Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sick of dumbed-down knitting books?

Well, so is Lisa Myers. [Regular readers know that she's the owner of my LYS, Rosie's Yarn Cellar, and author of The Joy of Knitting: Texture, Color, Design, and the Global Knitting Circle]. After a trip to a trade show last weekend, and seeing the crop of new knitting books, Lisa wrote a rant, er, passionate blog entry:

We're sick of people claiming that what they do is "not your grandmother's knitting," as if there was something wrong with our grandmother's knitting.

(Hey, publishers--stop insulting my grandmother. I know that's not what you're trying to do, but I've had it. Eve Plotnick and Dorothy Myers were women of skill, patience, resourcefulness, and creativity. And if you think I'll ever think better of anything you're showing me because you tell me it's unlike what they did or would do, you're way wrong.)
Rosie's new policy is to be more selective when it comes to new knitting books (in particular ones with "easy" or "not your grandmother's" in the title), and stock books with content.

[Insert non-cliched version of "You go, girl" here.]

24 comments:

mindy said...

Read it, loved it- thanks for linking it.

Carrie said...

My grandmother is still rockin with the knitting, and is very interested in the Harlot. Grandmas For The Win! I'm with ya.

Anonymous said...

That'll make your book section really small in a hurry! But I applaud the move.

My grandmother and her mother were both amazing craftpeople and I get pretty fed up with the "not your grandmother's" designation. I want books labeled "Not your trendy teenager's bulky, make-it-in-one-weekend knitting."

Selma said...

Add chunky, funky, hip and naughty and I'll declare a national holiday in your honor.

Anonymous said...

If I knit like Grandma, I'd start with five dps and end up on one. That was her claim to fame, when she got all patriotic during WWII and decided she was going to knit balaclavas for the Red Cross. She couldn't cook, she couldn't sew, she couldn't do anything domestic. But she taught three generations of Staten Islanders and for that and her unconditional love, I will be forever grateful.

And hey, I'm a Grammy. So if Liz knits, she knits like her grandmother does.

I hate that phrase, "not your grandmother's knitting." Death to all hip, trendy knitting writers who are too clueless to be bothered with.

Anonymous said...

Do you think it comes from the same place as the "My child is an honor student" bumper sticker thing? The idea that we make everyone feel special by lowering the bar and celebrating mediocrity?

In any event, I think it's a great move for Rosie's, and I hope that it's a move that becomes a movement.

julie said...

the lys here in MN with which I affiliate myself has started to be far more selective as well. and not to worry - she still has hundreds of books on the shelves.

Anonymous said...

About time, I say. I love new books but what a disappointment when everything that comes out is NEW! HIP! CHUNKY! I do knit for some teenagers and younger adults, so hip(ish) needs to be in my range, but who really needs to have the same simple shapes and techniques over and over. Bring on the lace, cables, and fine gauge items that a normal sized person in a climate warmer than Alaska can wear.

mk said...

Brava! I'm in the target market for the "not your grandmas" books and it makes me batty. I love my grandmothers and hope that someday I'll get to be as fabulous as they were (both have passed on and I miss them). It also annoys me that some of these books try to sell with the "not grandma!" and then whip out "vintage-inspired"...you know, like stuff my grandma used to wear. I know it's marketing, but I wish they'd get to know their target market a little better. I like to think of myself as the next generation of grandma, personally.

Misty said...

- Raising my needles in solidarity -

Not my grandmothers knitting! Well, why is that so bad?

This is a good one - when people ask me why I knit, I tell them part of it is to honour the memory of those who came before us. And, with every stitch, I think the memory of my grandmother is looking over my shoulder. Wouldn't trade that feeling for the world.

Anonymous said...

I will admit I *don't* want to make the Last Supper tablecloth my Granny made!

Anonymous said...

You know what i also really hate about all these new books, both the easy and less so? That they're often riddled with errors. Sometimes i hesitate to buy a new title just because i know that there will probably be mistakes in it. Then i'm faced with the uncomfortable possibility that this book i really want might not get a second printing anyways and i'm stuck waiting forever. It seems like you just can't win with the knitting book industry: either super-easy redundant and verging on the insulting, or beautiful, innovative but knit-at-your-own-risk.

Patience said...

Thank you for posting this. I've been waiting for the Smarts and Craftsmanship movement to show up now that knitting is "so popular," (for the how-manynth time?) but not been holding out much hope.

