Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Followup on the Wendy Phenomenon...

Yes, I am spending entirely too much time on this issue. it is one that has perplexed me for some time now.

Upon further discussion over a light repast (mmm, fish sammich), Mister Husband and I have agreed upon several points. To wit:

First, she obviously has values that differ from mine, and it is entirely possible that my values will become more like hers as time goes on. However, I also believe that it is entirely possible to live the Bad-Ass Knitter Manifesto in a way that is not quite so... hoardworthy, just a little more connected to others in the world through better use of resources.

You know the inspiration vs. perspiration equation? I forget the actual proportions, but suffice it to say that they're both present in an activity requiring exertion and/or talent. We want to se hard things made easy, or at least shown in a way that says, "You know, it's accessible to me if I do X/Y/Z." For example, why do we watch This Old House? We want to see complicated things broken down into smaller, simpler steps, expertly done.

It's the PROCESS of the matter, and Wendy seems almost exclusively a process knitter. Except that when she describes her process, she doesn't really describe the process. Sure, there's a bit of explanation as to yarn selection, and she does not admittedly spend much time writing as opposed to knitting, but as Mister Husband said, "dropping a wad of cash and applying brute force until it works is not 'process.'"

The knitting world is about utility, individuality and inspiration. You learn to knit so you can create unique items, or items that serve purposes or fit in a particular way, maybe both. So now we go back to the book. Why do people buy knitting books? You're most likely looking for tips, tricks or inspiration -- even if you don't LOVE a pattern, you can use shaping, for example, or add an edging.

This reminds me of my mom's writers. My mom teaches a writing class to mostly-octogenarians, and she helped a woman write her memoirs of growing up in an Italian neighborhood. Others wanted my mom's help to do the same, but my mom couldn't help them all. In particular, she kept trying to encourage one woman to be more descriptive. "We went to the dance, and it was such fun," the woman writes.

"But Gertie, WHY was it fun?" asks my mom.

"Well, there were lots of people there, and it made for such a lovely time."

Similarly, getting a book that says, "I went out and bought it, and came home and did it..." Who wants to pay money to do that? That's not inspiration.



At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Quigs said...

Could it be possible that this woman could be devoid of any true teaching ability? I know some extremely knowledgeable individuals who can work the most difficult problems out of a corner...then return to the corner only to repaint, redecorate, then resell the corner for 4 times what it is worth. Then you ask them to teach you what they just did, and all you receive is a blank look. Or there are those individuals who are too impatient to explain their process.

I just wrote all this to realize that I have no point. Sweet! No wait, I previewed and remembered...I think perhaps you're seeing her great gift of time, energy, and yarn being wasted, when her ideas and processes could be taught to others, and that opportunity is being squandered. Well, I think that's my point.

At 4:04 PM, Anonymous froggy_dear said...

I read Wendy too. And, I too, really can't pin down why I do. Maybe it's because it's so damn impressive the way she cranks those suckers out. Even if most of those suckers aren't things that I would ever consider wanting. And it is painful that she spends so much and uses them so little. I have some things I never wear (that I knitted) but that's because they were... bad choices...

Re: Process. Process is why I loved Eunny's series on lace. I really do enjoy those sorts of musings/extremely knowledgable writings. At the same time I read a lot of knitting fluff - Crazy Aunt Purl. I started reading for knitting stuff, but now... now I just read because I do. And she's entertaining.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger Lemur said...

Yeah, I've thought a lot of the same things you have. I enjoy watching what she does, and I do find a lot of her FOs instructive--I have much less desire to track down Starmore books now, because those big, square Fair Isle patterns? Make you look like a no-waisted oblong. A lot of things that look beautiful as FOs, and seem like they'd be really fun for a Process Knitter (which, happily, she owns up to being), are really things that result in beautiful, expensive showpieces, that make you look like crap when you put them on.

