I’ll stand my ground

October 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

I recently spent some time at my parents’, catching up with old friends and family. I wore my Girl Friday cardi everywhere – the weather is just getting crisp, but it’s still warm enough to wear a cardigan instead of a jacket during the day. And  they all said, when they learned that it was a hand-knit:

‘Wow, you knit that? It doesn’t look hand-knit – it’s almost like you bought it in a store!’

I’ve heard countless variations of that exclamation. I know well enough my non-knitting friends and acquaintances mean to pay me a compliment. I know they mean that there’s no mistakes, that it’s not lumpy, that it fits well. I’ve got my friends in Leipzig trained well enough, but obviously I have some catching up to do with my old friends.

‘Wow, you knit that? It doesn’t look hand-knit – it’s almost like you bought it in a store!’

Every time I hear someone say that, even though I know they mean well – I can’t help being vaguely offended. Almost like I bought it in a store? Yeah, right.

I haven’t bought a sweater in a while, mostly because what I see in stores is either unaffordable or… crap. It’s plastic yarn. It’s mass-produced in China, or Thailand, or some equally sweatshop-filled country. Either it’s too tight over my bust or too loose over my body, or the sleeves or the body are too short. Or, with shirts gathered under the bust in the currently popular baby-doll style, the line invariably goes right across the lower third of my boobs, which just looks plain silly. And even if I find something that fits, it won’t last longer than a year, and that’s when I’m lucky. Because that’s how the industry works.

Bottom line: that’s not what my knitwear is. I’ll say it again: My sweaters are not almost like I bought them in a store. Neither are my scarves, hats, gloves, socks, shawls, cardigans, cowls. I’ve never even seen willy-warmers in a store, so I’m not sure about those. But that’s not the point.

The point is: my sweaters fit. They’re made to fit me, to be long enough in the body and long enough in the sleeves, and tailored where my waist is, not where the median waist of the German population is. They contain my breasts comfortably. They don’t pinch in under the arms. They’re made from quality yarn that isn’t dyed with chemicals that people have lost their health or eyesight over. They’re made of only (or mostly) natural fibers that are endlessly better than anything ever produced in a laboratory. Every stitch in my sweater is made with love, or enjoyment, or plain stubbornness in the face of slogging through another 336-stitch row. It’s a garment that will serve me well for years, that won’t disintegrate when I look at it sideways, that won’t spontaneously develop holes along the seam after six months. (Even in the unlikely event that it should, I’d still have yarn on hand to fix it.) It’s a garment I can wear with pride, because it is testament to my stick-to-it-ness that I just knit a 48-inch sweater in fingering yarn, and a wonderful reminder of the time I spent lovingly hand-crafting every single stitch.

I don’t know why people associate hand-knit with lumpy and riddled with mistakes, or low-quality. Buying decent yarn is certainly not cheaper than buying a sweater. The wool I buy is ten, twenty times the quality of the polyester so many store-bought sweaters are made of. With that level of monetary, temporal and emotional commitment, you might as well fix every stinking mistake, whether it’s by ripping it back or by making it a design feature. You’re going to be wearing it for years, so you’re going to block it. You’re going to make it non-lumpy. You’re gonna make it the best damn sweater you’ve ever worn, every time.

‘Wow, you knit that? It doesn’t look hand-knit – it’s almost like you bought it in a store!’

Knitters of the world, I urge you: tell your muggle friends. Educate them on the fact that ‘almost like store-bought’ is not, in fact, a compliment. Even the lumpiest, most ill-fitting, most unflattering handknit sweater is a thousand times better than anything you could buy in a store. The gorgeous, custom-tailored things you and I make? There isn’t a thing that could compare.

‘Wow, you bought that? In a store? I could’ve made you one kind of like that, except in a color that matches your eyes, with those cables there tucked in just a bit more to make it more flattering, and a longer hem, and shoulders that don’t sag. Take a photo next time and come to me with that!’

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