25 April 2009

Knitters of the world unite & take over

As Rog has been in NY this week, and I have been putting off doing work, I was able to finish Bliss in record time. I basically knit every night from 9pm - 12am, and I am really pleased with how it turned out! Just in time to go to a dinner party tonight, en plus.

I'll spend this week coming catching up on the work I should have been doing this past week. That'll also give me some time to think about what I want to knit next. Right now I don't have any idea!

* * *

I remember a conversation I had with my father when I was about 13 or 14 about how equal (or not) women were. He said that there was still a lot of work to be done. I said something along the idiotic lines of "well, everyone I know is really strong and independent and unshackled by misogyny" (that's the gist of it, though "unshackled" and "misogyny" were probably not my words of choice at the time). And he said: "How many people do you know?"

That stopped me in my tracks. I had made the presumption that "normal" for me was representative of the world at large.

I started thinking about this again after listening to Hoxton Handmade's podcast about her grandmothers - and grannies in general - the other day (by the way, you should check out her podcast!). She makes the point that older generations of women tended to be crafty, usually because of necessity. Whether they enjoyed it or not was a different matter. Now, I imagine, we only knit if we enjoy it.*

As you might have guessed, I'm making another presumption: I presume that everyone finds knitting normal - there are those who knit and those who don't, but no lack of understanding between the two. I rarely, if ever, encounter people who think it's just for grannies (one of the joys of being freelance, I think, as most of the tales of knit-resistance come from friends who work in offices). I would say that about 90% of the women I know knit. I can, right now, think of only three exceptions (J in New Mexico, Rog's sister and my own sister). Admittedly, I don't know any men who knit.

And, I think most of the women whom I know who knit have parents and grandparents who knit and/or sew and/or crochet. As a kid, my mother taught me how to crochet and sew (by hand and machine). She says she taught me to knit, and I believe her, just that memory never made it into the long-term memory bank. I spent a lot of time during my childhood sewing things. My grandmothers both sewed, and my mother's mother knit amazing things - not necessarily my colours or style at the time, but still beautiful pieces of work.

In other words, in my world, it is completely normal to be crafty. But are the people I know representative of the world at large? According to wikipedia, ravelry has 27,000 members; a lot of people, but in the scheme of things, it's a small percentage. How many knitters are there who aren't on ravelry? I imagine there are quite a lot, but still... And if we're not representative and being crafty is a luxury hobby, what does that mean for future generations?

* She also compared knitting to the Tardis, and I have to say, I am absolutely loving the prevalence of the tardis as a major cultural reference - G mentioning the Tardis-like qualities of the Christmas pudding is the other example that comes to mind.

19 April 2009

Lovely weekend

It was another lovely weekend.

I've even got a bit of a sunburn from sitting in / walking through parks yesterday and today!

After I finished Paloma, I had a few days off, because I wasn't sure what to knit. By the way, it turns out that though I used the same size needles as the pattern called for, I used much thicker wool than prescribed; hence mine isn't quite as lacey, and the pattern stands out more strongly. So if you liked how mine turned out, apparently that's the trick.

Anyway, I wasn't sure what to make next. For some reason I was very drawn to a wintery-looking jumper, Vaila. But, I remembered lessons learned from other not-fitted-enough jumpers and instead, I settled on Bliss, which has a similar theme but is quite fitted and has short sleeves, so it's even season-appropriate.

I've started knitting it up in the wool I got from the Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm, a csa that I had joined before leaving the states. Interestingly, you can really feel the lanolin on the wool. It's a bit sticky, and so moves with a bit of difficulty on my needles, and I have a feeling the wool might not be so soft without it. But so far the stitches look really nice.

Sorry for the crap photos.

Yesterday, I went up to London Fields and did some knitting in the sunshine with Larissa, before succumbing to fudge at Broadway market. In the pub on the park, people were having drinks and playing cards in the sunshine. Heavenly! (A few weeks ago, we learned how to play a French card game called belotte, and afterwards, when trying to explain an English game to the French bloke who'd taught us, he wanted to know the order of the cards (which was highest, etc), and we kept saying, "you know, normal." Of course, for him, belotte is normal. You know, where tens are highest when jacks aren't. Or something like that...)

And today, I went for a walk with my friend G, up to hampstead heath. The park is always lovely, but we today before we entered the park, our path took us down little winding streets and mews. Rawley Mews was lovely and looked more French countryside town than central London, as did the little alleyway that parallels Highgate Road for a little ways. Perfect little pockets that I had bypassed at least a half dozen times, ignorant of their existence.

