Friday, March 16, 2007

Knitting on NPR's Marketplace - Where's the Story?

I listen to NPR a lot on my commute. Second to classical music, but still a lot. Yesterday evening I was surprised to hear a blurb for an upcoming story on Marketplace about, of all things, knitting. "Knitting on Marketplace? Interesting."

Not so much. It turns out that their reporter, Cash Peters (who always sounds like Terry Jones to me), interviewed Edith Eig. I guess if you're going to call knitting an "old-fashioned fashion craze made new again" then Edith "Hollywood's knitting guru" Eig is your go-to gal.

Me? I long to have back those 15 minutes of my life I once wasted perusing the boring, pretentious, name-dropping "Mother of Purl" that Ms. Eig wrote. Most knitting books, whether I like the designs or not, have at least one redeeming feature, a technique to be learned or a new take on an old idea like cables or Fair Isle. Not here. Insipid designs, no inspiration. If your burning passion involves what Hollywood celebs are knitting, then "Mother of Purl" may be for you. My guess is you'll still be bored.

But I digress. In the interview Ms. Eig's accent made her words barely intelligible ("Edith has more than enough accent for us all", according to Peters) , which was probably a good thing given that she had very little to say. Peters interviewed her husband Merrill, who hawked their lighted knitting needles (easily the silliest knitting product to come out in 2006) and several of their customers, one of whom gushed that knitting was her "zen". Ugh.

Of course as a fluff piece it wasn't a complete waste; maybe it will inspire someone out there to take up needles and yarn and learn how enjoyable knitting can be. But it could have been so much more.

The real story is not what a group of celebrities and hangers-on are up to. Marketplace would have done much better to focus on something that has revolutionized the world of knitting: the Internet.

For the first time, people with no access to local yarn stores can order just about anything they want, any time. They can easily compare prices and even order samples of yarns they're interested in (because of course it's hard to know how the yarn actually feels and how it will handle with only pictures and text). They can sometimes order from their local yarn stores since quite a few brick and mortar stores are developing their own Internet sites. And people who couldn't buy luxury yarns before now have access to places like Elann and Knit Picks and ColourMart that bring the price of silk and cashmere and alpaca down to affordable levels.

And the community available online! From forums like Knitters Review to the many mailing lists at Yahoo, knitters can get together to compare notes, ask questions and join in knit alongs. They can find other knitters in their area by checking out Stitch 'N Bitch, Knitter's Online, TKGA or Meetup. They can learn about events like Stitches or The Knit and Crochet Show or the countless fiber festivals that are held, like the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and Rhinebeck.

And blogs! Want to see if someone else has knit the pattern you're considering? Chances are someone has, and has posted pictures and notes on their blog. Want to learn a new technique? Learn about knitting in other countries? Find new patterns from indie designers? Blogs are your friend.

And podcasts! One of the great things about podcasts is that you don't have to have an MP3 player to listen to them - they can be downloaded directly to your computer. Check out Cast On with Brenda Dayne or Knit Cast with Marie Irshad. For more, download iTunes or hit PodcastAlley and do a search on "knitting" or "fiber" or "spinning". You're sure to find something you'll enjoy.

Needless to say, there's so much more. Marketplace, are you listening?

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