Based on a True Sweater

Jul. 17, 2006

The Knit-Blog Community: Stories and Opinions Needed

I do a stupid little giggle every time I think of this (or my stomach falls out and goes "splat" on the floor): I'm on the panel of the "Group Blogging" Room of Your Own session at BlogHer.

After I spoke about knit-blogging on a panel at Northern Voice 2006, Susie suggested that I submit a proposal to BlogHer for a similar talk. I followed my crazy new policy of saying "yes" as a default answer to possible opportunities, and voilà! I am now on this panel.

I'm quite excited about the chance to talk again about the amazing community that knit-bloggers have formed, and about the cool things this community does. I'm a bit anxious about talking about how the community has formed, because I am not among the most active or popular members of this community. Although I have made small financial contributions to a few of the charity initiatives that the community has... uh... initiated, I have not introduced any of my own, nor have I started any knitalongs or swap projects. I have been an enthusiastic observer of these sorts of projects and I find them cool and inspiring, but by nature I am not inclined to be a participant.

This leads me to make a request. I would like to hear about your experiences with the knit-blogging community. Please tell me about your experiences with the charity, knitalong, and swap projects. (What other group projects to knit-bloggers do that I forgotten about?) Even more, please tell me about being a knit-blogger or non-blogging reader of knitting blogs. How did you become engaged with this community? How has it enhanced your life (or not)? These are questions that are based on my own experiences, but please tell me whatever you want to - answer questions I haven't thought to ask, or suggest questions that I may, in turn, ask others! You can leave your story in a comment, or email me (link in sidebar).

Please also feel free to let me know your thoughts about the knit-blogging community, removed from your own experiences. Why is it such an unusually large and ardent group? Why do we leave so many comments? Why do many of these group projects gain so much initiative and popularity? Why (fill in the blank)??

Also, please pass on these questions (or a link to this entry) to any other knit-bloggers or knit-blog readers you know, who you think may have an opinion or story to share.

And incidentally, thank you for reading. :)


At 5:01 p.m., Blogger spaazlicious said...

Hmmm, I'll have to think on it. For me knitblogging is also wrapped up in spinning, so you might want to look at the recent SpinOut event put on.

The rest of it, well, I'll think on it, send ya an e-mail.

At 7:10 p.m., Blogger Rabbitch said...

I put a link to your post on my blog. Hope it helps!

At 9:14 p.m., Anonymous salt said...

Even more, please tell me about being a knit-blogger or non-blogging reader of knitting blogs.

I'm mostly a reader, although I drop knitting mentions into my personal (photo)blog and my vox blog and photos into my flickr account when they come up, usually a finished project or a fun night at knitting group with someone else's interesting project/disaster showcased.

How did you become engaged with this community?

I'm a knitting rediscoverer: it's something I did some years ago in a small way and now have gotten back into it spurred by the availability of new yarns, patterns, and the general company of other women working on this form of needlework. So to that extent, I am a learner and in that role, I'm using the internet--the knitting blogs--to expand my mentor base and my inspiration in ways that in the past would have relied upon personal contact and hence a much more limited circle of contacts.

Interestingly, the knitting community online enriches the knitting community in my tiny village as well. We're a handful of knitters of various skill levels, and we as eagerly discuss what we've seen online and what our acquaintances there are knitting as what those of us in the room are doing. In that regard, our circle of knitters has turned out to be larger and more varied than just those who live here, and that just adds to the vibrancy of the group.

How has it enhanced your life (or not)?

All these knitting contacts! I live in a small community and the resources here don't begin to compare with the total pool online. I search out posts troubleshooting patterns I'm working on, and often those patterns are ones I discovered online in the first place. I've purchased at least four knitting books in the past year based on enthusiastic reviews and good-looking results reported by bloggers...or that were written by bloggers I was already reading. I just a few moments ago purchased some yarn on sale based on a mention on a blog I follow (not just because it was mentioned--do I have to spell that out?--but the pointer to that brand and price and vendor I wouldn't otherwise have know about, yeah). I work at the library and, based on discussions I've read online, suggested several titles for acquisition that have been big hits with our patrons.

Why is it such an unusually large and ardent group?

