Sunday, 27 December 2009

And sew it goes...

I'd like to introduce my most exciting birthday present; I will be sure to document my adventures with it here. I should also be able to share my Christmas knitting just as soon as I manage to pin the recipients down and photograph them. In the meantime, I do hope you are all having delightful festive seasons!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

'tis the Season to be Meret

Amid that hypothetical holiday knitting I might just be doing, I found the time to make myself a cheery red hat with the Cascade 220 left-over from making my Snow White jumper. I can highly recommend this excellent free pattern, the Meret (or mystery beret) by Woolly Wormhead. The only mini-mod I made was to knit a small i-cord stalk at the crown, as in my view a beret isn't really a beret without one. It didn't really occur to me till after I'd finished it, but this is an especially festive bit of headgear. Not only is the yarn colour called 'Christmas Red', but the crown decreases also form a rather lovely star shape.

I am most pleased with this wee hat and its unexpected yuletide associations; my birthday is on Christmas day, and I still get ridiculously excited about it.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Why I won't be knitting anything for Germaine Greer this Christmas

A friend just brought to my attention  this article Germaine Greer has written for the Guardian, in which she rails against the 'grisly parade of handcrafted gifts' that are created by knitters and other crafters and foisted on unfortunate friends and relatives. Now I may or may not be engaged in a little desperate pre-Christmas knitting myself, as the mystery macro-ed up photo above may or may not show, and this really got my goat. I realise the article is meant to be humorous, in the hackneyed 'Oh no! Another rainbow jumper from granny!' vein, but as someone who now knows just how much time and effort goes into making hand-knit gifts, I do not find it amusing. 

Even leaving aside the cheap cracks, it seems to me that this is a lazy piece of journalism, and an ill-considered and disappointing response to the craft boom from a very intelligent woman. Greer claims that:
 'Craft was not always so revolting... As long as long as people made craft objects for their own use, they were... functional, durable and dignified. Once they began to make craft objects for other people, the work became coarser, the time taken for manufacture is rationed, and the design becomes repetitive and perfunctory.'
There are so very many things wrong with this statement that if only it weren't such a terrible pun I would be tempted to write it off as woolly thinking and call it a night. It seems to rest on a sentimental and slightly patronising imagined past, one in which time for crafting was presumably not rationed, and all items produced were thus imbued with a mysterious dignity. The knitters throughout history who practised their craft to clothe their families, or to make a living, were indeed probably more skilled than the friend who dared to give Germaine a mismatched pair of bedsocks. They were also frequently subject to the kind of servitude that Greer as a feminist surely cannot endorse, as outlined by Kate Davies in this excellent blog post about the poor recompense of nineteenth-century Shetland knitters.

Her take on craft today is equally flawed. It seems entirely counterintuitive, and somewhat egomaniacal, to suggest that one takes less time and care over things made for others than for oneself. Also, obviously, modern craft objects are not automatically 'revolting'; the alternative - something bought from a shop - can be just as hideous as the socks that Greer is so ungrateful for, without the excuse of the thought and effort that went into making them. What she describes as 'the sinister power of the handmade gift' is a reality, if the word sinister is subtracted, because of precisely that thought and effort, which are intermingled with the item during its making, and evident to the gift recipient after it.

Regular readers of this blog may remember that I designated 2009 The Year of Selfish Knits, after turning myself into something of a one-woman sweatshop last winter. As Christmas draws near again, though, I found the idea of nothing hand-knitted under the tree rather a disappointing one. Without giving too much away, I have made a few things. I recognise the fact that the leisure-time and resources required to do this are themselves luxuries, by contrast to the situation of many knitters of the past who knit because they had to and not necessarily because they wanted to. I do feel, though, that to take the time to make a gift is a small, loving act of rebellion against a quick-fix consumer culture, and should be valued as such.

Friday, 18 December 2009

SNOW (and Snow White, again)

We have snow! Above is a snow buddha and what appears to be a snow Lenin in Front Court.

My friend Simone and I took advantage of the white wonderland to take some photos of each other's knitwear.

This is Simone's lovely green Verity beret...

... and here are her gorgeous gloves, made in Old Maiden Aunt Merino/Bamboo.

I warded off the snowy cold with - what else - Snow White, teamed with my Rose Red beret and Milkweed shawlette.

I love snow so much!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Where have I gone?

I just thought I'd write a quick note to apologise for dropping off the face of the blogosphere. A period of personal upheaval coupled with a few secret and quite possibly Christmas-related projects has meant I haven't really had much to blog about recently. I do hope some of you will stick with me, as I should have lots of content to share soon. In the meantime, I hope you are having happy and crafty times, and I offer this night-time shot of my college chapel by way of apology for my disappearance.

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