking away from marketing clich├ęs and stereotypes in some sort of actionable manner. so why would a remark about gender stereotyping in this context be nonsensical?

Carol said...

Amen. My first 2 books were "easy". Very soon after, I was buying all kinds of cool books. Barbara Walker anyone? EZ? Prepare for the future now! If you're new, you can knit anything! Believe it baby.

Karen said...

OK, I couldn't resist getting in on this one. It seems to me that both sides have a point. I think a lot of the knitting books out there are ridiculous and filled with things one could figure out one's self. But it also seems to me that if someone wants to knit lots of bulky garter scarves, more power to them. Sure, knitting stores should point out and encourage different kinds of projects and new skills. But don't some folks just enjoy making easy things? And what is wrong with that? Again, I think the new youth knitting craze is silly, but it will pass, and not only that, it will leave behind all the people who really did learn to knit, in all kinds of ways. So it's a good thing. And if it leaves behind some people who like those bulky scarves, OK, too.

Quill

Anonymous said...

The title that really got me was YOU'RE NEVER TOO OLD TO KNIT.

Huh?

Liz in IN

Lisa M. said...

O.k., I'll cop to the accusation about the use of the word "letting": a more complete sentence would have continued, "without ever suggesting that she try something else." But I think shops do have a responsibility to encourage and educate, and there are shops--God forbid I should specify, lest someone think I'm insulting her/his shop/region/knitting--that made as much money as they could selling expensive, quick-knitting scarf projects to inexperienced knitters during the recent scarf fad. Now that the craze is over, there are people losing interest in knitting because they don't think it has anything else to offer them. And I think that's a shame.

As for gender stereotyping: it's in the post because it's a big aspect of the publishing phenomenon I'm criticizing. These books are not addressed to a general or mixed-gender audience (for the most part). The marketing strategies that make me angry specifically link femininity with youth, attractiveness, and a perceived unwillingness or inability to do things requiring time, effort, or patience.

While we're at it, anyone want to nail me on my pronoun use? In situations where the gender distribution is anywhere near 50/50, I choose gender-neutral pronouns or vary them. But more than 95% of my customers are female. In this case, I used feminine pronouns as a deliberate move to redress the still-too-common practice of using masculine pronouns to represent people "in general."

To restate: Knit whatever you want! But knit it because it's what you WANT to knit, not because it's what some marketing department has convinced you that everyone in your demographic category wants to do.

kate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kate said...

Whew.
Had to add more, sorry for the deleted post above....

Hey ladies! Had I known there was going to be such fun I would have asked school to push classes back a week.

One thing to also consider is the assumption that because knitters are younger (like, for example, your rockin' staff and some great customers we have) than some others, we either a)don't know what we are talking about in regards to gauge, needle size, fiber content, etc, b)only WANT to knit with bulky yarns or c)learned to knit last week because it is cool.

(Had to add some more for clarification): Knitting IS cool, and its OKAY if you're a beginner, but making assumptions about age is NOT okay in both directions, and I think this is the point you were trying to make, and stereotypes and judgements I -- and I know others my age -- face on a pretty much daily basis AREN'T cool. Also, that even though SO MANY books are telling you as a beginner you can only knit certain things, or in a certain gauge, you're just saying there is more out there, and the store is a great vehicle to do so, and you (and your staff) are willing to help those (who want to) do so in ANYthing they want to do. But, if you don't, thats okay, too. Who doesn't love "Blizzard"? But, "Jamiesons Shetland Spindrift" is pretty awesome, too.

I think many of the points that you made were directed towards the PUBLISHERS (I recall some bold face around paragraph five) asking for a greater balance and encouraging more variety, not insulting the actual knitters who knit with yarns that are bigger in gauge, or knitting simple projects, yes? (At least that is how I read it).

No books are titled "Not Your Grandfather's Knitting" so those all worked up about gender are missing the point.

I think speaking out is bold and good, and not everyone is going to agree with you, but thats okay.

