July 3, 2008

Geekings and Sparklesnot

Warcraft Geekery meets Fiber Art

I have a massively nerdy plan. See, I'm a big gamer geek. Me and my boy are pretty much Gabe and Tycho with hippie hair and sexors. And my biggest game addiction is World of Warcraft. (Wanna see my tailor? So close to max skill! So close!) So when I thought of a way to combine that with my other addiction -- fiber -- I did a little dance of nerdish joy. No, I'm not going to knit a guild tabard.

I'm going to spin Imbued Netherweave.

Now, I know the 'weave' in that implies that it would be a woven fabric. But let me have my fun. I'm going to dye a variegated deep purple, card it with clear angelina, and -- and what? Does it need something else? Beads? Little felted voidwalkers? Hell, I dunno. It's just an idea so far. I try to avoid spinning sparklesnot into my yarns because the result is usually fugly and useless, but this is conceptual, man.

Hm, I might actually weave fabric from it. Sew a bag. Guess I could knit a bag. I dunno, would you be bothered if something was called an Imbued Netherweave Bag and it was actually knitted? I just know my pet autistic supergenius is going to have a problem with it.

My Kind Of People

There's a new craft store in town. I walked over there today and had a look. They didn't have much of anything I wanted to buy except knitting needles, but I still love them lots. See, they're my kind of people.

I mentioned in a previous entry how the local yarn store, Digs, is also a lots-of-other-things store. What I didn't mention was the attitude. Digs gives off a certain vibe. It's a stylish, clever, self-satisfied, hipster kind of vibe. I once went in there to buy some fabric (to make little pouches for my dpn's so I'd never again have to squint at every single #4 I own in the hope that one of them is secretly a #3, a project I have still not managed to complete) and couldn't find a single thing I was willing to pay money for. Every damn bolt of fabric in the place was hipster retro flowers and 70's wallpaper patterns in robin's egg and brown or chartreuse and pink, I fucking swear. The yarn they have is wonderful, all crazy textures and colors and sparkles and concepts -- but only about one-tenth of it could conceivably be used for anything other than an accessory scarf. Basically, the Malabrigo and the Brown Sheep Superwash are of use to me; everything else is for teenage girls with peg looms. Oh, and you have to walk through aisles of $40 scented candles to get to the yarn. So yeah... not feeling real comfy there.

No, I'm a craftsman, not a hipster. I'm a worker. I do things because they want doing, not because they make my friends squeal. I don't need hot pink mohair/angora at $21 per ounce. I need a wall of wool/nylon self-striping sock yarn.

The new store does not have this. Yet. What they have is every product Red Heart makes. Which means all they have is acrylic. I don't use acrylic. Even the stuff that feels nice doesn't wear well and isn't warm, and I've seen pictures of what it does to you if it melts to your skin -- you wanna cozy up by the fireplace in an acrylic sweater? Hello skin grafts! So... no, they don't have what I want a craft store to have, in terms of products. BUT. Big but. Wait, lemme get you a bigger one.

BUT. What they do have is the right attitude. When I asked if they planned to get in some natural fiber yarns, the lady behind the counter, whom I believe is the owner, got out a notebook and asked if I had any other suggestions. She wrote them down. She told me lots of people were asking for 100% wool and for sock yarns. When I told her what kind of stuff I like to work with, she took notes. She was really pleased that I liked the Takumi bamboo dpn's, and asked what sizes I'd like to see in stock. When I told her their selection of quilting fabrics is wonderful, she glowed.

If she wasn't the owner, she was at least a partner. She was a dumpy, cheery, Mom-ish woman in a sweatshirt and jeans, with no-time-for-curlers hair. Not a sleek shopgirl with a plastic smile. The shelving was all cheap and functional, the lighting was bright, there was no attempt to create a 'mood'. But everyone who was shopping there -- and there were quite a few -- looked relaxed and satisfied. The prices were pretty damn good too.

It's clearly a shop for people who want materials for exercising their own skill and creativity, a workmanlike shop, a shop for getting things done. Not an ironic hipster sparklesnot shop full of things for show and giggles. Once the new place gets their sock yarns in, I'll be doing all my shopping there.


And while I'm being catty, I have to tell you about the Fugly.

People who are old enough to remember the last 'crafting renaissance' in the 70's know what I mean. If you're too young, ask your mum; she'll make amazing faces as she recalls it. The macramé owls with wooden bead claws clutching a piece of driftwood. The avocado green and mustard acrylic zig-zag afghans. The fringed purses, the appliqué dishtowels, the VESTS. Oh god the vests. Quilted ones, knitted ones, macramé ones, wobblishly hand-woven ones, all made of unshaped rectangles in dreadful poopy-diaper 'earth tones'. I love the colors of the earth, let me point out; nothing soothes my soul quite like seeing 'espresso' and 'parchment' paired in clean stripes, or a mottling of forest greens leavened by granite gray. But these earth tones looked like nothing found in nature. They looked like things found in the bottom of the crisper drawer upon returning from a two-week vacation.

