Thursday, June 18, 2009

knitting & the magazine - a vent in appreciation

Have you ever had a Christmas or birthday, or any other holiday where gifts are exchanged, where you impatiently wait for a whole year, and be extra good, hoping to high heaven that you finally get that puppy or bike that you were just dying to get, to only wind up with another gift bag full of tube socks? You know what I'm saying, right? Well, that's how I've been feeling with knitting magazines lately.

I've been itching to write a blog post that (hopefully) both show my appreciation for knitting 'zines but still allows me to vent, as I've a few things to get off my chest. I used to have a love for knitting magazines, both online and in print, but lately, when I come across the new issue, I've been finding myself with more bags of tube socks rather than cute puppies and shiny bikes.

First, let me state that I absolutely appreciate the amount of work that all designers put into their knitwear, and how awesome it is that there are many outlets available that allows these talented people to get published. And, the work of the publishers - whether they're paid or they do it voluntarily - to have to pick and choose from such a variety of designs and peice them together into one publication after another, kudos.

BUT - and here's my vent - whether the publication is in print or online, free or not, there's a part of me that wishes that either designers or publishers (or both) would please step up their game, and offer their readers not only great eye candy, but an actual challenge to the craft. The game needs to be stepped up a notch. We need to have more variety in what gets published on a quarterly (or more) basis.

For examples:

Knitty - a fantastic online publication, love the fact that it's both online and free to the reader, and the publication also pays their designers that get published! BUT - seriously, could we have even one issue where we're not being bombareded with shawl and sock patterns? I mean, I love shawls, and I've knit my fair share of socks. But, do we need a zillion shawls? Or a zillion pairs of socks? Are there no designers out there submitting patterns to knitty that aren't socks or shawls? Or, how about having a better distribution of patterns? Like for every sock pattern, provide a sweater pattern? Or for every shawl pattern, provide a guy's pattern of some kind? ----- Based on the almost knitty group on ravelry, almost-in patterns (for the most part) are fantastic - and there's a wonderful amount of them that aren't socks or shawls, so we know they're getting submitted. And, truthfully, the level of some of the knitting patterns that ARE getting into knitty in the last couple of issues, they seem bland and simple in comparison. (I'll address this last point a little later in the blog, be patient!)

Plus, I was quite looking forward to seeing, for the first time, a 'holiday headstart' section to this issue, but was sorely disappointed that all of them are small, short term projects. Granted, they're awesome for instant gratification, but truthfully, I wouldn't start such small projects in May or June for the holidays. Am I the only one who expected to see sweaters or something? Anything that would actually need a few months of invested work for the holidays? Knitty already publishes short-&-sweet winter projects in their winter issue, with the thinking of having quick knits for the holidays, so why start these itty bitties so early? Is the winter issue going to be filled with afghans and sweaters?

theAnticraft - a cool site, one of the few that I follow the blog more avidly than the quarterly issues themselves. What I have loved about this publication thus far is that a variety of crafts get in, not just knitting or crocheting. Any given issue there's something to sew, bake, knit, crochet, clay, weld, etc. Kick ass. But, is it just me, or has the site lost a little bit of its - I dunno - demure since the book was published? Once again relying a bit on ravelry, very few if any knitters or crocheters seem to be interested in the current issue (or even in the last, for that matter) all but two crafts revolve around making merkins.

Granted they all did require some work and creativity into designing them, and a fiber of bravery to be pictured sporting them, but how many of us will truly go out of our way to making one? If we do, what do we do with it? Would we gift them at Christmas? Hand them out as birthday party favours? Were these supposed to make ideal mother's day or father's day gifts? ----- It's just a big miss for me in this issue. The bacon issue - I believe titled "unclean", now that was probably one of the best issues I've seen in a while from Anticraft. And the first few years' worth of issues had some fantastic knitting patterns (think bat shawl, snowflake/skull wrist warmers, a killer rabbit) and very cool recipes. But, sadly, the element of hardcore creativity that I once expected from this site has fizzled a little. Please, I beg, recover. Even the anticraft ravelry group hasn't been posted in at all in at least a month. (A sign, maybe?)