I was watching Lindsay Lohan: True Hollywood Story a few days ago (yep) and her mom was quoted, in defense of Lindsay's party habits, "Its not like she is going to sit on set and knit all day long." I happened to be knitting at the time, which I found funny. As if Lindsay knitting would make her an old, boring crone, and no one wants to be "Like your grandmother". This is an unfortunate stereotype, and if I could knit like my grandmother, I would. She taught me everything she knew, and she was killer with the needles. (And apparently did everything backwards....but that is another story).

Just another reason why I love this store.
xox
-k

Anonymous said...

Lisa: wait, you mean the scarf craze is OVER?

Oh, thank goodness.

Thanks for speaking up about this. Personally, I'd rather keep doing what I've been doing and have people think I'm like a rocket scientist for making socks and mittens, but I guess now that the secret's out...yeah, it's pretty easy.

Holly said...

I have to say, I completely agree! I'm so sick of coffee cozy patterns and big felted purses. I mean really, you've figured out how to knit and purl, Those are the foundations of everything else you need to know. Try to challenge yourself a bit. Learn cables or fair Isle. I'm 28 years old, and I've been knitting for four years. My knitting has gone beyond novelty yarn scarves to lace shawls and now Latvian mittens. I need a challenge!

Anonymous said...

I don't know what I think about this post, yet. I need to ruminate on it for a while. I just wanted to point out, though, that one of your most recent posts on your blog praised a knitting project because it could be made "in a night."

Not selling books because they contain quick or easy projects seems like an odd choice for you since it's something that you clearly promote:

http://rosieblogs.blogspot.com/2006/12/you-can-make-em-in-night.html

PURLPOWER said...

Great post. Hear hear.

LornaJay said...

Exactly. I'm probably regarded as 'old' by the PTB (I'm 30) but really! I knit because I like it, and like the challenge - and I do resent the implied slur on anything traditional, classic, and 'old fashioned'. I have a collection of pre-50s patterns, and often find myself reworking them for modern yarn and a slightly less tiny gauge. Classics are exactly that.

Carol said...

Like Anonymous (one of the earlier ones, up there a bit), I'm getting a little frustrated with people missing the point that Lisa's trying to make. She is not saying that quick and easy is always bad or that no one should ever need or want a quickie project. In fact, the week before Christmas, when you want to make some last-minute gifts, quick and easy is all you have time for! She is saying that to ONLY present quick and easy things -- like the same garter stitch scarf -- and to limit yourself to the same project over and over based on the assumption that knitting is so hard newbies CAN'T do anything else, is the problem.

Wendy said...

This was an excellent post. I've been thinking the same thing when I look at new books or how knitting is marketed. Most comments have echoed my feelings...You do all grandmothers proud and knitters proud. We're an independent thinking, talented and intelligent people!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more!

ericah64 said...

AMEN! My Nana (who, I believe taught me to knit; I can't remember) made gorgeous stuff that I aspire to: a set of matching Aran sweaters for the family, which are STILL in good shape 37 or 38 years later, a beautiful Barbie ballgown that I still remember vividly and wish I'd saved for MY kids, etc.

spin2knit said...

BRAVA !!!!!!!!!
It's nice to know that I'm not alone and standing up on this soapbox I've been on for about 3 years now.

I dunno about you, but I don't intend to get off my soapbox until I see publisher results. :>

Never fear..... complex knitters of the world, there are publishers and authors out there working towards this goal.

Knit and Spin On!

marie in florida said...

all the more reason to gather up all the old "vintage" publicatins.
after a year working in a big big box retailer, i'm weary of trying to help women who are slaves to the easy knitting and crocheting junk. junk yarns, junk patterns, and i'll say it plain, lazy minds.

DeeAnn said...

My grandmother knit the most luscious creations in all kinds of shapes, sizes and fibers. I thought she was magic and still do. When I took up knitting 2 years ago I learned off the old dusty books she left me and the internet. My firt project was socks because I thought it would teach me a lot about how to shape and fit and construct things. Then I did a cable sweater and then a fair isle and then some lace. No one was around to tell me it was 'hard'. I was lucky :)

Now I am trying a few 'easy' knits to play with my handspun yarns. I am finding them very refreshing as well. There is nothing wrong with *what* you knit, but it is very important to knit what you want - not what publishers tell you just because you haven't been knitting very long.

