I tend to have three types of customer: those who can knit, those who can’t but want to knit, and those who love someone else who knits. There is also a fourth category of non-knitting passers by who have no interest in knitting but would like to buy the finished knitwear they can see in the shop, but as it’s not for sale, our conversations are usually brief and unmemorable.
Except for once.
It was before social distancing and the shop was full to bursting with knitters as it was the 2nd Wednesday in the month and we were having a Late Night Knitty Lock-in. One of the regulars was pointing an unfamiliar person in my direction, so I looked around to find her a seat. But she said she wasn’t here to stay.
‘I just want to know the price of that sweater that’s hanging up there..’
‘Ahh.. sorry.. misunderstaning, it’s not for sale. I only sell the wool and pattern for making it, not the garment itself.’
‘But I want to buy it, how much is it if you sell it to me finished like that?’
‘I’m not selling it finished. I don’t sell finished knitwear. It’s a knitting shop, not a finished knitwear shop’, I tried to say politely.
She finally left empty-handed and disappointed. I felt momentarily guilty but proceeded to forget all about her, or I would have done if it hadn’t been for a sudden erruption of indignation amongst the assembled knitters.
“Did you hear that? Can you believe it?!”
“I know, Outrageous. What a cheek!”
” ‘Can I buy that finished sweater?’ Who does she think she is?!!”
This usually jolly group of knitters, had been collectively offended. They felt somehow insulted and affronted by the hapless non-knitting sweater seeker who had just walked out. It wasn’t because she didn’t knit – it was to do with her having no interest whatsoever in the knitting of the sweater. Its origin and back story was of no consequence to her. She saw it and she wanted it. Finish.
And let’s be fair, that’s the basis upon which most clothes shopping functions.
But what I learned that evening is that there is a value-laden energy in the very act of delighting in the making of our sweaters. It may not extend to everything we wear, but through our knitting we acknowledge the skill, effort and time of doing the thing we love, and that in turn allows us to decide who deserves to wear it. Its our privilege as knitters, and very occasionally leaves us looking down from the top of our own quite high moral (and also woolly) mountain.