Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Inspiration

About , I don't know, five years ago my cousin got married in a small farm town near Chico, California. It was, in short, a hoot. On the day of their wedding, killing time, me and my sister and our wedding dates followed hand-written signs off the main drag to a house. Two old ladies sat in lawn chairs out front amidst piles of what can only be described as "crap"--in their retirement, it seemed, they had started a business from their home that resembled a 7-day-a-week yard sale. Clearly we had struck junkyard gold.

The piles of crap continued inside of their house, the living room arranged much like an antiquey boutique with bits of random for-sale memorabilia crammed into every corner. In a wicker basket I found a stack of slender, well-loved magazines. Knitting magazines from the 1960s. And oh my God I have never seen anything weirder, groovier, or more amazing in my life. The colors! The hair! The styling! The eyelashes! (Did you know women applied mascara as thickly on their bottom lashes as on the top? Is it possible they were wearing FALSE bottom eyelashes?) It was absolutely incredible.

I had, at that point, just taught myself to knit a few months earlier. But I didn't know anyone else who knit, so I was making things in this strange sort of isolation, fascinating onlookers (i.e., anyone who came to my house) with my weirdness and the wonkiness of my early attempts at scarves, hats, and knitted bikinis. I think it was upon finding these magazines that I realized what a legacy I was joining. It dawned on me that the Stitch-and-Bitch generation--which, given the timing of my interest in knitting, I had apparently joined--were not the first to think of the handmade as high fashion. And also, were not the first to think of knitting as more than just a way to make clothes.

My favorite magazine from the stack was titled Knit Yourself Pretty. The cover then continued in a litany of other things that you could knit yoursef: happy, color, lovely, dainty, chic, poise, charm. It suddenly became clear to me that knitting could produce results beyond the aesthetic. Knitting could change my mood. It could change my outlook. It could change the way I look at myself, the way that I feel when I'm standing in a crowded room. Knitting, I realized, is some powerful shit.

In the years since, I have ventured further and further into the world of handmade: sewing, printing, gardening, cooking. Sometimes just stringing a bunch of pine cones on a piece of yarn and hanging it on a wall. It doesn't matter--it's handmade! And it absolutely impacts the way I feel, be it pretty, happy, colorful, lovely, dainty, chic, poised, or charming. I've since added a few other adjectives of my own, such as annoyed, superior, smug, elated, frustrated, and the-best-damned-crafter-ever--depending, of course, on the outcome of what I'm making. This blog is a way to explore all of those adjectives. And to write--which, really, is my first handmade love. I hope you enjoy. And I hope I make you feel your own range of adjectives as you read.

And, because I can't help myself, I had to post some other scans of these amazing vintage knitting magazines here. I especially love the one of this girl in the purple sweater, with her blunt-cut pony tail (possible wig?) and her many variations of doing the monkey (or some other extremely groovy dance).

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