I was reading a post by the estimable Wendy Bernard this morning over at her blog at www.knitandtonic.net. She's more eloquent than I, but said something to the effect that it's no wonder that non-knitters don't get what we do, since they only see the works-in-progress.
This gave me a moment's pause, I have to say. Since awareness of knitting in the outside world is so rare that we hold Knit In Public days just so that people actually see people knitting and know that not all knitters are grandmothers (though all the more power to the ladies who are), it hadn't occurred to me that we might be being judged by our unfinished works. It's an appealing thought.
The pessimist that I am, I had always assumed that it was due to the glaring problem that so many of the handknits do not flatter the wearer. I still won't buy several (unnamed) knitting magazines because so many of the sweater patterns they offer are cropped boxes with tea-length sleeves. They make the model look short and fat, what are they going to do to someone who isn't 5'10" and 130 lbs? You can see the evidence at many a knit night, unfortunately.
Do I need to mention color choices? No? Good.
Shall I point out some knitting weirdness?
To be fair to the knitters, the problem is compounded by the fact that there are also a lot of designs and garment types that are extremely popular in the the knitting subculture but are not so popular with the broader community. I have seen not one single non-knitter wearing a cowl (at least not since I moved out of certain goth circles), but knitters are whipping them up like there's no tomorrow. And I don't know many twenty-five-year-old non-knitters who wear lace shawls. Or adults wearing mittens. Yet these are often beautiful garments impeccably made.
I know that this isn't helpful, but we might all just have to accept that we are part of a subculture and embrace it. Along with the gamers, the golfers, the trekkies, the car enthusiasts, the football fans, and the followers of haute couture, we have to recognize that we have different opinions of what is valuable/interesting/good than outsiders do. We have different costumes, we have different rituals, we have different vocabulary, we have different ideas about what is acceptable. Outsiders will always think we are weird because of this, often for no better reason than that they are outside our group. I sure think that Chicago Bears fans are weird for going out in 10 degree weather wearing little more than body paint, but that's because I don't understand why they do it. And why don't I understand? Because I'm not a crazy football fan. All the other crazy football fans understand. So when my sister dons her blue wig and face paint to head off to a Seahawks game, I'm sure she's got the same sort of thinking going on.
I think Wendy may be a little outside this particular problem. Have you seen her new book? I got it for Christmas and I love it to death. She makes some of the cutest, most wearable designs. No fair.