How do we get more intelligent books into the market?

Barb Brown said...

Good on Rosie's! The Grandmother thing is really, well, "insulting" comes to mind. What the heck does that mean anyway? Frumpy? Crappy? Old Fashioned? Doesn't describe my Grannies too well, and I'm an old fart myself.

As for the errors in some of the books, I've heard from some designers that often the "errors" are type setting or whatever errors by the publishers. They sent in a correct pattern, and it gets screwed somewhere. A little more quality control maybe?

It would be great if publishers listen to opinions of knitters on what they want in a book, and what they are willing to shell out the cash for.

One of my biggest peeves is pictures...I really don't care about the model looking sexy or arty, what I want is a good clear shot of the shape of the garment (front and back if applicable), and what the stitch looks like.

There are some good books being published, it's just sometimes hard to find them while rooting through the crap.
Barb B.

Anonymous said...

I love Lisa Myers...and you can let her know I said so.

When I used to attend Stitches, there were only two booths that I really cared about, and hers was probably my favorite. Like her upcoming selectivity for books, her taste in yarns was always extraordinary.

Melissa said...

Totally agree.

The phrase doesn't even make sense to me, since neither one of my grandmothers knits. So I guess "not your grandmother's knitting" just means "knitting", so it's true after all!

In all seriousness, my great grandmother was a knitter who was cranking out fabulous slippers for us little ones well into her 80s. I hope my fingers are that nimble when I'm that age.

Anonymous said...

I have similar objections to the title "Never Knit Your Man a Sweater (Unless You've Got the Ring)", I've never seen the book--but with that title, I'll never pick it up either.

Anonymous said...

Go Lisa! "We're smart people, we can figure it out."

Actually, if the "funky, chunky, hip, retro" books actually get folks knitting, good. What bothers me is that they seem to be crowding out anything with in dept technique information and/or accurate history, which is what I crave.

Give me Mary Thomas and you have probably given me 80% of what I need to know. But this may be the problem. Something about markets having to either expand or collapse in a capitolist economy.

Deborah C. said...

Good for Lisa! If only I could knit like my grandma - she was awesome. She could crank out Aran sweaters by just deciding who to make one for, and then casting on. No commercial pattern, she had the complex braids completely memorized and the sweaters would actually FIT the person they were intended for. She also knit socks and mittens for us (on 4 dpns) and the occasional scarf. My mother (her daughter) and I both knit and neither of us can match Grandma's ability with the Aran patterns - we have to look up the patterns in Barbara Walker's treasuries. I think the publishers should stop using that idiotic phrase - what are they trying to say? That grandmas are not worthy? That they knit terribly, and the items they made were lousy? Get a clue!

Debbie said...

I’ve been meaning to do a “not your grandma’s knitting!” rant. It makes me crazy for a lot of reasons. I saw one kit that was named something along those lines and lo and behold, it contained the most boring set of crap patterns ever. It wasn’t hip, funky or chunky, just kind of blah. I’m all for making things fun and interesting. I even like “naughty” knitting. I enjoy cheeky patterns that are whimsical, and maybe a little useless. Who doesn’t love a little folly? Hell, grandmas like folly. Way to alienate an audience.

A lot of times, reviewers use that phrase when talking about my book or website, but you know what? If anything WERE your grandmother’s knitting, it would be all those vintage patterns. Aaaah! It's just such an over-used, meaningless phrase. It's like "ExTReMe!!!!!" for knitters. Damn young people and their big pants.

Carol said...

If I only could knit my grandma, I'd be able to write a book.

Elvira said...

Today's knitting is indeed not the knitting of granny's day. She made knitted suits with fingering weight yarn on tiny needles. Not for her the boxy shape, or chunky yarn, or ginormous needles. A look through vintage patterns will soon let you know just how proficient our grannies were/are. And as for books, and knitters, who insist on making a big deal out of purling - stop it! GASP! A reissue of Don's book! Be still my heart.

Eileen said...

Here, here! I loved my granny and I wish I could knit (crochet, sew, cook and garden) as well as she did.

Anonymous said...

I really think that in 20 years or so a lot of these "not your grandma's knitting" thingies are gonna land up in the "What Were We Thinking?" column of some knitting magazine. And yes, I WISH we could see more of "your grandma's knitting" as it is WAY more interesting than a lot of the one-stitch sweater crap everyone's cranking out.