I was having trouble earlier in the week thinking of a subject for this week’s essay, and I thought how nice it would be to just get paid to write stuff and do the podcast without all the other things that needed doing. Not that I mind doing them, and I really do enjoy teaching, and so far this year all my classes seem pretty good (although it is only week two). That got me thinking about how I have, in the past, turned hobbies into jobs. Computer programming was a hobby that turned into an ongoing set of jobs, scuba diving turned into managing a dive shop for a few years, amateur astronomy turned into a degree in astrophysics. Teaching, which I always return to because it’s what I really love doing (even on Friday afternoons, mostly), was never a hobby.
This got me thinking about knitting, and how it would be nice to turn that hobby into work. I’m not going to, I’m enjoying my current combination of teaching and hobby knitting too much, but it doesn’t stop me being a little envious of those people I see who are able to combine their skills in the various aspects of knitting with their jobs. Now when I think of the people I have met on the professional side of knitting, and the related fibre arts, they fall into two categories: knitters (or other fibre people) who have jobs, and salespeople who sell wool. I’m sure we’ve all met both types of people. You can tell the difference with a simple question: “Do you have any … “insert your favourite yarn. A salesperson will point you in the right direction, a good salesperson will also try to sell you some needles and accessories; a knitter will want to know what you’re thinking of knitting, suggest other patterns (usually for free from the internet), and keep you talking about knitting or whatever for as long as you’re willing.
In the Sydney central business district there are two large craft stores, neither is exclusively knitting, one is staffed by salespeople the other by knitters. I’ve been to both, the one staffed by salespeople has discounted yarns and I’ve been there once. The other, the one with the knitters, doesn’t often discount and tends to carry the better quality yarns, it’s where you go if you want angora or cashmere, or rosewood needles – that’s the shop I go back to. Not that I buy cashmere or angora, alpaca is as exotic as I’ve got so far.
So, why do I go back to the shop where I know I’m going to end up spending more money, because knitting is my hobby, I do it for relaxation and enjoyment. I, and I’m guessing most of you too, am less concerned with getting the best possible value, and more concerned with enjoying my hobby, and sharing what I’m doing with other knitters, even if they’re the salesperson, is part of that, and I’m more than happy to support a shop that has staff that are as interested in knitting as I am.
The other people I think all need to support is those knitters and fibre people who have taken the big step and pinned their future on their hobby; the independent makers and dyers of yarns, the pattern makers and the designers who have taken their skills and passion for knitting and fibre and decided to share it with us. I am constantly amazed by the huge array of incredibly beautiful yarns and fibres available from independent vendors and the amount of talent and work that must go into them. It also takes a degree of courage to decide to give up the security of a salary and rely on your skills and hope that others appreciate them. Knowing how much work goes into running a small business, I appreciate the efforts these people are putting in to make my hobby more colourful and enjoyable.
The internet has given us all the opportunity to find fibre artists who have decided to share their skills and sell fibre and yarns we would never find in a shop, and I think we all know just how much time it is possible to spend looking at the smaller yarn sites and wondering just how much yarn can fit in to the room we have available.
As knitters, most of us have some limit on the amount of money we have to spend on our hobby, but I always find it easier to part with it when I’m giving it to an independent maker, or a salesperson who shares my passion and enjoyment.