Saturday, July 30, 2011

Talk to Me Intellecutal Baby

This post doesn't have much in it about knitting.

I love talking intellectual. I love academic life, the exchange of ideas, the passion with which people engage with their chosen subjects. I know that my path in life will lead me back to the halls of universities eventually. I'll detour around a bit and then get another degree which has nothing to do with the first two that I earned. You know, for the fun of it.

When The Center in Long Beach started their QSpeak series I thought, "What the hell, it's free. I'll go." And then, of course, I loved it because listening to academics talk about queer issues is like drinking too much espresso too fast, I get all jittery and excited.

I saw Judith Halberstam speak today. Yes, the person who wrote the most awesome Feminine Masculinity. She spoke of many interesting ideas and notions, but the one that I want to consider here is the idea of the personal economies that lie outside the capitalistic world. While Halberstam only mentioned the idea in reference to one of her talking points, the idea stuck clearly with me because it is an idea I engage with often.

I'd better explain myself. Personal economies is about sharing, it is all the stuff that we trade without thinking about it. I have more lemons from my tree than I can use and you have more eggs from your chickens than you can eat, so we share with one another. This kind of economy is totally outside of capitalism and totally inside the kind of activity that builds common community.

In my life, I seem to have been the recipient of number of things that other people had no use for anymore, but were still working perfectly fine. Among these things include a practically new cell phone, my car, my cat, and lots of clothing. The main reason I think these things have come to me is because I am willing and glad to accept them.

People are suspicious and anxious when you share with them. Just this past week a co-worker of mine was talking about buying sheet protectors and inquired where I had purchased mine. I replied that I had more sheet protectors than I would likely ever use and I would be happy to just give her some. Her response was very hesitant, as if I would be going far out of my way to share. And really, I am the same in these situations. I am hesitant to accept and understand her socially mired reaction.

In reality, all that someone is offering, is to share. I have too much of this, here, you can have some. We learn how to share toys as children and I believe we so totally grow out of the notion that by the time we are adults we no longer understand how to be on the giving or receiving end of sharing.

And that is precisely what the engine of capitalism desires. It wants me to hoard my sheet protectors and for my co-worker to buy more. Which is totally ridiculous in a society crumbling beneath debt.

I am an advocate for personal economies of sharing. Sharing is about giving without a motive and without the desire for anything in return. I am an advocate for both sides. Do a little sharing and do a little taking when others offer to share with you. See what happens. Think about the act that you engage in as it is the only way for personal economies of sharing to change the way the capitalism behaves. It might not work, but it would at least lead to a different place than the consideration of our government to, yet again, raise the debt ceiling.

What can you give?

Saturday, July 23, 2011


These are all yarns I am not using but I could have chosen to use for my current project.

That's an overstatement really because I am knitting a sock from one of the balls and the two sumptuous orange balls are completely the wrong weight. Oh and the lime green wouldn't work either. But the six balls of other sock yarn could have been chosen. They were all in my stash before they were selected to add to the decor of my living room in a vintage bottle crate.

And I am really very glad that they were all wrong for the project I was planning and that I had to go to the yarn store (woe is me) and buy new yarn (double woe).

I went to Alamitos Bay Yarn Company with two problems. One was a pair of Addi Turbo Needles with the varnish coming off despite only having knit one shawl on them. I understand tarnishing, but they were turning my hand green which is unacceptable.

My second problem was the second yarn for a Chadwick, a pattern by the excellent up and coming designer Stephen West. The previous week I had bought the first color at the same store, a navy blue jeans kettle dyed alpaca/cotton confection from Manos named Serena. I thought I had a grey in my stash that would match, but it was the wrong weight. So there I was, in the store, trying to find the perfect grey.

I do not ask questions at yarn stores. This is partly because I don't like asking questions to strangers (who does?) and partly because I rarely feel welcome at them. I just browse, pick, pay, and leave.

This time, however, the store had a sample knitted in a yarn I liked but no balls of that color out, so I had to talk to someone and see if they had any. I am very glad that I talked to someone and I am very glad they didn't have any of that first yarn I was looking at. At 100% silk it was the wrong weight and much to shiny, really, for the person I am making the shawl for.

I don't actually remember if she asked if I was looking for something in particular or if I told her what I was looking for, but I managed to ask if they had a grey yarn in a weight to match my soft jeans colored Serena. The woman walked over to one of the deep corners of the store, pulled out a plastic container I would never have found, reached in, and plucked out a small ball of the perfect grey. At 65% cashmere and 35% silk the Trendsetter Bollicina was perfect. Mostly because I only needed one ball so I could afford it.

Lesson learned Universe, ask questions of your yarn shop staff. They know they're yarn.

I am nearly finished with the shawl. I absolutely love work on it. The contrast between the two yarns feels so delightful on my hands. I don't like working with cotton, but it does not bother my hands so much blended with the alpaca. The shawl is knit using intarsia technique (brilliant pattern) and in the same row I then switch to the Bollicina and I feel like I am knitting with a cloud or with butter, a butter cloud.

The other yarns in my stash are lovely, and one day I will use them. But this foray into quality materials has demonstrated to me how much the materials make the experience of knitting, and they have helped me to become obsessed with my knitting all over again. 

I would show you a picture of it's loveliness now, but it is a gift whose recipient may or may not stumble upon this before the gift giving happens. Pictures next time for sure.