You are not barking and that is not a tree

By my own personal standards I’ve been pretty busy recently, in fact one week not that long ago I had to go to work three or maybe even four times, like actually tuck in my shirt and use an elevator. Why you need to know that is up in the air. I have access to a one-eyed cat, incidentally, and he is in a fantastic mood today. Might be the weather, might be that Viktor Martinez is down for life. The cat isn’t the point. You’re missing the forest for the trees, I guess. Unfortunately today I am all business. We have to talk about knitting.

I like to keep things upbeat and positive around here (is that true) but I feel like some people need to know about knitting. Stop having weird knitting blogs and having events called stitch and bitch. This is rank atavism and it needs to stop. I don’t mean to bust especially on the female gender. I understand that people like to socialize, which knitting provides an outlet for (so does not knitting?), and I also understand that hating on knitting looks bad or at least is impolitic because knitting is a a historically female-driven activity, but we all know I am not a misogynist and I am not here to stop anyone from having a good time, but I am here to stop you from having a good time if your idea of having a good time involves knitting. KNITTING IS ALMOST AS BAD AS CIVIL WAR REENACTMENT. This would be like if my hobby was making candles from dead pets. Or making my own salt-butter. Or running a grange meeting for young culture-industry prosumers. Don’t think that Prosumption is going away, incidentally.

What we can conclude is that I haven’t really buttressed my anti-knitting fervor with any kind of logic or even a reason. Step by step, then.

1. Knitting: It threatens me personally because I don’t want to knit, and what if everybody decides they like knitting more than they like me?
2. There are more efficiently ways of making clothing and potholders/-cozies. And ultimately when you factor in time-capital and opportunity costs, just buying your sweaters/scarves/pet outerwear is probably cheaper than knitting those things.
2a. Pet outerwear is for people who live incorrectly.
2b. Obviously just because there is a better and more efficient way of making clothing and other textiles doesn’t mean knitting should forever be forgotten. Obviously they shouldn’t throw away pianos just because we have keyboards (well, it would save space, let’s be honest), but we fight diseases, not symptoms nee.
3. We have do not, as the james bond movie teaches, actually have all the time in the world, and we will soon be killed by telly savalas after our wedding. what i mean is that In the year 2005, when we have all the books and movies and Important Shit to Think About I don’t want to hear about people knitting and have to shake my head in disappointment. I made a self-improvement pact where I’m not allowed to play video games more than two hours a week and so I expect you to do the same with knitting.

Conclusion: Please stop knitting, or at least please stop making knitting / semi-ironic enjoyment of outmoded means of production (construe broadly) a popular college-graduate hobby. Also, please stop giving yourself haircuts and living in Brooklyn. Anyway, even though negativity isn’t my bag at all and not an effective one-word description of my whole weltaanschaung, I want have to stand up and speak out against knitting, so I made a category for anti-knitting posts. Please sign up for my mailing list and Bonus Army in the comments section. We have a Bonus Army now.

38 thoughts on “You are not barking and that is not a tree”

  1. Dear Mr. Beatty,

    I enjoyed your recent editorial regarding knitting (Civil War Roundtable, Mon., April 11th, p. 217, vol. 3). I wonder whether this tirade, however, constitutes a journalistic integrity-having piece of writing. Before I get into this point, some confessions:

    1. I also don’t like knitting.
    2. I have various close assocations, at least one of whom is male, who do not specifically dislike knitting.
    3. I have mainly forgiven these people for liking knitting.
    4. Several of these people seem to have failed to understand knitting as atavistic, which I think is weird, you should at least know that you are not otherwise a widow or a weird lady with lots of kinds of tea in her cupboard, do you know that you can’t eat McDonald’s for lunch and then go knit.

    Ok, end of confessions, and yes I know that last bit wasn’t really a confession and sort of cut into the advertised part of this letter to the editor which is supposedly going to concern your letter and not confessions. If somebody knitted me a sweater I’d feel weird about it, but I think I’d ultimately be flattered and would wear the sweater on sundays or something if it wasn’t unseemly and if I didn’t somehow destroy it in the wash.

    Some quick points though, on which I agree with you: 1) pet outerwear, you are correct sir, 2) anything ironic with the word ‘bitch’ in it represents a moral failure, 2a) I am starting to suspect that being taller than let’s say a tasteful 6’4″ might also be a moral failure, 3) how did these people figure out to start knitting, I hadn’t realized it was psychologically available.

