I was at a meeting yesterday and I had to deliver some feedback, some critical feedback from the person who judged the knitting at the event I talked about recently. It is never a nice thing to do.
The comments were fair but I prefaced them with a perhaps slightly "critical" comment of my own. Very few people from the Guild I belong to entered anything. I could have said "actually bothered" to enter anything but I chose my words carefully.
It was actually a statement of fact. There were just five people out of over one hundred who bothered to enter anything in to the event.
Despite my care I was roundly criticised for even mentioning the fact. I was told that knitting is like making a cake. You only make cake for it to be eaten. You only knit for it to be worn. Guild members are not interested in turning out "interesting" knitting only in making practical everyday garments that "people will actually use".
Of course not everyone agreed with the speaker but it was clear that many of them did.
"You know Cat she's right. We want to make things people will wear."
Oh right, so nobody wears "interesting"? All those books you wanted for the library will never be used? They are just there as what my American friends call "eye-candy"?
The woman who won four first prizes, who is over eighty and not at all well, just raised her eyebrows and said, "Well I am still interested in knitting something different."
Afterwards she asked me what, if anything, I knew about possible Mexican motifs.
"I've still got a lot of that very bright yarn I was given last year."
There was nothing particularly suitable in the library but I have access to things that might be useful. I promised to let her have some. She will design something herself.
"She's so good at that sort of thing," someone else said. She is another rare person who designs her own.
"Yes, well she can afford to. She doesn't mind what she spends," another person said, "That's why the rest of us don't do that sort of thing. We can't afford to risk wasting the money if something doesn't turn out."
It seems like a valid excuse except that I know that many of them spend as much - or even more - than she does. They go and buy exactly what the pattern they are using tells them to use. They will import it if the yarn is not available. They won't substitute - even the colour has to be the same.
I know it is difficult for many people. The odd thing though is that they do not really lack confidence, the confidence to follow a pattern. They come unstuck if there is a mistake in the pattern. There are mistakes in patterns. When that happens someone can usually sort it out - often the knitter who won the four first prizes.
"You have to learn to read your knitting," she tells people. It is good advice, very good advice.
Yesterday as we were leaving she said quietly to me,
"They didn't like that message much did they?"
"No. They'd like to shoot the messenger too," I said.
I was about to pedal off when someone else rushed up to me with details of a book she thought I should get for the library.
It was a book called "Cast on, bind off." It shows many different ways to cast on your stitches and cast (or bind) them off. I have in fact bought a copy for the library. It will be there at the next meeting.
I just wonder if it will actually be used and whether anyone will try something different as a result of looking at it.