PS - The *easiest* knit I've done was the fair isle. Makes me think the publishers don't really know *how* to knit :) Loved your rant

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with everyone who says "Bravo". Learned the basic knit and pearl stitches in 8th grade back in 19_8 (left blank on purpose). From there the next thing was a decorative Christmas stocking with 2 santa faces and candy canes. Just read the directions and tried it. Nothing all that difficult about knitting, it's all in getting used to using your hands and holding the yarn and the needles. Can be lots of fun or frustrating depending on what you are working on. No need for "knniting for dummies". None of us are.

Anonymous said...

While you offer great (and funny) insight as an experienced knitter, not everyone can knit like a pro (yet). I think the publishers are capitalizing on the fact that beginner knitters often don't have friends/family they can turn to for knitting advise. Often, books are the only source of information, because going to yarn stores can be an intimidating experience (for me, at least). Many of the experienced knitters I've asked for help at these stores seemed to be above my simple questions (like how to read a pattern) and at times even condescending. I've just had books, the Internet, and trial-and-error to turn to. I think that's why there is a big market for "easy" knitting books. If they weren't in demand, nobody would publish so many year after year. It's true that I don't know as much about knitting as you or other experienced knitters out there, but it seems like you're ostracizing people like myself who buy a knitting book with the word "easy" in the title, because we have no other choice.

Jana said...

Instead of "easy," I would recommend a comprehensive guide, perhaps "Vogue Knitting." Even as a very experienced knitter, I get Vogue out once in a while.

I do object to page after page of instructions in knitting books, though a few pages of the major techniques in the book seem warranted.

I'm sorry some folks might find knitting stores intimidating. Perhaps lisa could start an informal service of matching experienced volunteers with beginners in Philadelphia to take away some of the fear factor.

Along the same vein: Thank God the magazine "Vogue Knitting" has finally branced out from strictly bulky easy knits. I found the magazine useless for years.

Helena said...

Wonderful post! The plethora of these books is a sign to me that publishers are cashing in on the trendiness and will soon have saturated the market.

I think we will shortly be past the tipping point, if we aren't already. People who knit solely for the trendiness of it will soon lose interest as it has just gotten too popular.

That said, old school knitters have really benefitted by this craze - there have been some great new books and some out of print titles reissued, not to mention the variety of yarns and incredible creativity on the part of everyone. It's a wonderful thing that so many people have embraced or rediscovered our craft.

To anonymous at 6:48 am - The fact is that some yarn shops can be intimidating - whether the people who work their are preoccupied or plain eccentric. Try your local knitting guild. My experience in a couple of cities is that there are always friendly souls ready to chat and share their expertise.

Anonymous said...

I posted something similar to this vein last July. Hopefully with your wider audience and influence as a shop owner you can make a better dent in this mentality than I did.

My rant can be found here:
http://soapturtle.net/blog/?p=38

Anonymous said...

Sometimes it's just HARD to understand how to read a pattern. This is embarassing, but I didn't even know about blocking until I bought one of these "E-Z" books that showed me how to knit step-by-step, which I understand can be painful for experienced knitters. Just don't buy the EZ books. But I do believe there is a market out there for these.

Elizabeth D said...

Lisa, thank you!! Years ago I vowed I'd never pay my own money for anything with "for Dummies" in the title. Great minds think alike!

Anonymous said...

This grandmother-knitter says, hear hear! I do a lot of tricky knitting--like fair isle, cables, entrelac--as well as some easier stuff. I get really insulted by the titles of some of these books, though, and the magazines are just as bad. Fast and easy doesn't have to mean fugly and sloppy!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I check these books out of the local library to review them for a couple knit groups. Most of the new "easy" knit books I would NOT recommend to my beginning level knitters. They are what I call "eye candy" -- full of colorful pictures but not a lot of substance. I encourage beginning knitters to look at a variety of knit books at the local library and on the Internet. Each one has different explanations of terms and knit techniques that appeal to different audiences. Sometimes an "easy" book has good illustrations, but it is often the other books that will explain that more than one technique can do the same thing or something can be called multiple names or abbreviations.