I think her value is in that folks find her empowering--yeah, you might not be able to finish that thing in two weeks, but if she can/has done it, you just might want to keep at it. (And her toe-up sock pattern kicks ass.)

What drives me bugfuck is the commenters who leave comments as if they were their cats, leaving messages for Lucy.

Or the . . . commenters . . . who . . . seem! to think . . . that ellipses! and . . . exclamation points! connecting random phrases . . . and cliches . . . are the epitome of pithy self-expression.

(I don't read the comments unless I'm desperate for entertainment, or interested in the suggestions that might have been called for. Really.)

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Squiddles said...

I can't just let this sit untouched:

"For example, why do we watch This Old House? We want to see complicated things broken down into smaller, simpler steps, expertly done."

We watch because Vila is a god! Like Prometheus, bringing fire from the heavens!

Honestly, I think you've hit on the difference between the do-it-yourself genre and the see-what-a-neat-thing-I've-made genre.

Some craftspeople, you want to watch them work, to learn their techniques and duplicate their efforts (or better yet, modify their efforts to better suit your needs). Other craftspeople, you just want to watch them work and see the pretty things they come up with.

I'm no knitter, but I'm into the food porn, and I've seen the difference expressed time and again in that world. There are cooking shows where I think, "That looks tasty -- I should make that one of these nights!" Other shows (or even worse - confectionery contests!) I just gaze on in wonder, knowing that the skills required are far beyond my abilities, and that I can't/won't take enough cooking classes to ever bring myself to that level.

So yeah - there's a difference between "watch and learn" and "look at me," and it can get frustrating if you're looking for one and get the other.

At 9:02 AM, Anonymous TChemGrrl said...

I mostly stopped going to her blog when I realized that she was either buying something or getting a present from someone almost every day, and it was just too much gloating for my taste.

And I think you've pointed something out about subcategories of "process knitters" that I've been trying to put my own finger on for a while. There are "process of knitting" knitters and "process of thinking about knitting" knitters that both get put in the same category.

A "process of knitting" knitter just follows the pattern or plugs in the numbers, and they either can't or don't want to explain why they did what they did. The way that Wendy doesn't like a lot of the too big/shapeless sweaters she makes but continues to make the same size and shape sweaters is an example of that.

A "process of thinking about knitting" knitter does more of what you seem to be describing. Eunny is a fanstastic example of this, and so is Kim at String or Nothing. Honestly, those are the people who could write books I would buy, so it's too bad that the people with book deals are the ones I wouldn't pay to read.

At 6:27 PM, Anonymous amvhoward said...

Having been thinking a lot lately about consumption and charity, your critique of WendyKnits struck a chord. I suppose she is empowering for some people, but I find her indicative of a trend in the fiber-arts culture that's just plain disturbing.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

I've never been a big fan of Wendy's, either. I went through all her finished projects archives and was duly amazed and looked at the patterns of her own she had available about 1.5 yrs ago and was unimpressed.

Before I had carpal tunnel syndrome and before I had kids, I used to crank out complex projects pretty quickly. But I just don't understand cranking out sweaters for no apparent reason, other than to show the world that you can.

I haven't seen her book yet. How many blogs-to-books does the world need, anyway? Seems like there are dozens in the works now.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger erica said...

I read Wendy for a while but just lost interest. Last weekend at Maryland, I looked at the book and was much unimpressed. Other friends also were as unimpressed or more than I was. There isn't more that I can say than has already been said here in your comments and on your blog. I think the book was a bit self-righteous and those who are Wendy-addicts will love it and I think more will just leave it on the shelf. I would rather spend my time reading a knitting book that's more worthwhile or more entertaining.

I still haven't understood her cranking out sweaters to sit in the corner. By golly, as soon as I finish a sweater, I'm ready to wear it all the time. There is process knitting and there is "process" knitting. If you're all about the process, knit something for someone else who will love what you've made. Heck, knit for a charity who needs blankets or hats.

Btw, welcome to the Midwest Knitters blog ring.


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