Monday, November 28, 2011

Knitting and Marx

While I apparently don't blog regularly anymore, I still read blogs every day. I will note that the personal blogs I read have slowed to a trickle and most of my reading is out of my "knitting" and "sociology" folders. In the latter, I group all the political, feminist and otherwise "sociological" blogs. One of the political/feminist blogs recently had a post  that, in part, criticized knitting and claimed that no one wants knitted gifts and that sewing is more useful and practical skill. This claim raised my ire, but I read through the comments and saw that many had written just what I wanted to say. I didn't leave a comment.

My response to the author would have been: knitting is practical because after the apocalypse, people will still want to wear socks, sweaters, hats and gloves, and sewing is a poor way of producing those items. If machine knitting no longer existed or weren't widely accessible, we'd go back to hand knitting socks, which was the way most poeple got them pre-1900 or so. That while many hobby knitters don't knit fast enough to produce socks at volume, we would get faster if it were our only job and that the younger generation would need to learn how to knit and we would teach them. Last, only annoying people give gifts that they know people won't like--it's hardly confined to knitters. I never give a hand knitted gift unless it's small (thus low cost) or if expressly requested/ negotiated in advance with the recipient. I'm not taking the long amount of time to knit something nice if there's no chance the person will like it. They're not obligated to like it, but there should be a chance.

One of the interesting comments on the post was that knitting wasn't production in the Marxist sense because it didn't yield a necessary commodity. A response to that was that Marxist definitions left out craft areas that were traditionally feminine. And that knitting has value as artistic expression. The Marxist commentor stated that we didn't understand what "production" meant and we couldn't just re-define it to include our hobby.

This got me thinking along a few different lines. First, I have read some Marx, but not the big stuff (Das Kapital) where all this business is fleshed out. I can see it both ways--there is definitely a product when you knit, which is part of why it's an enjoyable pastime. Them again, similar products can be purchased, usually for much less than the cost of the time+materials needed to produce a hand knit item.  However, sometimes you cannot purchase the item in the correct size/style/material to suit your individual need/desire. Just like hand sewing clothing (which, btw, usually involves a machine!), hand knitting clothing can be practical, especially for those who are fast knitters and good a finding cheap, high-quality materials. Even slow knitters can produce practical, attractive items that cannot be found for sale in the regular commercial market. However, it's very small scale production and we are still enslaving ourselves to an essentially meaningless activity when we could be uniting the workers of the world or Occupying something.

All that said, I think knitting is my current creative outlet. Thus, it doesn't matter if it's productive or a distraction. I must needs distract myself with something. For a long time, it was this blog. I also play silly co-rec sports to provide myself with a social outlet. That's not very Marxist either. (I'm not really a Marxist, but I am anti-capitalist). I have a small creative streak and it needs to get out somehow. I don't know why sewing doesn't appeal to me--maybe I'm not skilled enough? Maybe it's too relentlessly practical? Maybe it's not creative enough? (I doubt it's the last one--you have an equal number of choices to make--pattern, materials, modifications for sizing and style--that are similar to knitting and where the creativity sneaks in). For whatever reason, knitting is my main hobby now, not blogging.

Knitting is portable and you need only a few things to get going with it. You don't need a computer, only light, and if you keep it simple, you can carry the pattern in your head (or make it up as you go). Sure, it's smart to take notes and record the details of your work. It's fun to keep a photographic record and create a project page on "ravelry" to see how much work you actually put into your hobby. But it can be very low key too. It's not that interesting to write about, except for other knitters, since it carries its own specialized language. I still can't see becoming a "knit-blogger" because, well, I'd still rather be knitting (or reading someone else's knit blog) than writing about it. Or starting a new blog about it...that's probably the solution but the two blog thing is cumbersome and doesn't really work for me.

Anyway, I still do have a blog and it seemed like a good place to write all this down. Way more interesting than the guy I never had a date with who nevertheless thought it was a good idea to send me a multi-part text harangue when I didn't return one of his phone calls. Sigh.

Grateful for: a "productive" hobby.

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