When I bring (personal or library) knit books for show & tell, the beginners who are ready for more than a scarf or dishcloth like good solid knit books like Sally Melville's "The Knitting Experience: Book 1 The Knit Book". The Baby Einstein coat is a great project. One beginner chose to do it in the Brioche stitch and it was adorable!

Anonymous said...

AMEN. I would love to see what my grandmother would think of those hideous garter stitch mobile phoneholders - how dare they belittle her by suggesting it's cooler to knit crap like that than her beautiful intricate lace shawls?

Shannon said...

I'm with you 120%, Lisa. Seriously. My ongoing joke, and the reason I started my own book publishing company, was that I was sick of all the "50 Easy Things to Knit with Size 50 Needles" books -- but points to make from the author / publisher perspective from someone who's worked with major publishers, too:

a. Authors rarely get to pick their titles...that's what the marketing department does. and no offense to marketers, but damn, some of the titles they pick are stupid. (Same goes for cover images, FYI... and in some cases, even projects).

b. Even books with silly titles often have good content. I'll use my books Knitgrrl and Knitgrrl 2 as examples -- if you read the intro, you'll know they're so-named in homage to Riot Grrrl and the DIY ethos I so strongly believe in, not to capitalize on some goofy naming trend. But they've got good full color how-to photos that more than one adult knitter has told me they used to knit after having a bad experience elsewhere (alas, not all LYSs are as good as Rosie's) and some good basic patterns.

c. When more complex knitting books start clocking really high sales figures, the market will follow. We're in a bad spot right now because the 1-to-2 years it takes for a book to get from concept to shelf is dumping the last of the "super-easy!" books on us... from what I know about what's in the pipeline at various publishers, it will get better within the next few publishing cycles. My fear is that they'll lose interest, drop off and maybe even stop publishing knitting titles if the more complex books don't sell as well. (At which point we just buy everything from Schoolhouse Press and Interweave, so no huge loss there). It's the publishing equivalent of the evil novelty scarf trend, it just takes longer to show its end because books take longer to make than those scarves did to "design" them.

Dove Knits said...

A-men!

I refuse to buy any books that say "Easy," "Quick," or "Funky." Usually that means "insulting to your intelligence and skill," "bulky and shapeless," and "oh my God, who in their right mind would wear this monstrosity in public?"

Of course, quick and simple patterns have their use. Sometimes it's nice to just knit, and they're great for beginners. I'd give the example of making last-minute baby or Christmas gifts, but honestly, at that point, you're better off just buying something and not inflicing "quickly" (see my definition above) knitted things on the unsuspecting recepients.

I'm not saying these books have no place. But why must there be so many of them???

susan said...

Hear, hear. And, unlike Shannon, I'm not letting Interweave off the hook. Some of their recent books are nothing to write home about.

Betty said...

Okay - I am more of a lace-work knitter so I agree with the points, but am I the ony one whose granny's (knitting and crochet )- from the 1960s was ugly? She wasn't exactly making beautiful Irish sweaters - she was making ugly pink acrylic afghans and kitchen stuff. I hope I am not doing her knitting (actually I see the chunk-o-knit people as her direct descendants!)

Betty said...

Okay - I am more of a lace-work knitter so I agree with the points, but am I the ony one whose granny's (knitting and crochet )- from the 1960s was ugly? She wasn't exactly making beautiful Irish sweaters - she was making ugly pink acrylic afghans and kitchen stuff. I hope I am not doing her knitting (actually I see the chunk-o-knit people as her direct descendants!)

Shannon said...

Hi Susan! Yeah, but you have to admit that Interweave on a bad day is better than most of these jump-on-the-bandwagon knit publishers on a good one...

Kudzu Queen said...

Here, here! I'm late to the party, but so glad to see the intelligent life in the universe!

My first project was two cotton placemats with seedstitch borders and garter middles. My second was a lace shawl with a border knitted on perpendicularly.

I have a beef with novelty yarn, too, but that's a rant for another day.

Left Right Out said...

yeah, lay off my 93 year old grandmother! I taught her how to knit 3 years ago and she's been doing very well.

