With any hobby, it is natural to get deeper and deeper into the processes that go into it. Gardeners go from planting purchased plants to starting their own plants from seed and composting their own soil. Musicians learn other composers’ works then begin to compose their own. If you love baking, you attempt to branch out into more complicated recipes, and perhaps make more of your baked goods from scratch, relying less and less on pre-prepared ingredients.
It’s sort of a horizontal integration tendency. The more we come to love a hobby, the more we want to take our involvement back to the roots of it, and we get more interested in the process of carrying out that hobby, but also in the producing of the materials needed to carry it out.
I see and hear about this same desire in the fiber world. The more I listen to podcasts and read knitting-related articles, I am amazed by how many knitters and crocheters are also fervent spinners. It could very well be that someone who is likely to host a podcast or write an article is also more likely to be taken with other facets of their craft. In fact, for many of these people, knitting is a component of their occupation, so it is certainly understandable that their interests are also going to take on spinning.
Not me. I am a final product person. I hear and read about the great love some of these crafters have for spinning, dying, and all other steps between that sheep/goat/alpaca/cotton plant/bamboo and my final product, and my reaction is a definite “no thank you.” This could be a reaction born of the limited time I or any knitter has, so I’m pretty content to walk into a store and buy the product of another crafter’s very extensive labors.
For every step in the process, you can almost always take it back a step and get more into the “raw” material that will one day become your scarf or socks. If you don’t have a pretty big yard, then purchasing that sheep or alpaca is probably not in the cards for you. So the closest the truly committed crafters get is usually buying a fleece and going from there.
If I had any doubts as to my yarn producing apathy, I just had to hear a few podcasts about processing a raw fleece. By raw, I mean “it was just taken off an animal that spends all of its time outdoors.” So you have to start by removing the grass, dirt, and who-knows-what that a farm animal is picking up while growing your next sweater. This involves soaking the fleece in hot water (but not too hot) and cleaning it with soap (but only very mild soap). You might have to repeat this process. A lot. Then to remove the dirt that is still in your not-yet-yarn, you need to use “cards,” to keep combing the fleece and straightening it. You then are ready to…spin. I don’t even know where the dying part comes into the process. Even some of the hardcore spinners who I have heard describe this process then follow up by stating that they now pay someone to process their fleece for them.
This description makes spinning sound easy. No interest. I guess non-knitters would find the knitting and purling to be fairly tedious. but hey, at least I’m seeing the final product emerge as I do it, and if it’s a pattern that is even a little bit involved, I can enjoy the design come to life as I do my cables and lace. I teach high school history, and earlier Americana is replete with the musings of women of centuries past sharing the tedium of spinning, so I’ll learn from their experiences and leave it to the truly committed.
I get it. Some people are meant to get back to the core roots of any given craft. And thank goodness for them, because I love buying and using their stuff. More power to the crafters who dazzle all of us (and I say that in all sincerity) with their beautiful end products–there is nothing like casting on a gorgeous skein of yarn with an amazing texture and more amazing color. I am in awe of their efforts, not only because I can see that their talents are really shining through, but also because I know my lack of patience would lead to a pretty half-baked effort and a more half-baked result. I raise my coffee cup (or wine glass depending on the time of day) to them each and every time I partake in one of their final products.
In the meantime, I will be visiting the vendors, admiring and squishing the skeins, and happily purchasing those I can afford and use.
Next week’s blog: “How to Answer ‘Why Don’t You Just Buy It?’ Questions While Knitting (nod, wink)