Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Today, perhaps the very best place to see contemporary fine hand knitting is at Textures on  Montana Street in Santa Monica, California.

Jane, the owner, was an integral part of the Three Bags Full sweater store in San Francisco, California.  Three Bags Full closed a couple of years ago,  In many, ways the new store is better.

Textures is a fashion boutique. They are not the blue wool sweaters you would buy in the shops of Saint-Malo.  Mostly, the fabric weights are less than what Three Bags Full  carried  in SF (because it is in Santa Monica and only 8 blocks from the beach.)  However, it is also only a few miles from LAX, and many of Jane's customers travel frequently to the southern hemisphere, so Jane carries summer and winter weight objects, all the year round.

While they are very nice, Jane manages to keep her prices much lower than what I have seen for similar objects at places like Neiman Marcus, Saks, and  other designer fashion boutiques.   And, nobody else has the selection and range of fine hand knit objects that one can find in Textures.

Many of the objects are so finely knit and shaped,  that a drawing of the object gives no clue that the fabric is knit rather than woven.   When objects are knit by skilled professionals, paintings, drawings, and sculpture cannot indicate whether the clothing was knit or woven.  Objects produced by skilled professional knitters are much better than the objects that we see produced by amateur / recreational knitters.  On the other hand, these days we do not see much fine work by skilled professionals.

All of which brings up the question of:  "Why we do not see more finely knit objects produced by  recreational knitters?"  Yes the professionals have more skill, but amateurs have more time.


Anonymous said...

Ah, but the amateurs must make a living, raise children, cook meals, weed the garden etc. Free time for knitting is a valuable commodity. There are some who prefer a quick product, hence the use of bulkier yarns. For myself, it takes about 1 month to produce a finely knit sweater. Pros knit full time, amateurs knit with crumbs of free time.

Marlowe said...

How can you state as fact that non-professional knitters do not produce fine hand knits? Why are you so judgmental of those who knit for pleasure and are not in competition with professional knitters? You do realize that many if the hand knits you profess to think of as professionally knit are knit in third world countries at very low wages, don't you?

=Tamar said...

Amateurs and professionals alike generally don't get enough pay to do the fine work. One of the most powerful payoffs is an emotional response from other people. Unfortunately, most people can't tell very fine hand knitting from machine knitting. When you wear a fascinating design, people may compliment the design, but if the texture doesn't scream "thick therefore handknit" they assume it was machine made. So the kind of people who do make fine knits get less emotional response - less payoff - than they get for coarser work. Monied people who just want the admiration response won't pay a professional hand knitter to do fine work, because their friends won't recognize it, and also because it takes too long so there's no instant gratification. A dedicated amateur in the original sense who does fine knitting in silk at the level of the professional medieval purse-knitters had her work arbitrarily relabelled 'machine knitting' in an exhibit she entered; it took another year and a major effort to prove that she hadn't tried to pass off machine knitting. It takes a very dedicated knitter to do fine work even for themselves when the response is that their work is either ignored or actively rejected.

Aaron said...

I go to the shows, I look at what is posted on Ravelry, and etc. i talk to dealers to find out what kind of knitting needles and yarn are being sold.

Aaron said...

Yes, there is that group.

However, there is also a group that just like beautiful clothes. Everybody in their circle can afford anything. Expensive clothes do not impress. What impresses, is the good taste to select clothes that flatter the wearer.

One can knit stuff that looks like it was frame knit. However one can also knit objects where the only reaction is: "That is beautiful!" How it was made does not matter. Its price does not matter. All that matters is that it is beautiful.

Aaron said...

Read OP again.

Jane has been buying the same lines from the same designers that have been using some of the same French knitters for 20 years.

This is not third world production. On the other hand there is cut-throat competition to work for some of these designers, so pay may not be that high.

Do your homework.

Aaron said...

Ah, Anonymous, what is a "finely knit sweater"?

Are you talking about a sweater knit from 1,600 ypp 3-ply on UK 17 (15 mm (see Gladys Thompson pg 83)

May I point out it was knit for her husband, and Mrs. Bishop, the knitter, had children.

