Stix and the City: The Yarn Harlot comes to Edmonton

Mea culpa, Stephanie: my paper ran that headline you hate so much. I am culpable; I sort of egged them into it with my first line. I swear it wasn’t meant to play off that old stereotype, but I can see why the muggles took it that way. It’s the way they always take it, isn’t it? And so the stereotype endures.

The Yarn Harlot was in Edmonton last Friday, and she gave a wonderful talk to a gathering of knitters (and crocheters!) from across the city (and a few from farther out). Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is a knitting celebrity, an ambassador of our craft, and the opportunity to see her was simply one I couldn’t pass up – especially because while she does a lot of talks in a lot of cities across the continent, she doesn’t get to Alberta very often. Blame her publishers for that; I guess they think the prairies aren’t into the knitting thing. (Which is so very daft – do you know how bloody cold it gets out here? Of course we love wool.)

Followers of the Yarn Harlot’s blog and readers of her many books will have undoubtedly recognized a couple of the stories she told during the presentation, though there was plenty of new material too. It was also a rallying cry for all of us knitters to take pride in our work, and a reminder not to be so self-deprecating about it. Seriously, why do we do that? I certainly have a tendency to downplay the enormous time and effort it takes to produce even a small knitted item, let alone those knee-high Fair Isle socks, or that beaded lace shawl, or the cabled sweater. And no, just because I knit this for myself doesn’t mean I can “easily” whip one up for you. Or your friend who really loves knitwear. Or your dog. It’s not like I sneeze stockinette, people.

I noticed an almost militant tone at some points in Stephanie’s presentation, which I certainly understand – she’s been dealing with the various demeaning prejudices and stereotypes about knitting and knitters for a lot longer than I have. However, in my own experience I’ve noticed that the younger generation tends to be a lot better about it: I’ve never had a young person demand that I knit them something (except my sister, but she’s just demanding in general), but I have had a couple older people do this. Cautious optimism? Maybe the younger folks have started to appreciate knitting more than their parents. The media sure wants us to think it’s the new “hip” thing (it’s not); maybe some good has come of all that slightly irritating PR.

Anyway, I’m basically just repeating what Stephanie said, only she was far more eloquent. And funny! She’s got great comic timing, and I can attest that non-knitters would totally enjoy watching/reading her. Judging by the number of people swathed in gorgeous handknits, my husband was one of probably three non-stitchers in the crowd – so I don’t have a very big sample to test this theory. Nonetheless, I maintain its veracity.

Huge kudos to Barb and Cynthia at River City Yarns for hosting another year of Stix and the City and bringing Stephanie and designer Fiona Ellis to town. I missed out on a weekend full of awesome workshops with these two ladies (curse my constrained budget). I dearly hope River City continues to host a knitting event like this every year. And next time, maybe I’ll get an article in a paper that doesn’t mention grandmothers, not even once.

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