Lisa M. said...

If "not your grandma's" meant "wow, it's fantastic how many more options we have for soft, good quality, easy-care yarns--whether wool or synthetic", I'd be right there. But I don't think it does.

As for dove knits' question about why there are so many of these books: blame it on the unprecedented success of "Stitch 'n' Bitch." Every publisher wants a piece of that pie. (That's one of the ironies of the capitalist system: in theory, someone will come along to exploit every economic niche, by producing a different product to appeal to every potential consumer. But in practice, most people try to make lots of money by producing something that's going to be wildly popular--often, by imitating something that's already been successful in the market.)

If we're in a charitable mood, we might say that publishers are hoping to sell lots of SnB clones in order to subsidize the publication of the less faddish books that we'll find interesting.

Anonymous said...

Eve Plotnick made some fabulous stuff. Her newest great grandchild is now enjoying a blanket that she made many years ago. I've enjoyed wearing sweaters that she made for me. Her work was timeless. It lives on. Knitters like Eve Plotnick have been an inspiration to many people. Her work was not only gorgeous, it was a warm expression of warmth and love. Some of us were fortunate... we knew Eve Plotnick. Don't knock her. Roberta

strikkeforsker said...

Thank you for writing this!

There is such a lack of more advanced knitting books serving as inspiration and teaching one to go below size 10 needles. Books that teach and inspire you to think yourself, books like Sharon Miller's Heirloom Knitting, Marianne Isager's Africa, Starmore's books, and the like.

I am sooo tired of *hip young VIP writes about using big, bulky, expensive novelty yarn*
AND the various knitting magazines giving them rave reviews, just because they publish them.

Melissa said...

Go girls!

I've been knitting compulsively since 1974, hip or unhip, whatever.

I also despise the "for Dummies" books and will not buy them. Honestly.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Zimmerman teaches hats first - knit and purl edge, knit band, then on to two colors, and knit two together - then on to sweaters for lesson 2 - how hard is this - I started as an 8 yr old, Waldorf starts children at 6 and 7. Easy stuff, yea for about the first hour - then just go on to the fun stuff.

Jaws said...

AaaaaaaMEN! Add "chunky" and "funky" to the list of words in book titles I won't buy (I didn't see them).

I learned to cable when I was nine. I picked up knitting last year and within 2 months was doing a full-on cabled sweater featured in IK.

It ain't rocket science, folks.

And it can look sophisticated, too (no more of this funky chunky nonsense, please and thank you).

Jeanne said...

My first-ever project in a Learn To Knit class was a scarf. However, it was NOT a bulky, large-needle garter stitch monstrosity. OK, it was garter stitch. But it was a clever pattern that taught increasing, decreasing, and even had us divide and put half the stitches on a stitch holder so as to knit a "tube" for the other end of the scarf to pass through. It started with three cast-on stitches. It was really cool.

So, I hear ya. I hear what you're saying. And I totally agree. Grandmothers are/were people too, with brains and creativity. Remember, they were hip in their day. Rock on, Grannies!

PamKittyMorning said...

Not like you need another comment but AMEN.

HPNY Knits said...

yes AMEN! and yes we need another and another. stand up and be counted! my grandma was an awesome knitter!!! and she taught me how to knit.
I am sick of broom sticks and rope! thanks god for blogland, where we can see how great knitting is all over the world!

Jeannine said...

I agree with just about everything you are saying, but...don't insult us Los Angelenos! We do learn to knit hats in the round in our first knitting class (I did) and we do knit plenty of interesting items. Believe it or not, we are "real" knitters, too.

kneek said...

Here! Hear! Here! Yes! I've been waiting for someone to say that, and trying to figure out a way to say it myself, but you've really just said it too eloquently to say again. Thanks for doing it so well.

For the record, I've just finished my first fair isle project - it ended up as a teapot cozy, but I love it and my husband loves it and both of my kids love it. My husband wants a sweater in the same colorway and same pattern, and my kids want a teapot cozy for their little teapot. I, however, want to start something bigger, better and completely different. Here's to a new challange!

jen said...