I'm not sure it entirely is--unusual, that is. I see a similar community building around some other needlework forms, for example, even if they are not quite as huge (or as old, yet), and when I look at some of the big tech or political blogs or even some of the mommyblogs and their hoards of commenters, I think knitters aren't at all that large or ardent by comparison. What's more of the surprise, I think, is that a single craft, rather than a larger issue like politics or parenting, is such a popular focus. Certainly one element has to be that there are some genuinely skilled practitioners willing to share their knowledge in considerable detail: many of the knitting a-list aren't just personable writers but have technical capabilities we can draw upon. This means that they are attracting not only those following the social phenomenon of like-minded company, but those who, like me, are looking to enhance our own skills. That's a dynamite combination.

Why do we leave so many comments?

I don't, often--I'm rarely there socially although I do read some blogs just for the sake of the writing and the writer. I do sometimes comment when I feel I can add something to a discussion, just with a sense of gratitude for what I've learned and passing along what others might find useful. When one accepts mentoring, even impersonally, I feel that one owes a certain amount of mentoring back to the community. I really appreciate group knowledge and see some participatory responsibility there. My sense is that this doesn't necessarily apply to a lot of the "this is so great I love it!!!1" commenters. Maybe that's my age; maybe it's that I've written and seen my name and own work online enough that I'm over the thrill of "oh look that's me on that webpage!"

Why do many of these group projects gain so much initiative and popularity?

Knitters are producers. We do it, many of us, because we like to make things. And we have this little textile fetish problem: a lot of us like the materials and process as much as the finished product. This means that we may have a lot more enthusiasm to knit than we really have outlet for our finished projects. And a lot of us aren't such advanced knitters that we produce that many earthshakingly grand projects. So the chance to knit something simple (which is what many charitable projects call for) gives us an opportunity to be fondling a neat textile (and a good home for it, an important justification for having purchased it even if this happens long after the fact), an opportunity to enjoy the process of knitting something within our technical competance, and the satisfaction of contributing something within our means to a charitable end. The finished product is even relatively light and unbreakable to ship. What's not to love?

At 10:09 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a non-blogging reader of knitting blogs.

I became engaged with this community through my SnB Group that I founded & lead. One of my members is a blogger; one time I checked out her links to other blogs, and the rest is history.

Reading other people's blogs have enhanced my life. I like learning new techniques, buying stuff, reading other opinions on either the issues of the day or knitting.

I only leave comments if I am so moved by the topic.

The internet has enabled all knitters to come together in a way we could not do so in person.

PS - I came here thru Rabbitch; see, it works!

anne marie in philly

At 3:12 p.m., Blogger Jennie said...

I am a
blogging and knitting
reader of knitting blogs. Why do they suck me in? For one reason, they represent so much more than a yarn store or magazine can. I didn't even consider knitting
until I saw that someone had knit it in one solid color. Then I thought, "Whoah! That would look great on me!" Before, with the horizontal lines? I think NOT.

As for the knitalongs and swap projects? Well, I participated in the Knitting Olympics and loved the cameraderie and the momentum, and was really immensely pleased with myself that I managed to finish a pair of socks in 16 days. I haven't participated in a knitalong per se yet and may never, but I like to peruse them. And I worry that I'd flop in a swap, but I really enjoy the initial questionnaires--they make me think about what I really like about yarn and knitting and the finished products.

Another referral from Rabbitch here!

At 6:44 p.m., Blogger Kathy said...

Rabbitch sent me, too.

Knitblogging has enhanced my life in such a big way. Knitblogging led me to my knit group and a few women in my knit group have become close friends.

Knitblogging has also led me to start projects such as the Log Cabin blanket. I also love seeing knitters all over the world knitting similar things. It makes the world seem just a bit smaller.

I don't comment often, only when something really hits me.

At 9:24 p.m., Blogger Amy Lane said...

lessee...I started when a knitting friend recommended the Yarn Harlot...I've adored her ever since.

I write fiction normally...the knit blogging community has encouraged me to branch out to non-fiction...

I comment on everything...posting comments on a blog is almost a compulsion...in fact, the only thing that keeps me silent during staff meetings at work is my knitting...since I can't knit when I'm on the computer, you can bet I get my 2 cents in...