    In summary, I agree that it’s atavistic, and I bridle at ironic knitting. Living in brooklyn and giving self haircuts, both at least morally ambiguous. I have a weird feeling like someone is going to try and shank both of us in the mess hall for spouting off about knitting, which obviously neither one of us knows really much of anything about.

    work now

  2. If I may concur in part and dissent in part:

    If knitting can arise among those driven to it by economic necessity, then there’s no good reason for the following activities not to be enjoying a comeback as well:
    a) making homemade soap
    b) pie baking
    c) barn-raising

    Odd that knitting has now been deprived of its veneer of practicality. Once upon a time the ability to make your own clothes would have been a sign of thrift and self-reliance. Now, having sufficient time on your hands to make your own clothes says…something else. Or that you’re really good at scheduling activities.

    However, having recently read about a shuttle that drives people from Midtown Manhattan to a yarn store upstate, I’m not sure how atavistic knitting is. Maybe hating knitting is even more atavistic? For, say, 2003, when people didn’t knit?

  3. You betrayed yourself with that post, Zimpleman, as a law school flunkey. you’ll probably either die or lose your soul in the next year.
    also, is it permissible to stare at people so long as it’s through glass? I think it probably is; what if she’s not even that good looking but sort of reminds you of someone you used to like? thank you

  4. Well, I’ll toss out that I qualified the atavism of knitting as “rank,” whereas maybe hating knitting is atavistic in a different, good smelling way. possible also that hating knitting is just very negative and destructive, like anti-anti-war protesting. either way I don’t like the idea of knitting as a wholesome hipster pastime. It’s somehow un-American to square-peg-round-hole a gimmicky hyper-nostalgia into a fake real trend.

  5. I now agree wholeheartedly. I also meant to say “not driven to it by economic necessity.” I’ll learn to proofread someday.

  6. I now agree wholeheartedly. I also meant to say “not driven to it by economic necessity.” I’ll learn to proofread some day.

  7. you’re like me talking about Ladytron. Knitting has so jumped the shark—there’s even a piece on guy knitting clubs in nyc in this week’s US News and World Report, and their finger is on the pulse of nothing, except for how to inject covertly conservative talking points into every column.

  8. Beware, the knitters are on to you! And we carry pointed sticks around with us whereever we go!

    You want to pick on a hobby? Try model railroading. Wow, there’s a pointless waste of time if ever there was one. I’ll put an essay on my blog some day and let you know why.

    A needlework to make fun of: tatting. Purely decorative. Think teeny tiny macrame and you’re on the right track. Counted cross stitch. It doesn’t keep you warm. It just takes hours and hours to cover a small piece of cloth with a picture (usually of dubious artistic merit) made of colored threads.

    Anyway, the knitters will be here in droves. Get ready.

  9. indeed, the knitters are here. and i am one of them.

    just so you know, i don’t knit because it’s practical. it would definitely be cheaper to just buy a sweater at gap than to knit myself one. i prefer to think of knitting as a way to relax, and to express myself creatively. instead of buying a mass-produced sweater, i can create one that expresses my own sense of style and beauty. it’s a creative outlet, much like your blog is to you…?

    i would also like to alert you that knitters tend to run in packs. we also like to aggressively defend our hobby. you have been warned.

  10. Another knitter… the others may impale me with 2mm sticks of steel for this, but I don’t mind your knit-bashing. What gets me is the negative implications about tatting in the comments. YES, IT’S PURELY DECORATIVE. Check out this site – and tell me those aren’t the most awesome decorative bits ever. Look at the goose and the cats and the lobster and the flamingo and all the other great things!

  11. You claim you’re not ordinarily a negative person, yet everything on your page is negative or sarcastic.

    I knit because it’s cheaper to produce sweaters for my son (as well as Christmas gifts) than buying them and exploiting US sweat shops abroad.


  12. Don’t ever ask a knitter to make something for you. In fact, don’t ever buy knitted clothes from whatever yuppie shop you buy your clothes at. I’m guessing Gap.

    And I most assuredly DO like knitting more than I like you. I hate people who don’t spell check.

