Sooo, I taught myself to crochet about 10 days ago. But you probably already knew that, if you subscribe to my newsletter (What?!? You don’t? Well that’s easy to fix - sign up here).
Now before you get worked up thinking that I’m going to be posting endlessly about the joys of crochet (which I will freely admit, there are MANY - oh man oh man is it ever addictive - yikes!), I assure you that I’m not, even though I’m having a lot of fun with it. It’s just that learning new skills and yarn work are relevant to the actual topic of today’s post. So without further ado…
In Abby Glassenberg’s weekly newsletter (You remember Abby, right? She’s the softie designer who was my very first guest on Motherhood by Design), she posted a link to this article in which the author is outraged over something she found in an Etsy shop - some handmade gloves, that were knit “wrong.”
If you look at the picture on her site, you can see what she means by the word “wrong” - in the twisted sample, the stitches are more dense and compact, so presumably in the straight image they are looser. And unless the image is playing tricks on my eyes (totally possible - maybe it’s like that white and gold or blue and black dress thing a few weeks ago?), in the twisted sample the stitches appear like the letter V, whereas in the straight sample they appear as inverted Vs.
The author of the blog post was shocked, appalled, offended, and angry (those are her own words) at the quality of the work and the fact that the maker is putting her goods up for sale. To her credit, though, she reflected on the strength of her own reaction to the offending knitting. She goes into a full explanation of the various types of knitting, one of which actually results in these exact stitches.
If these stitches are a legitimate technique, then how can they be wrong?
Her assertion is that they’re wrong because based on what information the author gathered from the maker’s Etsy shop and the item descriptions (ummm, that sounds like dangerous territory right there, but that’s just me), the knitter was not intentionally making her stitches that way. Rather, the maker was knitting incorrectly.
Now as I said, these stitches are indeed a legitimate technique.
But the blog author believes the items were created this way not by intentional design choice, but by mistake. And that, in her opinion, is what makes it wrong.
To which I say, since when have we empowered the knitting police?
If it was a matter of structural integrity, I can see the concern. As much as I’d hate to buy something handmade that was substandard, I’d also be upset if I was unwittingly making and selling something that was substandard. That would be a poor reflection on me, and a poor reflection on the handmade community. So I get that.
But if the items are functional and structurally sound, then what the heck is the difference? What good do we do by pointing out where someone is falling short? We're talking about knitted gloves here, not parachutes. The consumers will ultimately decide whether or not they want to buy these gloves or any of the other knitted items in the shop.
This kind of elitist thinking isn’t limited to knitting or crochet, it’s also found in the quilting world, and I’m sure others like beading, printmaking, garment sewing, etc. I suspect it’s universal.
But what’s also universal is the joy of making. The joy of selecting a pattern (or coming up with your own), choosing materials, and executing your vision. And sometimes that means making mistakes. And believe it or not, making mistakes leads not only to learning, but to developing new techniques.
See that crocheted square at the top of my post? Yep, it totally looks like someone took a bite out of the top corner. Oooops, that was not intentional. But in my defense, this was the very first time I read and followed a crochet pattern. And in full disclosure, I didn’t even follow the pattern to the letter - I improvised based on what little I knew and a bit of input from friends. And considering that I’m still mastering manipulating the hook and yarn in my hands and have to use my fingers now and then to move the yarn over the hook, I’m sure that my work would be considered a “mistake.”
And to add insult to injury, when I started yarnwork a couple of years ago, I tried something called "nooking." (Really, don't ask. If you're interested in working with yarn, just learn knitting or crochet, trust me, nooking is super boring.) Anyway, it turns out that I was doing even that wrong for a couple of years. But you know what? I don't care. It served its purpose to try something new and keep my hands busy, and eventually I made the leap to crochet. Those couple of years of stitching "wrong" served a very valuable purpose for me.
Now am I about to start making and selling my crochet work? No way. But so what if I was? It may not be technically perfect but as long as it holds together and does what I say it will and my customer is happy, what’s the problem?
We all know that it’s very hard to make any money by producing and selling handmade goods. Aside from a few very skilled and well-known artists, it’s difficult to price our work high enough to make a sustainable profit. And pricing that’s fair to the maker and the industry is the subject of a whole different post for another time.
Rather the subject of this post is acknowledging that the idea of right and wrong, when it comes to handmade, is much more fluid than a lot of people think. It’s in the eye of the beholder. And sometimes the value of handmade goes far beyond the item that was produced.
Now, anyone want to buy a square of purple crochet with the extremely unique design feature of a missing upper left corner?