One yarn, many strands

Who We Are
An updated look at the knitting community as reflected in eight years of Knitter's Review polls

Our love of yarn and needles cuts through many superficial layers of daily difference, connecting us on a surprisingly deep and trusting level. I've only seen two things ever threaten this connection: politics and religion. Oh, and acrylic.

The impassioned discourse prompted by the recent elections has been both enlightening and, alas, sometimes painful and divisive. With the polls closed and the elections over, I've decided that it's time for some knitterly reunification.

Whether you voted red or blue or green or purple or not at all, let's celebrate what we do share in common. I've studied the last eight years of Knitter's Review Polls—especially those from the last three years—to trace our common threads and identify our differences. This is an update to the poll analysis I did in 2005. Mind you there is no official margin of error for these polls: they are intended to entertain and provide insight only.

The Anatomy of a 2008 Knitter
First things first: We love knitting. We are utterly, completely, and shamelessly obsessed (40%) with knitting, or we're finally moving from that obsessed state to a healthy level of enjoyment (32%). We aren't so obsessed that we actually dream of knitting—but if we ever did, we certainly don't remember it (47.3%).

Chances are we learned to knit long, long ago when we were children and/or at least 20 years ago (68.4%), although some of us joined the knitting family in just the last year (3.1%). While we may have thought knitting was hard at first, and we may still occasionally be challenged, we now think knitting is actually quite easy (90.4%).

We find that our urge to knit grows stronger each fall (55.7%) as the leaves change and the days grow shorter. Ah, if only those days weren't so short—we wish we had more time to knit each day (60.9%). Perhaps for this same reason, many of us don't bother to document the projects we do knit (49.5%) because we'd rather use that time to knit.

When it comes to buying yarn, we often let our hearts dictate our choice. Despite the fact that our yarn budgets are hurting from the current economic crisis (59%), we still willingly will pick a yarn we know won't wear well (56%) if we really love it.

We tend to have quite a lot of yarn, but our yarn stashes have never been a source of domestic strife (49.1%). In those rare cases when they have been, we've been very successful at negotiating and finding workarounds (23%). Nothing comes between us and our yarn.

As for the kinds of yarns in our stashes, we're open to all gauges (39.8%) although we tend to migrate more toward the DK and sport-weight range (30.7%). And what kinds of fibers do we like in our yarns? Wool, cashmere, alpaca, mohair, and all the other fantastic animal fibers out there (81.8%). Our particular curiosity about wool even extends to the kinds of breeds that grew the fibers in our yarn (65.1%), and we're increasingly aware of yarns that have been produced and/or dyed locally (52.4%).

Despite the fact that our hearts rule our yarn choices, this isn't always the case with philanthropic yarn companies (those organizations that set aside a certain amount of their proceeds to benefit a community or worthy cause). It's a noble idea, but it doesn't dictate our buying decisions (28.4%)—in fact we may even be skeptical about how much of the money is actually going toward helping people (16%).

While the majority of us identify as "needle omnivores," using whatever needle the yarn tells us it wants to touch (40%), some of us are happiest when holding needles made out of wood or bamboo (31.5%)—but some of us are also are quite fond of our metal needles (22.7%).

In terms of the kinds of needles we use, we identify far more closely with our circular needles (57.2%) than with our DPNs (1.9%). Some of us are loyal to just one needle company (31.2%), but most of us will use needles from all different sources (68.4%). If we like them, we'll use them no matter where they came from.

When Yarn and Pattern Meet
When matching yarn to pattern, we like to choose our own yarns, thank you very much. Rarely do we use the yarn listed in a pattern (57.8%). As for the patterns themselves, we have a strong affinity for lace (48%) that surpasses even our love of colorwork (25%)—and we even prefer lace over socks (22.7%), although many of us readily accepted any opportunity to dodge that particular question (40.9%).

We're happiest with patterns that include a charted option, especially for more complicated things (68.6%). And we never get stuck on patterns because we're perfect (2.3%), wink wink. But when we do encounter problems, we usually step back and try to figure it out ourselves (39.4%) before going online or asking a friend (42.1%).

Interfacing Online
Speaking of the online world, we may not have a blog or personal Web site (50.5%) but we are quite comfortable going online. We even download our patterns from online sources pretty frequently (83.6%). But when it comes to the online knitting communities out there, we think there should be some limits to how far people can push things before a moderator steps in and pulls the bullies out of the pool (66.6%).

Keen on Clean?
We're actually rather lax when it comes to keeping our handknits clean—aided by the fact that they actually do require less cleaning than, say, your sheets or towels. With the exception of socks, we're comfortable wearing our handknits several times before we wash them (88.4%). When we do wash them, we reach en masse for our bottles of Eucalan (24.8%), Woolite (16.6%), Soak (14.9%)—although some of us are still too scared to wash our handknits for the first time (4.6%).

Out in the World
When we go out into the world, we proudly and comfortably will knit in public (58.7%), although some of us tend to be a little more cautious about knitting with people until we've identified them as knitting-friendly (21.7%).

And when we look across the park and spot someone else knitting too? Our ears perk up, our tails wag, we sniff the air to make sure it's safe, and we strain our leashes to go over to our new friend (71.8%). It wouldn't occur to us not to—just a teensy number of us (0.7%) thought to suggest that knitters, too, could be strange psychopaths. During these encounters we don't mind in the least if someone picks up our yarn and squeezes it (46.4%), but we'd much prefer the squeezing be done on our own terms (50%).

Social or Isolate?
Here's the trend that fascinated me most about the poll results: While we enjoy being part of a bigger knitting community, few of us identify purely as social knitters (0.3%). Many of us haven't even yet joined a knitalong (42.4%)—and when we did, we often found ourselves falling behind the pack (9.1%).

No, despite all the hype about meet-ups and knitalongs and knit-ins, knitting actually remains for most of us (67.5%) a deeply personal and solitary—and fulfilling—activity. We aren't sheep, no matter how much we may love wool.

Back to the Big Picture
What you've just read traces a common line through the majority responses to poll questions—but keep in mind that no single poll question has ever received a unanimous majority response. What I love most about each week's poll is the way it reveals our differences in a way that keeps everybody smiling. The self-appointed "knitting police" may try to corral us into collective conformity from time to time, but they'll never fully succeed. As for me? I say, knit and let knit.

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