  13. Knitting is good. I know where my clothes came from. I have the joy of creativity. I can spin my own wool from sheep that I know were treated well. I can knit this wool into a sweater and keep myself warm. I could outfit myself more cheaply at a thrift store, but I don’t spend more on yarn for a sweater than I would for a boughten sweater. My clothes are nicer than what one can usually find at a thrift store, and I can revel in the ability to create something beautiful. Video games can’t give you that joy.

  14. “Airports you have known?” Gimme a break..
    You let us have our dumbass hobby, we’ll leave you to play with your blog.

  15. Geez Louise. You could at least pick on some other hobby. You sound idiotic.

    Efficiency isn’t the goal of knitting. It’s a way to make something you want that is not mass-produced. It is not produced in a sweatshop by some children. My knitting is exactly like I like it. You may like your martinis exactly in a precise way. Knitting is no different.

    Knitting, and spinning, for that matter are a strike back against the Gap and Target and all that other cheap consumer stuff.

    It is also a way to quiet the mind and meditate. Gandhi, a man any of us would be well to emulate, said:

    “I propose to interpret the charkha to Americans as a `thinking machine’. I found while I was attending my spinning class that if I was alone with it, it made me think.
    If only Americans could get down to spin, they might be able to do some thinking for which otherwise they get no time. It might make them forget the atom bomb.”

    Valmiki Mandir, Reading Road, New Delhi, May 6, 1947.

    At least you got one thing right.

    Women DO like knitting a lot more than we like you. With your tremendously open and positive thinking, I can wish you a lonely and cold life in your lame-ass Gap sweater.

    You’re probably having to go look up what a charkha is.

  16. “1. Knitting: It threatens me personally because I don’t want to knit, and what if everybody decides they like knitting more than they like me?”

    Yep, it already happened.

  17. I took up knitting when I didn’t have a working sewing machine. I found that it was very relaxing and calming. I now knit more than sew, even though I have a machine now. The calming effect, I think, is probably the reason I am taking your blog entry as just your opinion rather than an attack. Yes, you do seem to explain that you are attacking us knitters, but that is your problem more than ours. I admire your honesty in explaining why you hate knitting. Some people have articles where they rant about knitting as though they know a lot about it, when it is obvious they don’t. At least you admit you don’t know anything about it. I do know a bit about knitting, having knit for 3 years now, and find it to be a great way to have my own unique items. Hand knit socks are a blessing. I don’t like store bought socks anymore. But your feet will never be as happy as mine, since you don’t deserve the luxury of hand knit socks. That is your loss. I know you don’t think it is, but we knitters know how blessed we are to have creative talent and comfortable socks. I am guessing you don’t have much of either. Not saying you don’t have some sort of talent, just not creative talent.
    I have to comment on the comment about spinning. I agree that more people should try it. I have not tried a charkha yet. I use a drop spindle and it is really great. Mesmerizing. Great for relaxing and thinking. Perhaps there would be less thoughtless criticism if more people tried it. Then at least there would be some thought.
    Ok, I’m done now.

  18. You think knitting is useless. Blogging is even more so, yet dips like you seem to get enjoyment from it, so who am I to complain?

    Anyway, I think a psychologist would find your weird obsession with other people’s creative endeavors interesting.

  19. Darling, sit on the couch and just tell me all about how your mother or grandmother neglected you in favour of their knitterly pursuits ….

  20. I am a knitter, and I thought your post was hilarious. I am glad I read it. I just hope the other knitters out there realize that to take your post seriously is the true waste of their time. Thanks for the laugh! 🙂

  21. I found your site through a knitting blog. What is your deal? I mean come on. You say there are better things we should be doing with our time than knitting. You say that we should be thinking about more important things in the world. If that’s true then there are definently more important things you should be thinking about than hating knitting. I often knit while I watch the news. I took up knitting while recovering from surgery. Now as a result of a surgery I have a chronic pain condition that keeps me from functioning physically. I find knitting to be a relaxing pain reliever. It’s one coping skill. Do you really think that playing video games is a better time filler than knitting? What do you get from video games? Talk about a complete waste of time! At least we have an end product from knitting. I however don’t have a problem with video games. It’s a hobby like any other. You’re really ridiculous. I can’t believe that I even wasted my time commenting on your blog. I’m sorry that you’re antisocial and have nothing better to do with your time. Please get a life.

