Although the last 10-15 years should have seen a break in this stereotype to anyone who pays attention, I do still get the question, “Do you really knit? Aren’t you too young?”
No, I’m just sitting here with some yarn and pointy sticks just so you will ask me dumb questions.
So let’s talk about this for a minute.
Why would anyone choose to knit? Why would anyone risk being labeled as the crazy old cat lady or Ms. Marple? (As an Agatha Christie fan, I really don’t find being labeled as Marple terribly insulting in and of itself, but it’s what people imply by the question.) Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned? Don’t you have plans for this evening? Are you that bored? Or, my all-time favorite, why would you knit socks when you can go to Wal-Mart and buy six pair for $3?
Each of these questions, in my opinion, shows a different weakness of thought or character. And while I will try not to judge non-knitters, I will shake my head and worry for our collective future.
First, I am a fairly creative person with an analytical mind who enjoys problem-solving. And when the details of my daily routine (which often must be endured) get to be too drab, I need a creative outlet. I need something to challenge my brain and skills, and watching TV or cleaning my apartment just doesn’t do it for me. In fact, watching TV without having a project to work at on the side is often a guaranteed sleeping pill for me. I cannot be engaged, so I fall asleep.
Next, I like doing for myself. Independence gives me a feeling of safety, and I like making things for myself. This also may be why I cook a lot and rarely go out to restaurants. (Ranger potlucks were always good in the parks.)
Growing up, I was around the do-it-yourself mentality all of the time. My parents certainly had above average DIY skills, but also plenty of extended family members and friends were very skillful. It’s a foreign concept to me buy Christmas cookies, brownies, and prom dresses. You want something? Figure out how to do it. Buying ready-made is always just a last resort. It’s both a goal and a challenging life ethic I enjoy chasing.
Additionally, handmade is generally much higher quality than anything that comes out of a factory run by corporations. Profits necessarily don’t have time for quality. But your average master craftsman will take the time and pride to do the job well. When you make something yourself, you can control the quality of the raw materials, the workmanship and ultimately, the final product. After more than a decade of knitting my own socks and sweaters, I am fairly confident in saying that Hanes and Fruit of the Loom are a waste of money, no matter how many pairs you get in a package.
In this small world, we hear of poor labor treatment, unhealthy working conditions, and even equipment and whole factories collapsing and killing workers. How can I support such business practices? I have no choice in some of the consumer goods I purchase, but when I have a choice, I try my best to NOT support corporations either with questionable/unethical business and production practices or with ties to subcontractors with questionable or unethical business practices.
Cheap socks, again, are just not worth it in my book. I would rather have one pair of socks made in a fair environment than 10 pairs made in a factory in southeast Asia where the employees think they could die tomorrow because of poor corporate standards, yet they still go because they need the pittance they earn. They have little choice.
Yes, I know that without these jobs, people in many places around the world would be worse off than they are. But my question is, why aren’t you willing to pay someone what you would charge to make the same item? Don’t give me ‘that’s the point of economies of scale’, or similar excuses. Bull. Shit.
I think it basically boils down to the fact that too many people in our society do too little for themselves. Many people are completely disconnected from the reality of what it takes to keep themselves fed and clothed. In order to get food on your table, if you eat remotely healthy, the process requires a lot of work by farmers and ranchers. (To say nothing of the chemical factories that turn out processed “food”.) Similarly, people do not understand that, while it may take me 12 hours to knit a pair of socks for myself, my skills are so honed that I would expect that pair to last me a minimum of 10 years with proper care.
I work very hard, I am always trying to better my skills and I do NOT settle for shoddy workmanship or design. I will never give or sell an item that wouldn’t be good enough for me. How many corporate CEOs would say the same and actually live by it? Not many.
So there you have a tiny bit of why I knit. And as to why I will never be the crazy old cat lady? Because cats look at balls of yarn as play toys and I am not willing to sacrafice my merino and silk to such a fate. Nope, I will never have cats.