I don't know how long I'll be active here...I've got 4 kids, novels to write, and a job starting up again after 6 months of maternity leave...but right now it gives me someone to talk to when I feel like my only conversation is with my middle schoolers... it also makes me feel like sticks and string are totally legitimate pastimes...it's a good feeling, most of the MEN in my department at work are pretty condescending about my hobbies...it's great to have a community that loves what I do.

At 3:47 a.m., Anonymous Leanne said...

I am a non-blogging reader of knit blogs. I subscribe to around 50 blogs via bloglines - I know there are so many more I haven't yet discovered (like who is this Rabbitch person who led you all here... must check her blog out!) but as it is I have trouble keeping up with the ones I read.

I have learned a tremendous amount from reading knit blogs. I learned to knit quite young from my mother, and over the years I have knit on and off. I'm part of a small knitting group at work, but I'm the most experienced knitter in the group (I've taught most of them to knit) so I don't learn much there. Now, for the past several months, I'm obsessed like I've never been obsessed before (and I blame it all on you bloggers!) I used to be a "decide I want to knit something, pick a pattern, buy yarn to make the item, make item, rinse and repeat" type, but not any more. I'm starting to build up a stash. I have 3-4 WIPs at any given time. I now know and use terms like WIPs and FOs. I've gotten into sock-knitting on the daily commute to work (which I full blame on Wendy). I've bought yarn sight-unseen via the Internet because it has come highly recommended by bloggers I like. I've purchased books by bloggers (Yarn Harlot, Wendy Knits, Mason-Dixon Knitting). I've purchased from people's stashes. I've not participated in any swaps, but they look like such fun and I'm sure I will before too long (though I think I'll need to start my own blog first - yes, I'm sure I will be doing that soon!). I am now participating in my first KAL (Mystery Stole 2) and loving it.

Until a few months ago I didn't even know this wonderful community of knit bloggers existed. I don't yet feel a part of it, as I rarely comment and I'm not yet blogging myself, but I'm starting to feel like I know so many of you, and I'm slowly dipping my toes in. And loving it!

At 7:11 a.m., Anonymous missmoonbeam said...

I live in a relatively small town with few hip knitters and no LYS, mostly red heart and lion brand. The blog community has opened my eyes to patterns, trends, and techniques I never would have known about. I also have new avenues for knitting help. I felt pretty lost before. It's helped me a lot in my knitting confidence.

At 8:44 a.m., Blogger brewerburns said...

I'm a knit blogger and an avid reader of knitting blogs. I became engaged with this community first, by reading knitting blogs. I discovered Claudia of Claudia's blog, who fascinated me because she is also a knitting lawyer, and then the Yarn Harlot and I was absolutely hooked! Once I started reading all the knitting blogs, while at the same time, knitting up a storm, I decided to get a blog of my own. And I love it. The knit blogging community has enhanced my life in that it has inspired me, first and foremost. I don't know if I ever would have knitted a lace shawl, for instance, if I hadn't seen all the beautiful shawls created by different bloggers. I have learned many things from reading knitting blogs as well. New techniques, ways to care for handknits, and ways to fix mistakes that I make. Even more importantly, I have learned that everybody makes mistakes and does completely fuzzy-headed things while knitting. Now, when I make a mistake I don't worry about it as much as I would have otherwise. I don't give up in frustration. I fix it (or not) and then stop worrying about it.

I don't know why there are so many knit bloggers out there. My theory is that it is (mostly) a very supportive group though. A group that encourages its members and is willing to help out members in need. Additionally, it is a loose knit group of women that spans the globe, quite literally.

I leave comments on other people's blogs because it is what I hope people would do on my blog. It's the golden rule in action. I have to admit that I don't comment as much on the really popular blogs because they get so many comments, but I do leave comments on less popular blogs because I know that it encourages me when people are nice enough to leave me a comment.

I think that projects gain momentum and popularity in the knit blogging world because there's nothing more inspiring then seeing a beautiful finished project on someone else's blog, after having watched the blogger put the project together, piece by piece for a period of time. You learn about the difficulties and mistakes in a pattern, and the really clever and smart things about a pattern in advance. It's pretty cool.