  22. You also perpetuated one glaring error: knitting was not traditionally a women’s art until the 19th century. Prior to this, particularly in England, knitting guilds were primarily composed of men, until the Industrial Revolution effectively killed the handknitting industry.

    I am also a knitter and am the first to recognize it is a merely a hobby, but one that at least produces something useful, as opposed to playing video games, which produces nothing (I also play and enjoy video games). Your post would have been something more than vaguely amusing if you spent a little more time working on your writing skills and less time complaining about something you obviously know so little about.

  23. Your anti-knitting/knitter reminds me, a knitter, of one of my favorite knitting stories. It may be a canard but I’ve heard it a few times:

    Bruno Bettleheim was giving a lecture when he noticed a woman in the audience knitting. “Knitting is a form of masterbation,” he pronounced. She replied, “When I knit, I knit and when I masterbate, I masterbate.”

    I was intrigued by your post and would not stoop to commenting on any typos, etc. as I also blog.
    As I have my own peculiar hate list, and resulting list of proposed Constitutional Amemdments, I was curious enough to come back and
    read the replies. I’m happy to find that some are written with thought, though I confess to a snarky post on the TKGA (The Knitting Guild Association) message board that you might be a train spotter run out of trains.

    Cheers and stay warm!

  24. Hey,I hate drinkin but it doesn’t look like it stopped you. Just because you hate knittin doesn’t mean I’ll stop.

  25. Why do you care so much about people knitting? You can’t honestly be serious, can you? If so, it seems to show that you don’t have much better to do with yourself than harp on someone elses’s form of creative expression.
    I sort of hate to dignify your rant with a justification of knitting, but I do want to say a couple things.
    First off, is actually a comment one of the earlier comments left here…
    Pie-baking is not just something done out of economic necessity — it is faster and cheaper to buy a pie at your local supermarket; but the taste of a real home-baked pie is beyond compare. Obviously nobody has ever loved you enough to make you a pie. I’m sorry for that.
    Likewise, wearing a sweater that is custom designed and hand-made out of fine natural fiber just for you by a skilled knitter is in no way comparable to wearing an off-the rack sweater from a department store…
    Making your own clothes, whether sewn, knitted, or otherwise, is not just an archaic pursuit. DIY is popular with punks, goths, hipsters, and other post-modern contempories & it is shamelessly copied in mainstream fashion for the less-creative individuals in our society.
    And finally… there are a lot of entertainment pursuits that I don’t like; but I don’t think they should be stopped altogether. I hate football (which seems to have more in common with Civil-War re-enactment than knitting does, btw) but I don’t begrudge it to the fans/players of the game.
    It’s pretty lame to devote so much time to hating something as inocuous as knitting.

  26. you’re a fucking funny guy.. while i am a knitter and enjoy it, i was still amused by your tirades..

  27. I knit, though I do not knit ironically. I even knit while reading and watching movies. I can’t agree that this is atavistic behavior, or even inefficient behavior, because it is an art form. But I think your error here is in thinking that knitting is an ancient craft which has recently been revived by people who want to make i-pod cozies. Actually, many of us have been knitting all along. It has only recently been getting lots of press. It is more like cooking than like Civil War reenactment. And while you may not want to cook for yourself, you probably like it when your mom cooks for you. (I am assuming that you are young enough that it is your mom who cooks for you. If you are really a 50-year-old with a gourmet kitchen of your own, I apologize.)Just so, when someone knits you some socks or your own i=pod cozy, you may like that too. But congratulations for stirring things up so well.

  28. I don’t care that you dislike knitting, even if I am a knitter. It’s your perogative, just like I don’t care much for the Civil War. But I just wanted to educate you on a point I didn’t see here–in medieval times, when they had all the guilds, etc., you could only join the knitting guilds if you were male. It was only after the invention of knitting machines during the early parts of the Industrial Revolution that men fell away from hand knitting and left it for the women. During the time the men were in the knitting guilds, they made exquisite stockings for nobility, rugs for nobility, and other knitted objects for nobility. The women, who were not allowed in the guilds, knitted the socks on their feet, the sweaters, trousers, etc. that they and the children wore. So please keep in mind that while it comes from humble and practical roots, it was men that put it there.