And then, there's the print magazines. Again, love Interweave Knits, and have bought many an issue. Wonderfully photographed, well detailed, etc etc etc. But I've been finding that I've been buying fewer and fewer issues, despite many knitters putting this publication on a pedestal. IMHO, IK has a similar issue that knitty does, although instead of an oversurge of socks and shawls, there's a zillion sweater patterns and little of anything else. Bleh. Pretty, yes. Overdone, absolutely. Variety? Minimal.

And lastly, ofcourse, Vogue Knitting, knit.1 and knit simple. Great photographs, fun projects, and overall a healthy variety... and three publications that very distinctly appeals to 3 different genres of knitters. But, I've been finding there's just more of the same in each issue, and I've been spending more time lately wanting to read the articles published rather than be excited about a particular project inside.

Now, above I did make a statement when writing about knitty that "... the level of some of the knitting patterns that ARE getting into knitty in the last couple of issues, they seem bland and simple in comparison." The same can be applied to some of the print magazines as well, and let me explain why I wrote this before too many readers get their skeins in a bunch.

Yes, it's wise for any publication to offer patterns for all skill levels of knitters. It's encouraged. That way n00bs have something to work on, as well as people who knit intricate lace, fair isle, and celtic cables in their sleep. But (yep, this post is filled with but's!) would it be so horrible if these and other publications made an attempt to challenge their readers?

What I mean is this: let's put all knitting patterns on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the basic garter stitch n00b patterns, and 10 being the most challenging. Could we maybe try to publish patterns that are at least considered a "3" on this scale?

Reason being, it's a little insulting to me as the reader, that I've wasted a subsription to this magazine to be bombarded with the most basic patterns - again. And it bothers me a little to have so many fantastic patterns that are rejected because magazines would rather publish another garter stitch scarf. Authentically talented designers are being put aside for basic knit-&-purl patterns. Frankly, I think it insults the intelligence of the reader to provide so many 'dumbed down' patterns. If I wanted to learn how to knit, I would buy a book that would teach me, not a magazine.

The best way for anyone to learn is to give them a challenge, no matter now small. Let's encourage our knitters who are a 1 to push themselves a bit with a 2 project. Throw in a basic cable somewhere, or an easy lace detail, or at least use more than one colour of yarn in one project. Maybe even use dpn's and circular needles and knit in the round instead of knitting everything flat. Too many garter stitch & stockinette stitch projects makes Jack a dull scarf.

I would sooner invest my money and/or attention into a magazine publication if I saw @ least 1 project per issue that made me think "OMG, I want to blow half my paycheck on yarn to make that!" rather than skim through another issue after having to impatiently wait 3 months to see it and think "OMG, nothing, again."

So, after all of that, my suggestions to improve issues rather than just bitch and complain on my blog. Things that I would love to see in future issues of any and all magazines:
- more guy stuff. There's not enough guy patterns, and I (as well as others) have many great guys to knit for. Guy themed issues are great. Guy stuff in each issue, better.
- a better variety of patterns, or at least a better balance. Maybe pick a minimum of 5 or 6 things to knit (ie hats, scarves, tops, etc) and have a minimum of 2 or 3 patterns of each, so that there's variety. Again, not everyone's an avid lace, shawl or sock knitter.
- a better variety of sizes. Because some of us are 1x or more, like it or not.
- reshift your focus occasionally. If you've published a lot of sock patterns in the last year, for example, maybe come out with one issue where there are 3 or less sock patterns? That way, the focus is on something else temporarily.
- provide 3 or 4 versions of the same pattern - instead of waiting for ravelry members to knit your project in 3 or 4 different types of yarn, why not provide it from the get-go? IMHO it may make it more appealing to more people.

Think of it for your advertisers - and if you don't have advertisers, than at least for your site's shop. If your issue isn't stimulating enough for a better variety of knitters, then no one's going to pay attention to what it is you're actually selling.


Linda said...

Well said. I agree whole-heartedly. I don't even need to see an entire garment in other yarns, just provide well-photographed swatches. More guy stiff - both classic and trendy so that all ages and styles of guys are covered.

The rules said...

I stumbled across your blog and completely agree.