Friday, January 03, 2014

Obscure hobbyists, unite!

I got my last Christmas present last night.  It had to be shipped from Scotland, and didn't make it to my in-laws' house before we left, and then there were delays in shipping for New Years, and it took until yesterday to finally show up in my mailbox.

I was so excited to receive it, I grabbed it from Jason and opened the package while I was cooking dinner.  Think about that for a minute.  I grabbed the package and tore into it, right there in the kitchen, while I had food on the stove and a hungry family standing around waiting for dinner.  That's how excited I was about it.  I opened it, and admired it, and played with some of the pieces, giggling hysterically when the magnets brought the pieces together with an audible click.  Then my timer went off, I put the pieces back in the box, and finished cooking dinner.

I got to try my gift out after dinner was cleaned up, and after a shaky start, it worked beautifully.  It's so lightweight and works so smoothly, it's hardly any effort at all to get it to make better product than I've ever made before.  I played with it for an hour, and I had a huge grin on my face the whole time.  Jason got sick of having to admire my results, and he went to bed early.  I was good and went to bed soon after, but all day today, it's been calling to me from its place of honor next to my seat on the couch.  Cooooome plaaaaaaaaay it whispers as I run the vacuum and pick up toys and make lunch.

So, what was my present?  What can inspire this level of glee from me?  Something for the kitchen, to make better bread?  Too plebeian.  Or maybe a new set of knitting of needles that let me knit faster or more evenly?  Nope, not obscure enough.  Here, I'll give you a hint:
(the pushpin is included for scale, not because it's part of the present)

Give up yet?  You probably should, because I've gone into territory that's so obscure, even most of my fiber friends had no idea what it is.  My present was ... an ultralight interchangeable drop spindle set from Almost Alien (  It's made of carbon fiber and 3-D printed plastic, and the assembled drop spindle weighs 6,7, or 8 grams, depending on which whorl I use.  It's perfect for spinning singles to use for plied laceweight yarn, which is what I was doing within five minutes of sitting down with the thing for the first time.  It's so lightweight, I don't need to start the spin on my leg the way I do with my conventional drop spindles, I can give it a light twirl with the fingers on my free hand, and it's on its way.  This means that, if I wanted to, I could easily use this bad boy in the car (as a passenger, of course!).  I luuuuurrrrrrvvvvve it!

I wanted to share my glee last night, but I was stymied with who to talk to.  Most of my Facebook friends don't do fiber-related things, and would probably have no idea what I was talking about.  Even my knitting and crocheting friends are, for the most part, almost completely ignorant about drop spindle spinning, if they know anything about spinning at all.  I texted a photo to the person most likely to give a crap about my hobby, and basically got a pat in the head "that's nice dear," in return.  And I don't have the phone number for the one friend I know would appreciate it, so I'll have to wait to show her in person next week.

This got me thinking about the relative obscurity of my hobbies.  There are millions of people who knit and crochet out there in the world - one popular website devoted to all things knitting and crochet has more than 2 million registered users, and that's just a fraction of the people worldwide who knit.  Heck, I've heard there are more people worldwide who knit than who play golf, it's that popular.  The Craft Yarn Council estimates there are 38 million people in the US alone who knit or crochet.  But somehow, knitting has gotten divorced from our popular culture to the point where very few non-knitters are familiar with its terms and equipment.  

Think about it.  Almost any adult in America could give you a rough definition of an "iron" or "par," regardless of whether they or anyone in their family is a golfer.  But it's hard to find a non-knitter who can easily distinguish between knitting and crochet (hint: if the crafter is using one stick, it's crochet; any more than one, it's knitting), and most people couldn't identify a cable needle or a stitch marker to save their lives.  People benefit from knitting every day - it's what makes your undies stretchy and helps that wool sweater keep you warm - but they don't think about it.  And that's weird.

And if you move on to spinning fibers, well, it gets even more obscure.  Spinning has been going on for thousands of years, ever since people decided that maybe it would be nice to wear something other than a dead deer, or easier to catch fish if there were some sort of flexible thing with holes in it to let the water out and keep the fish inside long enough to eat them.  Despite the fact that we are literally surrounded by spun fibers - from things like the metal cables used to hold up bridges to the cotton in your bedsheets - probably 90+% of the world's population couldn't tell you how they're made, even in the most basic sense.  Hand a layperson a hank of fiber and a drop spindle, and they'd just look at you funny.  Try the same thing with a golf ball and a club, and imagine the difference.  Even in a room of knitters or crocheters, you're much more likely to find someone who knows how to play golf rather than knows how to spin.  There's a reason that people sell bumper stickers that read, "Spinning: because knitting wasn't weird enough."

And yet somehow, that obscurity has never bothered me.  Thanks to the internet, I can connect with people online, watch videos to help learn the craft, and order supplies.  I can find retreats to attend, projects to try, and helpful tips.  Sure, I get blank looks whenever I try to talk about spinning with anyone locally (and even my husband thought I was referring to an exercise class when I told him I was going to Rocky River for a spinning class), and people tend to treat me like I'm a little mentally deficient if they see me spinning in public.  My father-in-law was fascinated by the process I was using to "make twine" as he called it, but I got the feeling that he was about five minutes away from the traditional comment that makes me want to hit people ("You know you can get stuff just like that at Wal-Mart for $5, right?"  Um, yes, I know they sell yarn at Wal-Mart, but if you can find any alpaca/yak/silk laceweight there, I'd be willing to eat it.).

Nope, having an obscure hobby doesn't bother me, until I need someone with whom to share my successes and failures.  Guess it's time to go sign up for a couple of the spinning forums on Ravelry ... in the meantime, got any obscure hobbies you'd like to share with the group? And will someone tell me how awesome my single looks?!?

No comments: