Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The Rise of the Woolly Surfers

I can remember vividly the day my husband and I went out and bought our very first PC. I recall being flabbergasted that my husband was prepared to spend so much money on and un-essential item and even more astounded at the size and weight of the thing. We squeezed it into the boot of the car along with a printer/scanner of epic proportions and a screen the size and weight of a baby elephant.
We got it home, un packed it, connected all the wires and there it sat – in our tiny office room – all lonely and neglected for a few months whilst my husband waded through the instruction manual, occasionally pressing the ‘on’ button and waiting 15 minutes for the desk top screen to come light up while it whirred and whizzed and got scarily hot worryingly quickly.
With two small children in need of shoes, food and nurture I thought my spouse had completely lost the plot investing so much of our hard earned money on this terrifying and pointless addition to our home. Why on earth did we need a computer? Couldn’t we just pick up the phone to people instead of emailing? Couldn’t we just write out any documents and letters on paper using a pen or perhaps our trusty type writer? Couldn’t I have spent some of that hard earned money on yet more yarn?

Our first PC came into our lives only a little over 10 years ago. I slowly (and I mean snail’s pace) learnt how to turn it on, read and write emails, compose simple documents and work the scanner. I even learnt to be mildly patient when it spent ages attempting to ‘dial up’ and get ‘on line’. That PC became part of our lives in a way that I could never have imagined. My children used it as if second nature when playing games on it, pressing drop down tabs, loading programmes and downloading like there was no tomorrow. Documents were occasionally lost and there were a few incidences of things not being saved, but on the whole the terrifying concept that I had that I might inadvertently cause computer melt down at the touch of a button was thankfully never realized.

And so, here I am a few wrinkles along the path of life later, sat at my PC writing this article. The screen is small and the modem relatively tiny. There is no whiz and whir while I wait for it to get on line and no endless wait for pages to refresh. I can cruise the worldwide web from the relative comfort of my office chair. I can find out about even the most obscure things. I can see what free download patterns are available to me and can even check out technique videos on YouTube. My PC is switched on daily and has become an essential part not only of my working life, but of our family life too – and thankfully I am not alone, I am just one of the millions of knitters and stitchers who daily peruse the internet, chat on forums and read blogs.

As Rowan launch the new and exciting on line club for Rowan International members I wonder why us knitters and stitchers seem to have such an infinity with the net. It seems that knitters are a discerning bunch with many of them being happy to trawl the net to find the perfect yarn and patterns. Knitters love to discuss equipment, yarns and techniques and thus chat forums have sprung up all over the internet. It appears that we are also happy to share our knowledge and thoughts through the more recent phenomenon that is ‘blogging’. The word ‘blog’ is a contraction of ‘web and log’ and is a type of web site where the ‘owner’ posts regular entries almost like an on line diary in the hope that others will find it informative/interesting/amusing and will thus check in to read it on a regular basis.

For a few individuals their knitting related blogs became the stepping stone to a change of career. Take, for example, Stephanie Pearl McPhee the author of ‘The Yarn Harlot’ and ‘Crazy Aunt Purl’ author Laurie Perry, both of whom started off by writing blogs under the guise of an alter ego. Pearl McPhee is the author of at least 6 books and now travels the world giving amusing presentations and workshops to other knitters. Laurie Perry started her blog as a form of ‘self help’ following her divorce, Laurie says: ’I started (my) website because I didn't have anyone to tell my stories to anymore. And I certainly didn't have anyone to tell about my knitting. I went online one day to look for scarf patterns and that's when I found there were real folks online with little websites all about knitting and I thought, "Oh! I could do that!’’ Within the past three years Laurie has completely turned her life around and is the author of two books, the first ‘Drunk, Divorced and covered in cat hair’ was quickly followed by ’12 months of Knitting, Cocktails and crazy dates on the path to enlightenment’.

Knitters blogs are common place and on the whole wonderful to look through. On most knitters’ blogs you are bound to find images of current projects in their various stages of completion, stories of yarn shop visits, pattern suggestions, free patterns and tips. You are also likely to find images of food and recipes along with summer time pictures of gardens, flowers, pets, animals and children and even those that profess to be the most extreme knitting blogs focus around the home and family life which leads me to think that us stitchers are a definite breed, we like all things homely, love our knitting and stitching, our gardens our families and have healthy (if not somewhat sweet toothed) appetites.

The abundance of knitters’ blogs proves that we have an enormous desire to share our knowledge. We are willing to pass on as much of what we know about our craft as possible in order to make sure that our beloved craft is not going to fade away and will be there for the enjoyment of others in the years to come. When I did a search for knitting related blogs the results came up with over 6 and a half million results, a search for ‘knitting yarn’ came up with a similar result and a third search for ‘yarn retailers’ gave me a list so long that I would probably have to spend the next week checking out every recommended site. Indeed, over the past decade Rowan have seen internet stockists popping up all over the world, with many of them stocking and shipping out the full range of yarns, magazines and accessories. Rowan were the first to offer knitters an online knitting forum just as they were the first to create an exclusive worldwide club and they have not only learnt to embrace all that the internet can offer, but are also at the forefront of web innovation. The move to publish the RI newsletter on line is the latest development and Rowan now offers knitters a wealth of online information and help. There are downloadable patterns, yarn information, stockist lists and workshop information (to name but a few) all displayed alongside all the lovely Rowan images at the click of a mouse. Whoever would have guessed it 10 years ago when even the thought of pressing the ‘start’ button caused me (and perhaps you) to launch into full blown panic attack!