I’ve decided to start talking about knitting books a little bit on the blog (It was inevitable, wasn’t it? That a knitter who’s also a writer would eventually start talking about knitting books?) I started to review a book that I love, and got to thinking about what I was going to do when I got to a book that I didn’t love. Say nothing? What I see others do sometimes? Too often, I think ( but I’ve been frequently accused of overthinking) there is an inherent unkindness in how knitters address patterns, designers or yarn they don’t like. I know you are guilty of this, as am I, we all are from time to time.( I do try to keep it so that if I think mean things I do my level best to contain it to the space inside my head, but everyone has their moments). There are other times though, when something is so completely out there that you cannot resist a good kick at it, and since I spend much of my time worrying about being someone who walks lightly on the planet and leaves little hurt, I thought I’d have a little think (there’s that overthinking again) about opinion, ethics and the way I feel about them, and I’ve got the perfect explanatory place to start. There are several people at Lettuce knit who saw me completely giggle myself into fits while perusing this book…
In my defense, I have three points.
1. If you whack a knitted bird on a hat or knit a samurai headdress I would really imagine that you are the clever sort of person who expects that some people (people who have way, way more structure around hats than you do, people like, say….me.) are going to have a very good laugh at it. There is simply no way that this woman is intelligent enough to produce these ideas but not clever enough to know that a structurally perfect Samurai Kabuto is going to knock some knitters with different personal taste flat on their backs in a yarn shop helplessly dissolved.
2. I didn’t laugh at all of them. Some of the hats are completely to my taste, the instructions (should a bird hat strike your fancy) are very clear and good, the author is clearly a creative individual with an enormous sense of whimsy, the illustrations are actually illustrative and the information about hats around the world is very interesting. See that? While I am (in places) of a dissenting view, there is much that redeems this book for me, and I’m open to it. This means that I can have a good laugh and still be able to go to the shop and buy it (don’t you think that Hank needs a Samurai headress for the dress-up box?) without exploding in a cloud of hypocrisy.
3. Here’s the clincher.
Just because I wouldn’t wear or knit some of these hats does not mean, and I really can’t stress this enough… that I think that this designer is dimwitted, un-talented or underrepresented in the intelligence pool. There is a sparkling supposition that I read out there all the time where someone writes something very negative like (and I am perhaps paraphrasing) “this is a design only a twit would design and a moron would knit” when really, what they really mean to say is “this is not at all to my taste”. This approach leads knitters into inferring that if a knitter chooses to knit such and such a pattern, or with such and such a yarn, that they think the knitter is making a dreadful mistake and since the knitter is not making something they would make, that the knitter is a being of lesser worth.
While “What were you thinking?” is a valid question somewhat deserving of an answer (I can say this because I admitted publicly to having knit this green sweater.) implying that the knitter is incapable of thought is not.
I admit too, that all of this smacks of “Why can’t we all just get along” but really, why can’t we? “Why can’t we all agree” is a ridiculous statement, and denying personal taste is just as demeaning as jabbing someone for it, but is there some value in a personal attack or a diminishing barb that I’m missing? Is there a usefulness in deriding the choices of other knitters? Isn’t it just knitting, and isn’t it possible to critique a book, a pattern or yarn without hurting someone? Why does it seem so difficult for so many of us to say “I madam, would not be caught dead in a bird hat” or “I would never knit cotton” without adding or inferring the troublesome statement “and neither should you.”
The meat of it would be (did that get away from me?) that I’m not actually sure that ones yarn choices, pattern selection or personal taste are related to moral superiority, personal worthiness or the right to turn up at a yarn shop.
This, naturally, is all just my opinion, and one that you are welcome to disagree with. (Hopefully without trashing me, but I can’t have things my way all the time. When I run the world, things will be different.) At what point does critique become cruel? Where do you draw your line? Is there ever a good reason to cross that line?
(Should I immediately forget I ever had the idea of talking about books and stick to my knitting?)
For the people who only look at the pictures on blogs (you know who you are.)
I spun yarn.