Thanks for the post. I totally agree with you on this - the reason I got into crafts in the first place was all of the beautiful things handmade by my mom, grandma, great-grandma, etc.

I didn't notice the whole "easy" thing until I read your post - but I think it's true, publishers don't have a lot of regard for crafters. And I suppose "young people" nowadays need instant gratification, therefore easy and fast projects. I admit, I do use the word "easy" and "quick" for my patterns. I think in my case, I'm letting beginners know, don't be intimidated by a pattern if it isn't a simple chunky scarf rectangle!

Anonymous said...

It's attitudes like this (and yarn snobbery)that keep people away from knitting, crafts and the arts in general. I've been knitting for about two years now, and I don't have a lot of time to devote to knitting: I have a full-time job and an infant. While I love to knit, my priorities pull me away from spending lots of time on a project. Because of that, I look for projects that are fairly easy and quick to learn/knit. In fact, I doubt I will ever learn intarsia, cables, knitting in the round or DPN's any time soon. I also don't have the money to spend on expensive yarns (wish I did). That doesn't make me any less a knitter than anyone who likes a complicated project.

Good on you for sticking to your guns and refusing to stock books that market to us lowly,inferior instant gratification knitters but realize that there are people who think the same as me. And easy, quick knit books are great entryway books to learning more complicated patterns and stitches.

Condescending to one group is just as insulting and divisive as calling knitting "grandmotherly."

bfmuffy said...

My mother was a fine craftswoman. Sew, Knit, crochet, quilt, I could go on. I did learn, painfully at her knee but I hated it. What died with her is unforgivable to me. I do not have her patience or talent. I can knit to do a garter stich and crochet a few rows. I'm too uptight and everything gets tighter and tighter. I envy you guys.

FiberQat said...

You bet the knitting books out there aren't my grandmother's knitting. She did pillowcase edgings on 000 needles with perle cotton, not size 17 needles with super chunky yarn.

That's it; my student is going to make a hat for his first project.

Anonymous said...

Good for you for giving Grandmothers some credit. They created some gorgeous things for their era as well as many vintage patterns that are timeless! Some of their ideas are implemented today in modern crochet. They deserve honor for carrying on the history of fiber art.

erikai said...

Whoo-hoo!

To add to the kvetch let's hear it for stocking patterns. NOT socks, but stockings!!! I am about insane enought to start adapting lace patterns to replace this most basic but shoddily made temporary sock I find at the store... Only I'm new at knitting and haven't figured it out.. heck, it's the reason that knitting appeals to me in the first place!

Secondly, isn't knitting, crafts, cooing, etc all about carrying on the threads to our heritage (pun only partially intended)? Let those hamburger eating, pre-packaged scrapbook-toting, let-me-have-the-easy-way folks work at it a bit.... It may just be the first time in thier lives they've gone beyond a paint-by-number approach.

erikai said...

And pay no mind to the gall who knits part time...

Those who really want to figure it out will. You can still do a "big" project, it just takes more patience. Otherwise keep knitting scarves. I'm a beginner too, but I am sick, sick, sick, of boxy sweaters, hats, and baby booties.

Gimme something I can really sink my needles in!

farm-witch said...

THANK YOU!

What is 'easy' anyway? I mean, part of the beautiful journey that is knitting (or crochet) is to challenge, morph, and re-bake with a special new ingredient all of the things that help us define 'easy'. When I first tried to teach myself to knit - the purl stitch alone seemed akin to being stabbed in the eyes with a feather quill. A few more times and it was 'easy'. The first steek I did nearly gave me a heart failure and I had to have a drink before I could finish it - now I cut through that knitting like it is a sure thing that all will be well. Easy isn't flattering to anyone. It says to the beginner, "hello, stupid, even a troll could do this but in case you still can't, we've drawn you a step-by-step guide" and to the lifelong knitter, "hey, you know a troll could make that!". As if a beginner doesn't have the fortitude or the intellect to actually make something that is just knitting - not 'easy' knitting. I wish someone had told be about short row shaping right off - then my first two sweaters wouldn't make me look like Dolly Pardon!

Anonymous said...

amen.