  29. I agree that people fashioning (for lack of a better word) yarn into armwarmers (problem #1), with hot-pink (problem #2) skulls on them (problem #3) is a serious, and potentially fatal(ly annoying) problem in the world today.

    Also, as far as not supporting the slave labor of children in any country ending in “ia,” I am more than delighted to note, to the budget-conscious among us, that sweatshops do handknits too!! w00t!

    My other problem with knitting is its apparent contribution to the obesity “epidemic,” as it is called. I’ve noticed way too many knitters buying 80 skeins of yarn to complete a tube-top, and complaining about having to modify it because the pattern wasn’t written for a 100-inch bust. So they knit baby things for their friends that are actually thin enough to get laid…altogether now: “awwww…” (For the record, I personally don’t think obesity is a disease, merely a particularly persistent form of laziness.)

    I also want to give a nice, fat round of applause to all the knitters out there who had to swoop down on their brooms and wag a finger at the author of the original blog post. Thank you all, for embodying irony (albeit a little fatly)–and not even having enough of a sense of humor to laugh at yourselves.

    All of that being said, I KNIT (like crazy), and I can’t stand most of you people!!! (And, with the exception of this post, which is only for ranting’s sake, I keep it to myself.) If I see one more post about how you got some cheap Noro yarn (for your next hideous felted monstrosity, no doubt) from eBay, or better yet, another damned “Afghans for Afghans” link button (oooh! Look! I’m crafty and political!!!), I think I’m going to puke. Keep your sweaters to yourselves and quit inflicting your social ineptitude on the rest of us that know how to drink a friggin’ beer, in a room with other people, without talking about the Norwegian purl method.


  30. As a person who knits please note we are people with other interests apart from knitting I thought your rant was interesting. I have a knitting blogg where I share my knitting with other people that are interested rather than inflicting it on others who might not be as in to it. Live and let live I say. life is too short to hate anything or anybody.

  31. WOW, I was going to comment on this entry…but then I read the comment made by peaches. Knitting causes/aides obesity, you say? Good for you, you have conversational skills, maybe while drinking beer (which I think would contribute more to obesity than knitting does) with your presumbably beer drinking friends, you can all drink yourselves into bodies so much more elephantine than any “obese” knitter in any yarn shop that the owners have had the displeasure of you occupying.

  32. What if you find knitting is beneficial in some way? Like, for instance, .. hmm. wow, you’re right. knitting is kinda dumb. I have this one friend who’s really good at knitting. She can seriously whip up a badass pair of mittens, and I mean steam or boil treated, after they’re done- – you’ve seen that, it holds it’s shape really well.. tough and you have to oversize it due to shrinkage in the steaming/boiling process. Mittens like that, you know, real wool go for some hundred dollars. Whereas the ball of yarn is only 40 – 60 dollars, plus an afternoon’s hours of work.. yeah, see, you’ve got a point about the whole time/material costs vs. just purchasing an item. But shopping for a good product does take time. If you really want badass mittens that fit perfectly and are the perfect color, it takes a few afternoons of shopping, Pete. Really. My wife got me into this whole shopping thing. What you may not realize is, your clothes suck. Or rather, you dont like them. you think you dont care, cause it’s sissy or gay to like your own clothes, but you have to admit, there are a few things in your closet you like better than others, and that’s because you do have taste in clothing. Or at least, some stuff is better than others. SO, the secret here, is to spend time and money shopping for the best possible clothes at the cheapest possible price that represent you. Not too trendy, not too frumpy, fit well, aren’t khaki, etc. Unless you like Khaki, which I dont. I still can’t get rid of this nice khaki goretex raincoat my parents gave me, because it’s not broken. You may not realize it, but people think better of you if you have good clothes. Even if you’re rocking the vagrant look, you need to have the proper footwear, not brand new Nikes. The point is, if you’re a VERY skilled knitter, like my friend Kim, who wears mostly her own knitting. She really does. then, … and only then, perhaps, does it make sense to knit. She also makes unique art using knitting, which is token and coveted. That has some interesting value there. you can’t buy that. Also, she can knit without looking, so it’s not a waste of time. The subway ride to work become productive, watching movies becomes productive, driving, well I dont know about driving, but riding in the passenger seat, again, yes, becomes productive for the industrious knitter.

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