Oh, and Rabbitch sent me over too. Glad to have found you.

At 1:48 p.m., Anonymous Jan said...

I'd have to agree with a lot of what salt said earlier. I am not a blogger, but only a non-blogging reader of knitting blogs. And a few other blogs, occasionally. I actually started reading a blog of someone who was in Desert Storm. When I saw an article about Wendy Knits, that started me on knit blogs!

I don't leave many comments, because I don't have the time to actually correspond, which it seems some bloggers want. I do like to enter the contests, however, if I can -- it's fun to try to win something!

I've knit very few things that weren't for charity (mostly) or gifts (not so much). My guild is chartered around charity knitting, although it isn't mandatory.

And now at least two of our members are bloggers who I read most days.

One blog leads to another, leads to the Knitting Olympics (didn't medal, but did finish something faster than I ever could have otherwise), and Rabbitch sent me here, too!

Thanks for this great topic! I'll add you to my list!

At 5:30 p.m., Blogger Debra said...

I'll see ya at BlogHer!! Hey, waitaminute.. why aren't you on the blogroll?? (I would be your happy, happy CE..)

At 5:33 p.m., Blogger Debra said...

OH yeah... and my theory why there are so many knitting (and other crafty) blogs??

Simple: It's Show and Tell for everyone.

At 1:09 a.m., Anonymous Rachael said...

Knitblogs led me to YOU, long ago. Nuff said. Yay.

ACK! ACK! ACK! OHMYGOD I just realized that blogher is finishing on June 29th, right? Lala's band is playing that night in Bolinas, which is north of SF, about an hour. Worth the drive up the coast. Can you come? Oh, to hang and drink with you.... We can find you a place to sleep, too....

At 7:44 a.m., Anonymous jpt said...

I knit ferociously but do not blog. Yet.

What do I get out of reading knitblogs? Connection with people who are fearless in their passion for yarn, their drive to learn new stuff, their fascination with knitting and its history, their joy in writing. Connection with people my own age (I am older than everyone else in my knitting group by about 10 years, which puts me at a very different stage of life). Tips on restaurants, yarn store, and knitting groups for when I travel. Once I purchased a blogger's excess sock yarn. It's helpful to see finshed garments on women who are closer to my body type than magazine models.

How do I participate in the blogosphere? I write comments and private emails to share my response to blogs. I have knit for charities in cold places. (Here in the Deep South, I don't get to use heavy wools as much as I'd like.) I share URLs with local knitters. I may own a Yarn Harlot book or two. I have adopted the custom of "souvenir yarn" and taught it to my partner. When I knit patterns from blogs, I try always to send a thank-you note to the designer. Soon I will have my first face-to-face meeting with bloggers.

At 9:47 a.m., Anonymous Rachel H said...

I came over coz Rabbitch told me to, but then went away for a couple of days so she wouldn't think I was doing what she told me.

I'm a non-blogging reader and commenter-at-large on knit blogs. I didn't know the community existed until I was given the Yarn Harlot's first book for Mother's Day last year, and in the months since then have developed some of the most important relationships of my life with knitbloggers who have become friends. I still remember being surprised and thrilled the first time a blogger responded to a comment I'd left.

Being part of this community has not only inspired me to knit more, and try new things I wouldn't have thought of before, but it's also led to my discovering a very strong interest in woodworking and a whole new hobby, with a potential for future career. Amazing really.

At 11:33 a.m., Blogger ErLeCa said...

I think for me the experience of being involved in the knitblogging community is not only the learning and sharing of information, like great knit alongs, awesome patterns and fantastic charities, it's also getting to know so many great women (and men) who are as dedicated to the craft as you are. Not only do they share their stories of knits gone wrong or other knitting tales, but many of them share a piece of themselves. Their personal lives trickle into the posts and I really feel that that's what keeps many of us hooked.

The Yarn Harlot doesn't just write about knitting, she writes about her daughters, her house, her community and it all just keeps us coming back for more.

To feel you are a part of and invovled in so many other peoples lives really gives us a greater sense of being connected in a real spiritual way. We find that the differences are things to be celebrated and admired. You find yourself reading a post that seems to be a mirror image of something you've gone through in your own life and because of that you might just be able to help that person through it, whether it be a personal problem or a knitting-related one. I have yet to come across a more supportive community than that of the knitbloggers.

