Karie Bookish Dot Net

A Dash of Colour, Beauty & Cynicism.

I have been working a lot with undyed yarns recently – one mossy green has crept into the Doggerland collection but otherwise I am using all natural fleece colours. I really enjoy it – of course I do – but I do yearn for some colour in my knitting. Just a little pop of something decadent.
Birthday yarn

A bit of birthday yarn arrived yesterday. My lovely gran sent me 1100 yrds of 2ply merino wool from Danish company, DesignClub. This red is marvellous – it has unusual depth to it and the yarn has some great bounce. It was spun at Henrichsens Uldspinneri, a Danish woollen mill dating back to the 19th century. I’ve used the yarn before and I am looking forward to using it again ..

I thought I’d also show you the necklace pendants which my friend Paula made for my birthday. They are so pretty.

Paula's necklaces

I was recently sent a link to Craftypod – specifically an episode which discussed the idea of “the knitting celebrity” and internet jealousy. It is a really interesting podcast and if you can spare 30 minutes, I recommend you give it a listen.

First, though, some words from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. He was asked about being “internet famous”

Right now, I’m sitting in a public library minding my own business taking a break from what I was working on.  No one is likely to recognize or notice me here..


But I am, as the question asks, “Internet famous”.  That phrase is vague and could mean a lot of things, but for me what it means is that Wikipedia is very very very famous and Wikia is very famous, and so I’m a little bit famous as a result..


Because of this, I’m able to meet with government officials all around the world to put forward my views on the importance of freedom of speech and openness and transparency.  I find this useful, and I believe in many cases I’ve had an impact.  (It is never easy to be sure.)


Back to the Craftypod podcast. I was struck by a couple of things.

1) Craft is HUGE. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of segmented markets and niches: knitting, crochet, scrap-booking, quilting, embroidery, dress-making.. These days knitting can be divided into a lot of niches too (I have written a bit more about that here).

Vickie Howell may talk about being a leader in the craft industry – but it is her corner of the craft industry in which she is a leader (gatekeeper is probably the better term). This probably makes me a bad person, but I had never heard of her before I listened to the podcast. I googled her subsequently and she’s done craft TV in the States, works for a US yarn company and fronts her own yarn line. She looks like a cool person – but she is not part of my knitting landscape. And that is okay. I’d hate to have a totally uniform definition of “cool knitting” and what I “should be knitting”.

2) There was also a lot of talk about “the 2005 generation” and marketing. The podcast served up a massive dollop of nostalgia for the good old days when you could upload a simple scarf pattern and people would go nuts for it.

I think there will always be people talking about the “good old days when things were simple”. It is a generational thing and on the internet a generation is a very small, finite thing (maybe 2 years? 3 years?).

2008 was the year when I got back into knitting in a major, major way. I remember when the February Lady Sweater was published via Ravelry and it was a huge thing. Do we have that sort of knitting landscape these days? No.It is probably harder to get noticed across the board, but incredibly talented people do manage it. Designers have to up their game and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Knitters everywhere are the winners in this scenario.

(Also, the segmented knitting landscape means that if you are really into designing crazy intarsia dog coats, for instance, you will find “your people” pretty quickly.)

3) I wasn’t a fan of the whole cross-channel “hustling” mentioned in the podcast- but that’s because I am one of those people who tune out people who endlessly promote themselves on as many channels as they can. Maybe I am just old in social media terms but there is a whole signal-to-noise thing which I think many marketeers often forget. Social media isn’t always about quantity – quality plays a huge part too. But that’s probably a whole ‘nother topic. (Psst, this is a great blog post about using Twitter)

I’ll be honest: that podcast made me feel very cynical and I don’t like feeling cynical – especially not about knitting.

I am left here still thinking about Jimmy Wales’ words. The Q&A I linked above also included these lines:

I don’t have a lot of money.  I don’t have a lot of power in the top-down command-and-control sense.  But I do have a lot of influence.  I like that part of it.

Jimmy Wales is a lot more famous than any knitting “celebrity” and wields a lot more power and influence than I can begin to imagine. Yet he speaks with humility and a wry sense of humour. I think we could all take a lesson from him.


8 Thoughts on “A Dash of Colour, Beauty & Cynicism.

  1. Thoughtful post. I think some folk can come across as aggressively promoting their product via social media and for me that is a turn off.

  2. First off happy birthday, that is a really wonderful shade of red and the pendants are beautiful.

    Secondly, interesting podcast (first crafty podcast I’ve ever listened to, I’m too attuned to radio 4 and find anything different hard work), I’m not especially aware of her, like Helen I find aggressive marketing and repetitive material a turn off and boring. I’m more interested in designers who have taken the time to master their craft and who can make me think in different ways about how to knit as well as what to knit. At the same time I am aware that I’m very part of the ravelry knitting subculture and within that subculture various areas. I think it’s the same in any niche world, that you get people who are well known inside that world but unknown outside.

    I’m also aware that when I repost or like something on facebook, for example, that I am doing someone else’s marketing for them, so it has to be good, something I really like.

    I was disquietened by her comments about the need to be positive all the time. Admittedly she is using herself as a brand and may want to keep back some stuff and have a private life. But the more we have this “you must always be positive” message around, the harder it is for us to be honest with one another about how we feel and the less we feel compassion for one another and those aren’t good things in any society.

  3. Hi, Karie –

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the podcast I did with Vickie Howell – really good food for thought.

    It strikes me that these conversations about success, jealousy, and comparing business approaches are very prone to trigger negative feelings in any of us. I think that’s natural and human, too. But I feel bad about this show triggering cynical feelings in you!

    My intent had been to simply raise the veil a little and show that one crafter who’s often held up as an example of “success” (by mainstream definition, and here in the U.S.) is actually a real person who has the same doubts and fears we all have from time to time. Maybe we agree with her approach to her career and maybe we don’t, but at the end of the day, she’s making choices based on what she feels is best for her family and self. And that’s something we all do, whatever it looks like through our own lenses.

    I couldn’t agree with you more that there are no universal prescriptions for success, nor any universally-correct way to approach business, marketing, or for that matter, crafting. I may miss the relative ease and simplicity of 2005 (and I do!), but the more people there are in the online creative community, the more examples we get to see of people making their way in the world. And hopefully, the more we can grow comfortable in the idea that everyone’s approach is valid for them, and ours for us.

    • First of all – how much do I love that we are having this conversation? The internet is really the best thing that has happened to craft in a long, long time. It’s fantastic that we can have this conversation across time zones, nationalities, and communities!

      Secondly, you hit upon something I was thinking about all day yesterday. I was having a discussion with Vanessa of Mixed Martial Arts & Crafts and Tara Swiger about the idea of success – we agreed (as you and I also do) that there is no ‘fits all’ concept of success. We should all try to figure out what makes us happy and content – and that can be a long, slow process sometimes.

      And I began to think about my cynicism and how I never explained it in my blog post. I think there are two aspects to my reaction.

      1) There is a cultural divide at play (which is a generalisation, but work with me here). There was a definite “Go Get! Positivity! Wow! Excitement!” feel to the podcast which I admire hugely but which I also feel quite alienating. I suspect it may be a classic UK vs US attitude difference? It doesn’t help that I am UK-by-way-of-Scandinavia which just adds to the layers of reservation and self-deprecation..

      2) A less obvious, but far more important point: I find it’s very hard for me to come to terms with “personality as brand” and “public persona” but I realise that it is how the business works. I have struggled with this for a long time (how I would prefer to just lurk in the shadows!) but the podcast made me confront myself regarding this. So, the cynicism was definitely directed towards myself as much as towards anything (or anyone) else!

      • Vanessa on February 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm said:

        I’ve been name dropped, oh my!

        Chiming in as an American by birth but not necessarily by culture, I think that Americans in general are eternal optimists. During the Great Depression, we found escape in big Busby Berkley musicals (“We’re in the Money” springs to mind) and Shirley Temple singing about animal crackers in her soup. I’ve run into this divide in my marriage sometimes.

        For introverts such as you and I, it can be hard reconciling “public persona” and wanting to just stay in the wings. For some people, it’s an easy switch and for others it isn’t.

        I’ve really enjoyed reading Tara Swiger’s “Market Yourself” because she does acknowledge this difficulty. She’s a fellow introvert but she makes that part of who she is work with in her business.

        That’s the point I made in my blog post about this subject. Jealousy is a normal feeling, but for me to get over it I need to figure out what to do with that envy and make it work for me. *I* want to be successful but on *my* terms. Other people’s methods won’t work for me because I’m not them.

        • Heh! All roads connect through Tara, it seems. :-) She better get over here!

          I love what you’re both saying about introversion. I struggle all the time with the need to be a “public persona,” or a “personality.” Especially since part of what I do for a living is teach classes! There’s a certain online pressure to be this happy, successful person who can share all the secrets of success. But what I’d rather do is gather quietly in classroom spaces with my students, and give them my all. That doesn’t make for sexy marketing copy, though. :-)

          I like that we all seem to be entering a space where we’re okay with doing things our way, and defining our own success.

          What a fun conversation, everyone! Thank you, Karie, for starting it!

          • Hey! It’s cracking me up that I’ve been name dropped, because I’ve been thinking SO MUCH about all this lately (as evidenced in my almost-a-rant-email yesterday: http://eepurl.com/vK_Lv ).

            What Diane said:
            “There’s a certain online pressure to be this happy, successful person who can share all the secrets of success”

            …I think that’s what they’re referring to in the podcast. It’s not that any of us think you DO HAVE to be happy, it’s that the WORLD seems to expect you to be happy. That “have to be happy” is a pressure we feel from both the big, lovely craft bloggers (my gorgeous living room! My sleeping baby!), but we also feel it from the inside of our own heads! No one wants to feel like a loser…and telling the internet that you’re not perfect (in a space dominated by the perfect) is a quick way to loser-town. (At least, in my own head.)

            At the heart of all this is *expectations*.
            My expectations of myself. My reader’s/student’s/client’s expectations, and then all those expectations that I’m making assumptions about. Who even knows if they exist? But they certainly guide the way we act/present ourselves in this space.

            And that – that right there: the expectations we assume – is what I like to uncover. When it comes to business, or “success” or just presenting a public “persona.”

            I have a theory, too, that introverts are *especially* sensitive these expectations others have, so when you combine that with our desire to lurk in shadows, the whole thing seem much BIGGER and SCARIER…so we’ve got to do even more work about coming to terms about what we’ve been assuming and what’s the truth for ourselves.


  4. Love the blog post & the podcast which I listened to a while ago. The podcast gave me a lot to think about & the blog post has added more. I, too, struggle with the personal brand idea. I’m quiet shy which may be why. Also, I am a Scandinavian who has spent over half my life in the UK but lived in the US for a year 20 years ago too. I think the positive thing is definitely a cultural thing.

    This is a fascinating topic.

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