I never thought the fiber crafts had a place for discrimination. My opinion on that changed recently, due to what I’ll call “The Rumpelstiltskin Incident”.
SP (for new readers, SP is short for Sweet Petunia, my not-so-patient but very handsome and wonderful husband) had gone on a short road trip to Vermont with two of his friends, and I had requested that he visit a local yarn shop in the small town they were going to, and bring me back some Vermont wool yarn. I’ve been working on some wool pieces for my Etsy shop and I thought it would be great to get some wool that was sourced more locally than New Zealand via A.C. Moore, if only for the planet’s sake.
I was pretty clear with my request: “undyed Vermont wool, DK if they have it, worsted if they don’t”. He visited the local yarn shop in the small Vermont town, and in my opinion, was completely taken advantage of by the woman there. It was similar to how male auto mechanics have occasionally treated me, as in when I didn’t have a man with me – using my lack of knowledge about cars to overcharge me or sell me repairs that weren’t needed.
She told him her yarn shop had no wool for sale, but that she could sell him this ridiculously expensive local alpaca to bring home to me. ( Like, really expensive, much more than our local alpaca costs. If Rumpelstiltskin himself had spun this yarn, I’d have expected to pay less.) I do like alpaca, and have used alpaca, and was actually browsing the alpaca blends at my local unnamed big box craft store as this incident transpired. There are a number of alpaca farms near where I live, and I think alpaca farming is a great example of where industry needs to go. No problem with alpaca. My problem is that I find it hard to believe in a yarn store with no wool. My problem was the fact that an obvious non-knitter walked into a yarn store looking for wool and walked out with not-wool, which also happened to be what I’ll bet was the most expensive yarn in the store. My problem is that I believe this yarn was pushed on him because as a man, he was taken for a non-knitter, and therefore an easy target.
I remember Franklin Habit telling in an interview about walking into a yarn store while he was at Harvard, and being treated badly by the woman there because he was a man. I honestly thought that was an unusual occurrence when I first heard it, but now I’m not so sure. And if men walking into yarn shops get treated like I, as a woman, sometimes get treated by auto mechanics, well…that’s a problem. It shouldn’t happen to anyone.
But there it was. All mine. Two precious skeins of undyed, handspun, DK weight alpaca- truly gorgeous yarn, I must admit- soft, bouncy, even a little bit shiny. Although I would never have bought it at that price, I do admire it very much. I hide it away from kids and cats in a lovely crochet basket my daughter made for me. Sometimes, I take it out and pet it. Knowing what it cost, I am afraid to make even a teeny swatch. It seems like something worthy of a knitter much more skilled than me. Especially since part of the cost was a little bit of disillusionment.