At 11:29 a.m., Blogger Leanne said...

I commented above that I am a non-blogging reader of knit blogs. I've now decided to take the plunge and start my own (I knew it was just a matter of time!) So, as of today, I'm now a (new) knit-blogger. Everything else I wrote in my previous comment still stands :-)

At 1:03 p.m., Anonymous Lee said...

I grew up in a small town, where I taught myself how to knit out of a book. Finding my first mail-order yarn catalog was such a wonderful thing-- no more acrylic! Even though I now live in a big city, I still don't know any other real, live knitters. I learned all my techniques the expensive way: trial and error. Discovering my first knitting blog was a revelation. The generosity of other knitters in describing techniques, materials, and even pitfalls to avoid have made me improve by leaps and bounds. I've even started knitting lace--lace!--and while I can handle the fingers in gloves with no problem I can't seem to make a sock that fits well. Too big (loose) or too small (tight), just right eludes me.
I don't have a blog, and I try to comment only when I have something to contribute to the discussion.

At 2:17 p.m., Blogger ladylinoleum said...

Oooooh, I'll send you an email on this.


At 8:12 a.m., Blogger Gingersnaps with Tea... said...

I don't consider myself a knit blogger. I tend to blog about what ever is on my mind… sometimes it's knitting. I started blogging because it's cheaper than therapy and takes the pressure off my friends ;-). Stuff comes out and there it is. Not a lot of people read my blog, and that's OK--it's more about the writing than the reading. I need to write. People don't have to read it… they don't have to comment on it… but it makes me feel better to have it out there.

As for the knitting thing, It's just nice to know that other people struggle with finishing projects, or make mistakes, it's inspiring to see the yarn and the projects and to read about the process. I see more challenging projects and I want to try them. I contributed lots of squares to "Warming Grace" at the time, I had a family member who was terminally ill with cancer (she has since passed away). I couldn't do anything for her but donating squares for blankets was something concrete that I could do and it made me feel less helpless. I've never joined a Knit-along or a knitting circle. Like you, for the most part I'm not a joiner.

What draws me to the knit blogging community is that it's a positive environment. Everyone treats each other with respect. It's about supporting one another not trying to up blog readership with outrageous posts, rants and flaming. I never intended to be a knit blogger, it's just the spot where I feel like I fit in. Hope that helps.

At 8:20 p.m., Blogger Steph said...

Mandy, I hope I'm not too late in answering your call for stories. The wilderness of New Brunswick doesn't have the best internet access.

Here's my knit blogging story:

Unlike so many others, I was drawn into the knit-blogging world by a small, but mighty chihuahua and her owner. They encouraged me to start a blog as a way to keep in touch.

It helped that Minou's mommy and I had both started knitting the same year and that I had discovered knit-blogs soon after they moved away. I was already hooked on reading knit blogs. I just had no idea that blogger was free! Seriously - very cool. It doesn't cut into the yarn budget.

Knit-blogging has greatly enhanced my life:

Because of my blog, another knitter from Halifax got in touch with me: www.slomoeknits.blogspot.com
Moe and I corresponded for a while and then agreed to start our own Stitch and Bitch-type group just over a year ago. We emailed some other knit-bloggers in town, hoped that they would attend the first meeting and then bravely walked out of our hermit holes and headed for a coffee shop in Halifax.

For the first few months it was Moe, myself and Morgan (of www.pomoboho.blogspot.com). We decided to start a blog for our group. It was then that knitters started turning up in droves. Not just knitters: knit-bloggers.

The group got big enough that we had to start rearranging furniture at the coffee shop. We soon realized that we were the loudest group at the cafe and decided to call ourselves, "Knitting Out Loud".

Around the same time as KOL started growing, some friends of mine across the harbour in Dartmouth (where I live) decided to start a group. They spread the word through the yarn shop and word of mouth.

While I have attended their group off and on over the last year, I have to admit, I feel much more at home and have many more laughs with the group in Halifax.

