Thursday, February 02, 2006

La Folie de Laine...

When I started out in the knitting business or this business of knitting, there was a small mail order yarn store in Quebec called La Folie de Laine. I once asked the owner what the name of her business was in English - not a great question since we should be a totally bilingual country - but we're not. Anyway she - sad to say I have forgotten her name - Shirley Scott will remember - said, it is difficult to translate exactly, but basically it means - "the madness of wool". What a perfect concept - maybe not a perfect translation - but WOW can I identify with "the madness of wool."

Yes, I think that we have, certainly at present, realized that raving image of insanity, in knitting. We have at our finger tips such a vast selection, such a dizzying array, such a frenzied offering of yarn - wool- that it could drive one mad. What yarn to buy? What colour to choose? What garment to knit? The fits rage on.

This is the sublime, surely. The Champs Elysees or Elysian Fields of knitting. Have we indeed reached the fashion Nirvana? It begs the question - yes Virginia - Heaven does have an opposite.

What? But wait, I haven't even had a chance to truly savour this elevated state, this "madness". Well unfortunately there is another type of craziness or madness in this business of knitting. There is the real world or the real world of business that would shake us from our lofty whirl.

There are companies that are offering all this yarn at unbelievably low prices, below - can I say it- wholesale. So what is so horrible about that, you ask? Nothing on the surface to those that need a quick fix for their passion.

This madness, though, like a mental illness, has a much deeper consequence; it permeates the fabric, no pun intended, of the industry. Like the deep discounters, large box stores, that offer goods at unbelievably low prices, they are poised to squeeze out the local - read small, specialized retailer. They force the mid-sized retailers to down-size, going with the tried and true - no experimenting here, no creativity, nothing ventured, for nothing will be gained. They push out the truly creative and substitute it with their own mundane standards. And finally when this knitting craze is over, "They(will) fold their tents, like Arabs, and silently steal away" - Longfellow.

The discounters know that the knitting business is cyclical and when it comes down off its current high, they will go back to their other sources of income and leave in their wake a crumpled industry strung out on the margins of mediocrity, wondering what happened to the "rush".

Support these companies at your peril, both designer and consumer. To have any true diversity, true depth in our lives, we must KEEP A BALANCE. Like the balance in nature, to preserve our bio-diversity, we need to conserve with effort, support with funds and nurture with time and attention. So too, to protect our fibre-diversity, we need to preserve the micro-retailer, support the bricks and motar stores -(remember they teach, creating the infrastructure we need to pursue our passion) and nurture a creative and diverse retail base that will give us the unique materials that we need to create beyond our wildest dreams!!

Would that we all could be the "Hermes" of knitting - which has nothing to do with speed, but everything to do with privilege - immune to the vagaries of everyday life. Most of us, however, will never reach this level of the sublime - we'll get stuck in the river Stix, with our needles and try to punt our way out.

To avoid this Hades - keep a balance. Keep the independent designers alive; keep your LYS alive; keep that unique ultra creative, maybe a little mad, on-line reseller alive or your legacy will be the nadir of the celestial co-ordinates. The knitting universe from Hell!

Enough said!


P.S. The pictures are from my Crazy Quilt patterns. Everyone knows that there is a fine line between creativity and madness - sometimes it is hard to know which side of the line one is on...well when it comes to knitting and yarn....hmmm what was it that they used to say about Edgar Allen Poe?

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