GT suggests that such sweaters take 10 or 12 weeks to knit. There is no reason why a project must be finished in a month. I know a fellow that does one fine gansey a year by knitting half an hour per day. It does not seem like much, but over the years he has done a pile of very fine sweaters.

Stashinetta said...

Amateur, professional or polymath, what does it matter if the thing gets done?

Anonymous said...

Aaron, enough. I've seen your knitting and your spinning, both technique and results. I've seen people attempt to get you to "teach" them your marvelous techniques and seen how you suddenly disappear. I don't know what's wrong with you, but from our brief interactions and the deterioration shown on this blog, I'm afraid you're only getting worse. Please get some help.

Aaron said...

I offered to teach at a variety of forums, and they chose not to have me, and were evasive about the reasons.

Also, I figure that if you are smart, and you watch me for 3 minutes, you are good to go, and can figure out all the details.

Thus, I figure that if I spin at the Winery or CNCH, everybody that walks by will see that it can be done, and do it, if they have the motivation.

Nothing I do is hard. It is just a matter of knowing it can be done, and doing it.

Anonymous said...

No, what you do isn't hard. I've seen you do it. What you produce isn't exceptional. I've seen it and handled it. If people are refusing your offers to teach, it's probably because they've seen your work too. Nothing you claim is accurate. Even distance shots of your yarn show how utterly average it is.

Aaron said...

I knit and spin a lot of things that may not be to your taste - not many people sleep in the snow, so not many people like the touch and feel of sweaters that are warm enough to allow one to sleep in the snow. However, there is noting worse than being cold, and wool when tightly knit is a miracle fabric.

This is all spinning and knitting -- it is easy!! (Once you think of it.) When I started, nobody was knitting weatherproof garments. Well some people knit and felted, but that is a different fabric, Then, Nobody was spinning 5-ply. Once I remind people that it can be done, it is easy. The hard part is deciding to do it when nobody else is doing it.

I will freely admit that many of the fabrics that I knit showed their virtues only to people that understood real cold and who wanted real warm. Everything knit from the MacAusland yarns comes to mind. Those fabrics are stiff and scratchy. Their virtues are warmth and durability. When I knit them, I did not know of any other way to get that warmth and durability. And, nobody else was knitting anything as warm. The techniques were good, I just did not have the yarn that I needed, so I started spinning. Today, I know how to get that kind of warmth and durability from finer and softer wools. Nobody would teach me, I had to figure it out for myself.

Along the same lines, the 10s that I spin are average - because I have to spin them very fast to have enough 5-ply yarn to be worth while. To get the fabric, I have to spin fast. When I spin fast, my singles are average, but I get enough of them to make an exceptional fabric.

Then, the fabrics from hand spun 5-ply or hand spun 10-ply are special, but you do not know me well enough to have any familiarity with them. And, you do not make such fabrics yourself because . . . you think they are too easy to make? : )

I deal with some of the most brutally honest textile experts in the world. If you were honest, you would use your own name. If you were an expert, you would know just how much goes into making hand spun 5 or 10-ply yarns.

No, you are just playing a psychological game in the great tradition of adolescent girls standing in the hallway at high school, and having little contests to see who can make the most snide comments about the kids who actually get good grades.

You should read: Games People Play by Berne, and I'm OK, You're OK by Harris. Those are popular level books on psychological games. They are an introduction into transactional analysis. Once you understand them, you should move on to university level texts on the structure and dynamics of groups and organizations and the presentation of self in public.

One reason that I have such a low regard for some spinners is the games that some spinners still play. It started as a pastime in Queen Victoria's Court. where spinning was a display of status (e. g., a conspicuous consumption of leisure in the production of a low value good). Spinning quickly transitioned to a game because one had to become a proficient spinner, but one had to avoid appearing to be a better spinner than the Queen and other very high ranking ladies. Thus, the pastime developed a "twist" and became true game. Then, spinning went out of fashion and came back in the 1960s. The necessity of not being a better spinner than the high status ladies set a requirement that professional quality spinning is not allowed. And, in particular, spinning fast would defeat the conspicuous consumption of leisure. Thus, any attempt to spin fast generates a stone wall of rudeness in the community. Modern hand spinning is a game, not a craft.