Here's what I think is the difference:
The Halifax group is made up of knit-bloggers. We all read and comment on each other's blogs. Then we get to KOL and we laugh and carry on about things we wrote, who said what to whom and who can fit their fist in their mouth (That would be Moe). We all know what the other person is working on and what is going on in each others' lives. We know so much about each other that we don't have to worry about the starting point. We are well past the starting point and already into the thick of it.

The Dartmouth group is quiet. They are not knit-bloggers. They don't have that established level of comfort with each other. While they are extremely nice to each other, even going so far as to knit things for imminent arrivals, I think (and I hope I'm not insulting the Dartmouth group by saying this), a member of the KOL group is more likely to throw herself into an oncoming yarn sale for the sake of the others, if you know what I mean.

Here's another thing about knit blogging:
Moving to Halifax after growing up in a very small town was a big adjustment. I didn't have to "make friends" in my hometown. I just knew everyone. In Halifax, it was a whole different ballgame.

The people I had gone to University with had mostly moved away. There were my husband's friends, but they were mostly musicians he works with. I occasionally did stuff with people I worked with, but when I left my job to take the position I have now, well, we didn't keep in touch.

In the past (almost) two years since I have started my knit-blog, I have met more people and made more friends, than I did in the previous 6 years of living in Halifax. The best part is, I think these are the kind of friends that I would like to keep!

(And I think your blog is pretty darned cool, even if you don't update regularly.)

At 10:54 p.m., Blogger Elspeth said...

I'll look for you -- I hope we've got lots of knit bloggers at the conference!

I am a knitblogger who reads other knit blogs for pictures of their finished works because it's so fun to see what they've done with the same yarn and/or pattern.

I have only noticed the "lots of comments" on certain people's blogs, and think there are tons out there who are begging for comments (mine too!)

The group projects are really interesting to me. Pretty much everyone says "I'm a joiner" like it may be a bad thing, but they join after all. I think we all like to see how things go and get spurred on when other people are working on the same project. I assume that other blog types that involve people doing the same thing would be similar but maybe not.

Have a great presentation!

At 1:02 p.m., Blogger roxtarchic said...

Even more, please tell me about being a knit-blogger or non-blogging reader of knitting blogs.
It started w/a yarn swap that began on www.knittinghelp.com (the BEAT ALL knitting community site) & my swap pal had a great little site & so did some of the people that commented on her site and before i knew it.... http://roxtarchic.blogspot.com it's cathartic, it's fun (i smile when i read a lot of the comments) it's enlightening (you learn how other people deal w/knitting blunders, or LIFE blunders, or challenges)... and its forgiving...
How did you become engaged with this community?

Self-taught, sister inspired knitter... I needed help and looked past the book that started me (it was from barnes & noble it was on sale for $2 and it's been passed to the next knitter) and i found www.knittinghelp.com where there was an INCREDIBLE group/community of knitters... asking & answering & encouraging & nuturing... and that was it....

How has it enhanced your life (or not)?
there's a strong self-satisfaction feeling from completing a project, but it's even STRONGER when someone knows the work, the time, the thought, the process... of what went INTO that finished object... someone who KNITS knows.... and their acknowledgment enhances that self satisfaction till youre just GLOWING w/pride.... it feels GOOD

Why is it such an unusually large and ardent group?

i dont know that it's unusually large or ardent... i just think knitters are nice.... i like giving away what i knit... i like teaching my friends how to knit... i like concentrating on something other than the little bitty million things that irk you in a day.... i think i'm a typical knitter, i love it, it feels good & i want EVERYONE to feel that way.... i think it's like married couples trying to pair up their single friends.... its that c'mon be happy too thing.... they say misery loves company but everyone loves it... happy alone isnt AS happy as happy w/company

Why do we leave so many comments?
encouragement & acknowledgement... i think we feel such satisfaction when we receive comments & encouragement on our attempts & accomplishments that we feel compelled to return the favor (at least i think that's what drives me... besides the fact that i've got an opinion on EVERYTHING) heheh

Why do many of these group projects gain so much initiative and popularity?
i think its addictive... like knitting is.... like myspace is (http://www.myspace.com/spaghettiart <---wanna be my friend?) like blogs in general.... you feel good b!tching a bit about things.... putting it out there... letting it go!


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