Count me in with the Curmudgeon and Lisa at Rosieblogs on their stance on disparaging knitting books “dumbed down” for today’s chix. I detest the majority of knitting books published over the last three years. I don’t like the attitude, the contents, the presentation, or the base assumptions behind them. Lisa’s rant is spot-on. Knitting isn’t difficult. It is exacting, and does require a fair bit of patience and perseverance to master. But there’s no mystery, and it’s been accomplished very successfully for hundreds of years by people with no formal math education whatsoever.

You could probably argue that the most recent crop of books was not written with my demographic in mind – the grumpy intermediate to experienced knitter looking to learn more. But even if I were nineteen and holding yarn for the first time, I’d be offended. The only thing that differentiates the vast majority of these hip, trendy little no-attention-span patterns from the stuff aimed at teaching Kindergarteners to knit is the absence of wiggly doll eyes on the projects. Cell phone cozies? Let’s forget for a moment that a team of engineers labored for months on achieving the rate of heat dissipation required for a small-footprint electronic device to function properly, and that someone now wants to put a sweater on the damned thing. If I were a novice knitter given a book whose diet of beginners projects ran the gamut of items you could make from a square folded in half, I’d toss the thing aside and dismiss the whole craft as being brain dead.

Now there are intelligent, well-written books out there for beginners. You can usually find them by avoiding key words in the titles. Lisa nominates “Easy.” I nominate “hip”, and “simple.” Stanfield and Griffith’s Encyclopedia of Knitting is a good one. It’s full of inspirational photos, describes lots of techniques in an accessible manner. As a “Knitting 101” type overview it’s broad but not particularly deep – a good gate to further exploration that doesn’t overwhelm a beginner with every knitting fact known to the universe. The only thing its lacking is a bunch of intro projects.

This glut of useless books follows in the footsteps of any hobby fad. It happened to needlepoint, cross stitch, and quilting in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s respectively. Publishers see people stampeding to a new interest and retool their offerings accordingly. More substantive books are put on hold, general references of interest to all levels go out the window, and minimalist splashy intros soak up every available publishing dollar. In knitting’s case as Lisa and the Curmudgeon point out, this fad-following focus is compounded by a whole flock of wildly patronizing and denigrating attitudes. So count me in with them. I’m not interested in simple, hip, trendy, urban-gritty, easy, shortcuts, weekend, boxy, cropped, giant-gauge, flash, dummies, or quick. I don’t even want books of expensively photographed patterns for clothing that will look dated in a year. I want challenges, complexity, techniques, resources, tailoring, fine gauges, and if I’m going to spend months creating the object – long term wearability.

Perhaps I’ll get more of it. Knitting’s recent expansion is poised for a crash as the majority of the fad knitters move on to the next big, non-challenging thing. I’m delighted to note that a minority (although a healthy minority) of recent learners has the interest and perseverance to move beyond these dumbed-down books. Perhaps in the flotsam of the post-fad knitting environment between them and those of us who knit before it was trendy there will be enough demand to spur the publication of more substantive and useful resources. But more likely the publishers will lemming on after the next self-affirming fad. Scrapbooking anyone? I hear most people had some exposure to scissors, paper and glue in grade school.

Enough ranting. The few folk who come here aren’t scouring the web for editorials. Back to knitting content.

Klein Bottle Hat – Finished

Here’s the finished Klein Bottle Hat, once more ably modeled by Smaller Daughter (the only one still home in the before-school hour I steal for blogging).


I can say that I followed the schematic in the pattern far more than I followed the pattern itself. I found the original to be too big – not big around the head, too long in length. I shortened up the run of plain full-width knitting before the slit is made, and conflated the narrowing and the slit itself (winging it on the rate of decrease) working both the decrease and the slit at the same time. I’m not entirely pleased with the graft. If I were to do this again, I’d knit some small K2P2 swatches and practice grafting them before I tackled the hat itself. But it will do for a quick gift.

My only problem is that I’ve run out of small project before I’ve run out of deadlines. Mittens next? Perhaps.

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One response

  1. I loved the rant – much more articulate than my response each week when I go to teach at lys and see all the travesties lined up. Although thye do lend themselves to entertainment. Like the other night there was a boy who looked to be about 5 there with his dad selecting a birthday present for mom. He wanted "Domiknitix" because of the "cool cover" — Dad suggested a gift certificate and that he could point out that book to Mom when they came in to spend the gift certificate.

    I mostly just cruise your site, but do appreciate it.

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