So as crafting resurges again, I've been fighting not to cringe. I lived through hand-sewn backpacks with yellow rickrack and iron-on ladybugs. I do not want my art, about which I really care, to be compared with the kind of therapy-for-shut-ins yarn-poop that defined the 70's for me. I've been trying not to jump at shadows, trying not to defensively insist that the flame-colored laceweight merino I'm spinning is very high quality lovely stuff suitable for heirloom knitting, and is not orange dammit.

On occasion I've wondered if the 'art yarn' contingent might be where the fugly is. Certainly it's possible to attach some really stupid shit to your lumpy yarn and call it art yarn. If you talk a good line, you can get $50 a skein for forty yards of grab-bag-fiber rope and half a dozen doll heads. It is to describe this nonsense that Luka coined the term 'sparklesnot', in fact, and I've found the word very useful. But some art yarn is awfully nice; I wouldn't work with it myself, but I can see the appeal. And the same goes for free-form knitting; while I myself would neither make nor wear a hat that looks like the 'after' picture from a piñata party, there's a certain DIY, fuck-you appeal to the stuff.

And then, just when I was starting to relax... I found the fugly. Have you heard of the 'butterfly loom'?

It's a way of making sloppy-looking squares with loopy fringe all around the edges. You can make many awkward and stupid things by attaching these objects together. Like purses that look like tangled yarn globs, or scarves that look like tangled yarn globs, or ponchos that look like you dove headfirst through a landfill and kept whatever stuck.

This shit is absolutely equivalent to the worst fug of the 70's. It, like that fug of bygone days, is a ton of fun if you're teaching kindergarten, and absolutely unacceptable in the decorating scheme or wardrobe of an adult. It, like fug of yore, has been 'raised to an art form' by people who want kudos for genuine craft without bothering to develop any genuine skill. It is the real deal.

I find it a huge relief. If this is the extent of our fug, I think we'll be all right. No one outside the art-therapy room will even pretend to take it seriously, and meanwhile, real craftsmen and craftswomen are producing things like this: Susanna Hanssen's Bohus knitting page.

Yeah, I guess there's hope for crafting in the 21st century. Just do me a favor and don't put avocado next to burnt orange EVEN FOR FUNNY. My heart can't take it.


seebs said...

I don't think mageweave or netherweave is actually woven, I think it's just called that because the word "weave" sounds clothish. My guess is that "netherweave" and "mageweave" are both descriptions of the way in which the fiber is constructed, and you can actually knit or weave with them, whatever you want.

Jesse said...

What a relief, I'm glad you approve. :D

But srsly, yeah, I doubt the game designers were thinking much about textiles when they named stuff. It just sounded cool.

Hm, knitted then, maybe fulled to make it sturdier... yeeeeaaaah... *wanders off to sketch a pattern*

Kat said...

I have to say, it's a great relief to know I'm not the only knitter who doesn't just game, but also plays WoW. I thought I'd degenerated into UltraGeek. I think I'm safe until I dust off my Magic the Gathering cards, now.

I haven't commented before (well, here, we've spoken elsewhere) , but I feel the need to express great fondness for your blog. I love Metanoia, and your writing, and knowing that you also knit and spin... Well, it just makes me love you all the more. Plus, you blog like the Yarn Harlot, and that... Well, that's a compliment no matter how you look at it.


Jesse said...

Wow, that IS a compliment! #^_^# Imagine me doing like Chopper in One Piece, squirming around and blushing madly, going "I'm not flattered at all, you jerks!" with a big cheese-eating grin on my face.

And if you dust off the Magic cards, so will I. That was some good shit. In fact... why did I stop playing? I must query the Boy on the topic.

honeybee33 said...

oh dear. I luv the irony of some of those butterfly-loom project titles: "Wrap Me In Trendsetter." "Gift for a Special Baby." "Hope, you look gorgeous!" (should be read sans punctuation.)

I hate to tell you - really, I hate it - but that d@mn butterfly loom was actually around in the 70's. My mom made herself several quite hideous hotpads that promptly melted to her best casserole pans.

What about the brilliance of Stitch Diva's resurgence of hairpin lace??? I'm livin' yer pain, boy.

~ hb33, old enough to have actually created a macrame owl that hung in the bathroom with the harvest-gold tile ~

Jesse said...

Heh, now I'm hearing that 'History Repeating' song in my head. Which ain't a bad thing, as it's damn catchy. :D

Oh dear, the hairpin lace. I was looking at the thumbnails thinking, "I dunno, it's not that bad, obviously not my thing but if you like openwork..."

Then I clicked on the thumbnails, and when I could see it properly... oh man. It looks like snagged pantyhose. o_O