I knit quite a lot of my clothing.
When I go about my business in the world, people comment on my knitted clothing.
If a non-knitter ventures the conversational gambit, “Did you make that?” I get FURIOUS. DO YOU THINK I KNIT MY ENTIRE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT (btw I did knit it but I’M STILL MAD DO NOT PATRONIZE ME LIKE AN ADULT ASKING A MIDDLE SCHOOL BOY ABOUT MINECRAFT).
If a knitter asks me the same question, I bloom with pride and spend the next half hour regaling the said knitter with the entire life story of the garment and its many knitterly adventures.
Is it me or is it them? Am I less rational than I give myself credit for?
Raging in Rambouillet
The fact that you erupt into fury whenever a non-knitter asks if you made what you’re wearing makes me wonder if maybe, just maybe, you have some lingering issues at play? Could it be that some part of you still thinks that wearing clothing you made by hand is aberrant, as if your beautiful handknits are really nothing more than first-grade macaroni wall art with a neckband and sleeves?
With that going on, it makes sense that you’d interpret any questions from onlookers who aren’t wearing macaroni wall art as patronizing. Which would put you instantly on the defensive.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes, just sometimes, people are in awe of us for being able to make our own clothing. It’s an impressive skill, like being able to bake a cake from scratch or change a flat tire or recite the entire alphabet in one long belch. We each have our magic abilities, and collectively, they are what make the human species so beautifully amazing.
Let’s turn the tables for a second. Say, and this is a totally hypothetical example, that you can’t bake a cake to save your life—but you have a friend who can. She’s always taking cake workshops and going to cake festivals and posting pictures of her latest finished cakes. You pay her a visit, and she serves you a slice of cake. You’re going to ask if she baked it, right?
Where are you coming from when you ask that question?
I’m guessing you’re pretty rooted in awe and appreciation. Do her cakes make your own feelings of inadequacy kick up? Are you tempted to make a Martha Stewart joke, just to cover for your own insecurities at never having been able to master cakes yourself?
That’s hardly patronizing, is it.
Would Julia Child have gotten prickly every time someone assumed she’d made what she was eating? Would she have yelled, “IT’S KFC TAKE-OUT, STOP PATRONIZING ME!” (I have no idea, but I imagine she would’ve just chuckled.)
From now on, let’s try this: Whenever a non-knitter asks if you made what you’re wearing, assume this person is asking from a place of awe. Now it’s your turn to smile, feel gratitude for their appreciation and empathy for their weaknesses. Then open your mouth.
Knitting may seem easy to us, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for other people. It requires a degree of hand-eye coordination, patience, and discipline that not everyone can muster. There are those unfortunates who will never be able to knit a stitch, even if the yarn wrapped itself around their hands and pulled the loops off by itself. But that doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate your ability to knit, right?
So smile, stand tall, be proud … and for goodness sake, wear more handknits.
Hey, Dear Clara fans: are you heading to Chicago for Vogue Knitting Live?
We’d love for you to join us on March 9 (Friday) for a superspecial dinner, featuring Clara Parkes and us. Details here!