So, yes, that's right. I have not done all the work I was meant to do over the weekend, which is due tomorrow morning. Since Rog left for New York on Friday, I thought I'd have oodles of time; as it turns out, time passes just as quickly when he's not here as it does when he is. Which is good, because it means he'll be home sooner.

ps do you think it's bad that my computer keeps shocking me? Somehow even though this machine is ancient (for a computer) I can't bear to get rid of it until it really, truly stops working. And it works just fine, if very slowly. It just shocks me sometimes.

13 April 2009


Well, before I get to Bath, here's Paloma. I did rip it all out and start over again, this time without mistakes, and I'm really happy I did so. Not least because I figured out that many of my problems the first time around stemmed from the fact that I missed an all-important increase round very early on. So I'm pretty pleased with how this turned out; now I'll just need some warm days, please...

Bath was lovely. We were staying a few miles out in the countryside with R's sister's husband's family. It was fantastic, and there were enough gamboling lambs there to keep me happy for some time to come.

The river Avon, which flows right through the town:

The church:

With some angels climbing up and some climbing down, though the ones climbing down are upside-down because, R's bil told me, as people climbing down look much like people climbing up, they needed to do something to differentiate, and hence they made the ones going down literally upside-down:

Lambs, lambs, lambs:

08 April 2009

Paloma Progress and a bit of a rant

Well, I ripped it all out. I've now re-knit and am well close to the half-way mark! I'm up to the part where there are waves, which is fun to knit - seeing them start to appear. I'll post some pictures soon.

Today we went to this event at PRS, sort of a response to what's happening with them and Google. I have to say, it's hard for me to understand Google's position. One of the guys who spoke at the event, who had co-written that Rick Astley hit (can't remember the title right now), said that his royalties for 154,000,000 hits on the song on youtube were... £11. Rog worked out that that's approximately 7/100,000 of a pence per hit. And this is a guy who has done well - so his response was to say, fine, take it off youtube, I don't care. But what about all the musicians out there who need royalties to live on? Is it fair that they're only getting 7/100,000 of a pence per hit? And if their music isn't quite so popular, then what? I think there are a couple of things going on here:

1) People must think it takes about 3 minutes to write and produce a song. Therefore 7/100,000 of a pence per hit is an acceptable payment. People don't seem to understand that it can take days and days to produce just one song. If you can't produce it yourself, you have to go to a studio and hire a producer and an engineer. Even if you can produce it yourself, you still have to be able to either live in a place where you can make a lot of noise, or rent one, and you still have to buy all the equipment.

2) Yes, some musicians are vastly overpaid compared to the quality of their work or their talent. But most musicians don't make enough to live on. Why do people feel, though, that it's okay to look in musicians' pockets? What about the vastly overpaid and undertalented people in the banking industry? Until recently, people didn't look in their pockets - that is, until we started paying their salaries. And bonuses (I'm looking at you, Fred). And that's how it should be. This should be the same for musicians. Don't like their work? Don't think they're talented? Don't buy their music. By the way, this is true of a lot of occupations - there are always a few who are being way overpaid, and they shape public perception, so that the few - those the public know about - become the majority in the public's view.

3) Musicians haven't rallied together. Billy Bragg was at this thing today saying exactly that: musicians need to come together and start to make themselves heard if they want to get paid properly for their work. (Last time I saw Billy Bragg was years ago at uni! He doesn't seem to have changed much - still funny and charming, still working for his cause). If you don't stand up for yourselves, it's very clear that nobody else is going to.

4) This is the thing I don't understand: people seem to be very, very emotional about their "right" to free music. This is a completely misplaced sense of entitlement. We live in a capitalist society. We pay for everything else. Why shouldn't we pay the people who create our music? Why do people respond so emotionally to the idea of paying for music? If employers started demanding free labour from people, they'd flip. Even if it was really good promotion for what good workers they are.

As knitters, I think we understand that if someone creates a pattern we want, and they choose to sell it, that we should pay for it. It shows respect for that person's creativity, it clearly communicates to them that we'd like them to keep creating, and it potentially enables them to keep creating (if enough of us pay for it), by not forcing them into other work. This is exactly the same as with songs.

I'm wondering if it doesn't boil down to this: people don't want to pay for an idea. They'll willingly pay for physical objects that they can hold in their hands and see with their eyes - a beer at the pub which is 10 times more expensive than a song on Amazon (29p!), or a pair of jeans that's 50 times as expensive, or a computer (don't ask me to do the math there). But a song? For 29p? Maybe 79p on itunes? Too expensive? Really? But, when CDs were in vogue, and before that vinyl, people happily paid for their music -because they wanted the thing. I used to love buying records, especially, for that reason - the album cover and the sleeve were an integral part of the work.

I don't know. What do you think?

Rant over. Back next week with knitting photos, I promise.