Sunday, October 17, 2004

Spinning Along

On the Friday edition of NPR's All Things Considered, an interview with a filmmaker caught my attention. The filmmaker was Alexander Payne, and he was on the air to talk about his latest film, Sideways. The film is about a character named Miles who is a failure in his career and relationships, but is very knowledgeable about wine. For Miles, his passion extends beyond a good bottle during dinner, it's the sort of all-consuming interest that becomes a metaphor for life.

The filmmaker explains that having wine as a hobby gives Miles a way to have some self-esteem despite the mistakes he's made. It's a sort of absorbing interest that gives him new ways to interact with people. Because he's a wine expert, he can be a teacher with others, the one who knows the best wine to go with any dinner, he can expound endlessly about how the grapes are grown, and why difficult-to-grow grapes make the best wines.

While listening to the filmmaker talk, it occurred to me that perhaps my interest in knitting could be similar. It's good to have a niche in life, something that I'm good at and can explain to others. Having a hobby that takes me out of my daily routine is healthy, and exploring the world of knitting to it's fullest is a refreshing.

In the spirit of delving into a personal interest to it's fullest extent possible, I attended the Bishop HIll Fiber Guild's annual Spin In on Saturday. I've been toying with the idea of learning how to spin yarn from scratch, and I've been playing with the idea of buying a spinning wheel. Part of me thinks this is a really crazy idea--why would I want my knitting projects to take even longer to complete? In truth, the reason I'm drawn to spinning is because I enjoy the magazine Spin Off. Reading about knitting is almost as interesting as doing the knitting itself, but knitting magazines have been dragging me down a bit. I keep reading the same articles over and over about how to knit cables and do kitchner stitch. I'm a long way from being a knitting expert, but the reading is getting a little redundant.

Spin Off, on the other hand, is full of articles on a whole realm of knitting I know next-to-nothing about. So this means each issue is fascinating. The magazine usually includes a couple of articles where the artist walks through all the steps of their project, from the conception of the idea, to the making of the final projects, sharing the problems and solution met along the way. This is the kind of article I think the knitting mags could try out. The writing standards of Spin Off are surprisingly rigorous. The articles actually include footnotes!

In the knitting magazines, the project designers are the stars. Stand-out designers are typically talked about in hushed tones, like they're moving stars. In Spin Off, it is the individual artisan that is the center of attention. While a knitter may follow a pattern, there's a lot of ingenuity, creativity, and problem-solving that goes into making the final project. And it's this emphasis on following each step on the path that interests me about the craft.

After attending the Spin In, I have a few new skills to practice. I'm along way from knowing how to make yarn, but I'm willing to take the time to learn.

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