A Visit from the Knitting Police, or, On the Origins of Things

December 2013 1122 Yesterday I was working on the second sleeve of my Orkney cardigan when the following exchange happened.

Passer-by: Hey, what are you doing? Me: Oh, I'm working on this fair-isle cardigan.. Passer-by: Oh no! That's not fair-isle. You are not from Shetland. You cannot be knitting fair-isle. I am from Shetland and I am telling you that you cannot work fair-isle. Me: .. uhmm, okay?

This led to an interesting discussion on Twitter about geographical locations, if any non-Shetlanders are allowed to say their stranded colourwork is fair-isle (and if it is fair isle, Fair Isle or Fair-Isle) and if we are able to talk about "traditional knitting" at all. Here are some selected highlights:

(Great point! Can a technique or motif be geographically trademarked?) Some snarky comments from amused knitters:

And, finally, less snarkily and more to the point:

I am interested in the socio-political aspects of so-called traditional knitting: there is definitely a discussion to be had about what constitutes a tradition - who decides something is a tradition - and if we can talk about origins at all. Motifs and techniques have criss-crossed geographical boundaries and what we may think of as "traditional knitting" may only date back to the early 20th century. My personal view is that all these things only tend to be "fixed" in time and place long after actual innovation has occurred - and that many of these "fixes" have little to do with the actual innovations and more to do with money/prestige.

It's a fascinating topic and I wish I had a fresh mind with which to tackle it (alas, I am writing this after working all day on another piece of writing). I'll keep knitting my Orkney, mind. Only half a sleeve to go and I refuse to leave it alone despite my personal geographical failings.

What the Kids Do Today

My local Unnamed Major Supermarket is the gift that keeps giving. It used to be really dodgy, then it was given an Unnamed Major Supermarket Extra! overhaul and is now twice the size and twice as dodgy but does its thing twenty-four-seven. Going to Unnamed Major Supermarket is always an adventure. What will it be today? Junkies in wheelchairs fighting over a cat on a leash that doesn't belong to either of them? A happy birthday card saying "Daddy, I love you more than chips"? Shady Lady having very suggestive mobile phone conversations in the middle of the Tinned Food section? Junkie challenging Mormon preacher on Hitler's Christianity? Or will it be as mundane as being elbowed by Angry Old Lady Who Doesn't Want That Luxury Hummus (And What the Hell IS hummus) But Doesn't Want Me To Have It Either.

All these stories are true.

But today my Unnamed Major Supermarket adventure was different. I was sending a birthday parcel to my BFF and the Post Office lady looked at me: "Is it one of those yarn swap parcels the kids do today?"

.. let us just pause and rewind..

"Is it one of those yarn swap parcels the kids do today?"

My Unnamed Major Supermarket just gets weirder and weirder.

(Also, it just dawned on me that I was identified as A Knitter by the Post Office lady. Note to self: must wear fewer layers of wool if I am to blend in with native population)


Addendum: If you are struggling to find me a gift, I'd be perfectly happy to accept Lord Byron's copy of Frankenstein, inscribed by Mary Shelley.. This Hark! A Vagrant! comic is wonderfully on-topic.

Friday Linkage

I came home from my holidays Monday. Apparently I cannot leave the UK for seven days before the place is going to hell in a handbag as I have been rushed off my feet ever since returning. I'd share details but nobody really needs to hear me whine about my mountain of work! Denmark was lovely - absolutely lovely - and I want to share some of the highlights with you. There will be knitting involved (of course there will) but there will also be some tales of history and culture. Before I do so in a series of posts, let me just link some of the things I've read/seen/enjoyed on the internet over the past few days..

A Month Away

Count yourself lucky that I have not posted the blog post I spent the other day writing. It turned out to be a 2,000 word essay on defamiliarisation as narrative device in Emma Donoghue's Room and Lionel Shriver's We Need To Talk About Kevin complete with bibliography and footnotes. If I were still handing out assignments, I would totally ask undergraduates to compare and contrast narrative devices in the two novels. But, you are not getting 2,000 words on literature. Why make it easy for undergraduates? I wish had read Kevin a few days earlier than I did, incidentally. It would have added some much needed quality to my 2011 reading list. I have also been kept busy by a quasi-flu and trying to compile a wish list for my birthday. Wish lists are hard because they need to fulfill a certain list of criteria (mostly to do with my family's location) rather than what I'd love to have in my wildest imagination. So, without further ado, here's my real wishlist:

+ A dwelling similar to this one, but in Glasgow. Also, with very different art. + A puppy, preferably a little crossbreed with a dash of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (not a purebreed because Cavaliers are awfully in-bred and unhealthy). + Moda "Circa 1934" Jelly Roll: .". collection [of] its typewriter key caps, vintage numbers and ornate medallions.. Rich red, worn yellow, antique white and sage green give you the perfect palette to work with." + 15 balls of Rowan Baby Alpaca in mid-grey. Just because, you know, it's a gorgeous yarn. + Andrew Pettegree's The Book in the Renaissance + A chromatic typewriter + A really, really snazzy DSLR camera - I do like Canon's cameras. + A trip on the Orient Express - art deco decadence for the win! + This poster in a lovely understated frame. + A cherry brooch + This t-shirt - although I should read the book (again? - have I read it?) + You can take the girl out of Scandinavia, but she'll always love classic Danish design lamps. + Another trip to New Zealand. I'd love to show D. Wellington - man, I loved Wellington. Yeah, two months should be plenty. Thank you. + And, finally, blocking wires! I cannot believe I still don't have any!

So, which things would you love to receive but also know you'll probably never get for your birthday?