Knitting Today: HAT, CAT, or Somewhere Inbetween.

Occassionally on lists for designers, a discussion regarding Hip and Trendy (HAT, or H&T as it is also called) crops up. There are a number of designers, including myself, who dislike the term as it usually is used in combination with something like “Not Your Grandma’s Knitting!”…as is, our knitting is good, yours is not relevant.

I suppose that is human nature to some extent. I am wondering, though, how much of that is due to the influx of younger knitters (as another designer wisely pointed out there seems to be a cycle with many things when “young” or newer enthusiasts join something, and everything is new to them). We are at a point (or rather, they are at a point) where they are ready to move beyond garter stitch scarves in novelty yarn, and the desire for things that are fashionable and fresh drive marketing. The search for what is “new” and “relevant”, can be somewhat misleading. Old techniques are discovered and used in new ways when minds are open, rather than closed. Don’t get me wrong, everyone should be able to choose for themselves how simple they want their knitting to be. It is their knitting and they should be allowed to enjoy it without comment from anyone. But it works both ways. Human nature being what it is, we don’t always embrace diversity as we should.

There is a whole world of knitting out there, and we are only limited by our imagination and belief in ourselves. The desire to learn more and do more can be severely hammpered by our beleif in ourselves. Many knitters have started to search out other things in knitting beyond the garter stitch scarf in novelty yarn, and there is a return to more classic types of knitting. For the fashion conscious, this classic style is not without it’s own modern feel.

I for one am rejoicing, as I am a CAT (classic and timeless) type of designer. There is more interest in other types of knitting as a result of this swing back to basic yarns and classic styles, and there isless dependence on novelty yarns to make a project special.

I have a hard time designing with the novelty yarns myself. I think they are pretty, but I have trouble doing them justice. I think because I just never learned how to combine them or use them. This is because the kind of knitting that shows these yarns off bores me silly. In all honesty, I prefer classic yarns and classic types of knitting. The knitting itself is more challenging and is the star of the show, rather than the yarn itself being the one and only design element.

I enjoy an Aran jumper (pullover) or a fairisle jumper much more than a sweater that is knit out of novelty yarns. I can appreciate them, I just don’t use them myself.

It has been postulated that designers tend to fill niches, and I suppose in many respects that is right. I have not seen any effect in my own business related to the knitting industry (many are wondering if the bubble has burst, as there are now yarn stores closing and for awhile there, it seemed there were a lot of new ones opening). I would venture to say that is because the designs that I do never appealed to the knitters the market was courting. At the TNNA (The National Needlework Association) trade show, the market was definetly more balanced and not so heavily slated towards novelty yarns last year, and I would imagine this year will be the same.

I have always, to some extent, designed what I want and let the chips fall where they may. I think in many areas of life that is a good approach. Do what you believe is right, essentially. Or do what you believe in. I believe in designing garments I would love to wear. When it gets to the point where I am designing something to make a quick sale, that is not what I am into. Some people are and there is nothing wrong with that either. But if it isn’t right for me, then I should not pursue it.

Whatever my niche is, I am not entirely sure as I have not stopped to analyze it. I suppose I should. Janet Szabo is the queen of Aran knitting. Annie Modesitt is brilliantly creative. Bonne Marie Burns epitomizes elegant and trendy (IMHO). I just do what I like and see where it takes my fancy. And I try not to be afraid.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace


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