Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Two disparate thoughts:

First: I see the New York Times is once again running a knitting article. I admit my gut suspicion is that it's really a "buy my book" piece. But yeah, the author makes a deal about how many people start to knit and then drop it. She blames scarves-as-a-first-project.

I don't know. Yes, a scarf is not a great first project (it SEEMS like it would be, because easy and no shaping, but scarves can be wicked boring to knit - often if I'm doing a simple one, it's my knit-and-read project). (That said, contra what is stated in the article: I like scarves and I wear them. Often a scarf makes the difference between "ugh I am cold outside with just this sweater" and "I am OK with just this sweater")

If I were teaching a new knitter, the first thing I'd show them how to do was a simple cotton dishcloth. Probably in that "Grandmother's Favorite Cotton Dishcloth" pattern that is EVERYWHERE online (that is a non-ravelry link, and it has some really nice photos of pretty dishcloths on it).

Yes, a dishcloth is non-glamorous and utilitarian. But it IS useful. Even if you make a mistake in it somewhere. And they last for a long time (especially if you do them of 100% white cotton - you can even soak them in bleach, then, if you have to). And everyone can use them, practically. And they only take a couple hours to make.

The second project I'd suggest would be a hat. Depending on the person, it would either be a knit-flat and seamed pattern, or I'd introduce the person to the magic of knitting in the round. (generally hats go down best, I find, on short circulars, though you can also use double-points, and in fact, will probably need them to finish off the top). Hats are useful in most climates, they don't take a lot of yarn, you can use any kind of wild-colored or soft or pretty yarn you want because generally they don't get hard wear like socks or a pullover.

Or, if the person seemed especially interested in knitting-in-the-round, I'd suggest mittens. (Yes, there are knit-flat-and-seamed mittens out there, but I've yet to see a pattern that gave as satisfying a product as the knit in the round kind). Mittens are what got me hooked on knitting back around 1997 when I started up again - there is something kind of magic (at least to me) about knitting in the round.

And of course, there are always socks, but I don't think they are a beginner project, necessarily. (One time I unsuccessfully tried to teach someone to knit, it was a labmate who wanted to learn to make socks. Even using a worsted-weight-friendly pattern, she had a hard time getting the hang of knitting in the round. Or maybe she wasn't patient enough, I don't know)

Socks are still one of my favorite projects.

As for crocheting....well, I'd probably start with either a hat or an amigurumi creature, depending on the person's inclination. These days I almost exclusively use crocheting for "critters" because I tend to prefer the "hand" of a knitted fabric more for wearing, and I find it hard to get the knack of crocheting on really fine yarn.

ETA: and another article, this one from Forbes about how craft stores now must pander to the stereotype of Millennial interests and wants and guys, I just need to lie down for a little bit...

Look. People who do crafts hardcore, we are often not like the "median" person of a given cohort. We tend to be more committed to stuff. We tend to care less about being "cool," in fact, some of us even cultivate a consciously "uncool" persona. We don't like being pandered to.

I'm not a Millennial, either - I'm Gen X. We're the generation that probably has more money than the Millennials (in that we are more established in our careers). Yeah, we're probably broker than the Baby Boomers on average, but I suspect we still have more disposable income than those younger than us. And a lot of us are beginning to (hopefully?) approach retirement, and we may have more time - at a lot of us older Xers, if we even had kids, they're more independent now (teens or even early 20s) so we probably have more time. But has any industry EVER bothered to court us?

The whole idea that "we need to appeal to the most shallow 5% of a generation that is big and diverse and also is media-savvy and so will probably see through pandering attempts" is super dumb. And this line from the story:"Crafting retailers have no time to wait. They must turn their stores into Instagram-worthy destinations that will attract the next generation creative hobbyists." does me a discomfort.

Look, you make your store shiny and slick and emoji-filled and dumb everything down? The Millennials who might actually have become your good customers are gonna bail, and the gen Xers will be behind them, rolling their eyes.

(Also, the idea of an "instragram-worthy destination," what does that even MEAN? I'm picturing people getting all up in your face and taking your picture without your permission and if that's how it is, I'll become a hermit, thanks).

What I want in a small craft shop is this: a good selection of supplies. Enough yarn OF THE SAME STINKING DYELOT to be able to make a sweater. A knowledgeable staff that aren't snooty and aloof but that at the same time aren't following me around like a puppy and trying to chat me up. A place that isn't loud or over-bright or too hot or that pipes in loud canned music. A table where a person can sit to craft if they want, but no pressure if they're an introvert who wants to buy their stuff and scram.

And in a superstore-type place, like Michael's, what I want is: a big selection of a lot of different things. Shelves that aren't an ungodly mess. Enough cash registers open so I'm not waiting on line for fifteen minutes. Again, no loud music and no endcap tvs blaring ads would be a major plus.

I suppose "Instragram-worthy" means "quirky and twee," and while I can be down for that, I want some substance behind the quirkiness; I don't want to walk into what is ostensibly a yarn shop and ask some Bored Young Person behind the desk if they have long-cable circular needles and have them snap their gum at me and go "I dunno....I guess? the needles are over there" and wave vaguely at half the store.

But yeah. If in three years the plaint is "Millennials are killing craft stores!" the answer is no, it's not the Millennials, it's the belief that stores need to change and jettison substance in favor of style that doomed them.

Also, while I'm complaining: calling people who sew "sewists" discomfits me. I get that "sewer" has an unfortunate homonym when typed rather than said, but "sewist" sounds to me like someone who is marching in protest over something, or like something deeply political. (And I get that some people who sew ARE, but I am not. Personally, I prefer to say 'seamstress' for what I do, but I get that that is a very gendered term.)


A sad story out of Dallas yesterday: a guy was shot and killed by police because he was being "menacing" with machetes. He was described as "not wearing shoes, socks, or a shirt, and waving machetes around and yelling" and later in the radio-news story the comment was made "his motives are unknown" and I admit I was kinda screaming "UNTREATED MENTAL ILLNESS OR DRUG USE" at the radio.

And it's unfortunate he was killed. Yes, I guess a lot of people were scared - one woman who worked in a shop said they locked the doors and hunkered down and hoped he'd go away. He didn't actually hurt anyone but when police approached, he wouldn't drop the weapons (which, again, leads me to think there was something not-normal going on in his brain: if I were out in  my yard cutting weeds with my machete, and I saw a cop walking up to me, I'd carefully set it down on the ground and step away from it so he'd know I wasn't a threat)

And yeah, I know I shouldn't Monday-morning quarterback, but it made me wonder: why don't police have tranquilizer guns, like people who work around large animals do? It would make more sense, ultimately, to hit the guy with a tranq, take him to a hospital, have him evaluated. I suppose there are safety concerns and all involved (for both perpetrator and police) but I wonder - the guy is dead now, being tranquilized, even though it carries some risks, means it's less likely he'd be dead. And if a cop can hit him with a bullet you'd think he could hit him with a dart. (I don't know. Maybe humans know to pull out tranq darts and animals don't?)

I also know that police sometimes use beanbag guns to subdue people when it looks like a non-violent confrontation but I guess they felt that was contraindicated here?

But I would not be surprised to find out this was someone who was a meth addict, or had gotten a bad batch of some other kind of drug, or had gone off his meds, or something.

I dunno. I also wonder how I'd react in my building if someone showed up with longknives. I suppose my first instinct would be to get into the first room I could block him OUT of  and lock the door, and call from the phone in the room (or, if there were no phone, hope someone else called). I think I would find someone coming in with a knife a LITTLE less scary and traumatic than someone coming in with a gun - if you can move quickly you can more easily get out of the range of a knife, and if you can lock yourself in a room the knife-bearer usually can't get in, where I've heard of stories of people with guns trying to breach the door by shooting the lock or some such.

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