my name is steven ambrose . . .

May 28, 2010

and i’m here to recruit you.

(ten points to whoever recognizes that reference)

so by now, many of you have seen the “poll” on stephanie’s blog.

i have to say i am blown away by the shear volume of replies.
i never thought my late night appeal for help would cause all this,
nor did i realize how testy some knitters can get.
but i suppose if you poke the wasp nest,
you’re gonna get stung some.

so just to add another dimension to things,
here’s the prologue to the story:

i am a worker bee at natural stitches,
and it’s got to be the best job in the world.

this means that for our summer of socks and lace,
i compete against the rest of the staff, as opposed to the customers,
we get to knit at work,
which gives us an unfair advantage over people who can’t.

i personally entered the “double threat” category
meaning i’ll have to knit both socks and lace.

so obviously, i was keeping my eye out for patterns to knit in addition to the february lady, shetland tea shawl, stora dimun, and plain sock i’ve already started. (we knit as many items as we can)

when i came upon the whisper cables pull over

totally scammed the photo from veronik's flickr. all rights are hers.


i immediately said to myself, “that’ll do!”
and took the pattern into work to select yarn etc.

when i showed my coworker the pattern,
she looked at me like i was an idiot and said,
“you can’t do that. it’s not lace.”
(identities are being concealed to prevent possible teary phone calls)

the problem lies merely in the fact that we have two different viewpoints on how to judge what constitutes lace. i took in the whole image and said, “that’s lace.” she looked at the pattern and determined the necessary techniques that currently define lace in the knitting world are absent from the pattern.

i think that’s kinda dumb and exclusionary.
but i suppose definitions are meant to be.

she comes from the old school, steeped in tradition and love for st. elizabeth zimmerman. i’m from the new generation of knitters who’ve learned the craft online or in the new lys’s instead of from their grandmothers or mothers. hell, i learned to knit on aluminum boye needles and fun fur in the wee hours of the morning at meijer from a crazy knitter lady.

you can’t get much further from tradition than that.

the debate then spread to the rest of the staff:
what counts?
what doesn’t?
what about scribble lace?
what about things with yo’s but no corresponding decreases?
(like the simple yet effective)
if one technically follows the ez rules,
wouldn’t one have to count yo k2tog button holes?
what about hairpin lace?
which brought us to crochet and . . .

don’t even get me started on the crochet contestants.
i’m just gonna take their word on it;
if they tell me their project is lace,
i’ll believe them.
(honor system hookers!)

basically,
even though i see the deliberate instruction in the pattern to knit on a larger needle in comparison to the yarn in order to create regular patterned openwork, openwork stretched and held in place by the regular patterning of the cables, as a way of creating lace . . .

no one else did.

what did i do when everyone was against me?
(please note the comical melodrama, not sincere despair)

i appealed to a higher power.
the highest power to which one as lowly as i could appeal:
the knitting celebrity.

in this case, stephanie pearl-mcphee.

i filled her in on the basics and she suggested we put it to a vote.
i said what the hell!
what have i to lose?

and now you’re all caught up, selecting your a, b, c, or d
casting your vote to let the world know what you think about lace.

if i’m honest,
and i tend to be,
i knew going in that i wasn’t going to “win” the argument.
my only hope was that a few voters would see things the way i did,
so i wouldn’t feel like some crazy face knitter.

so last night,
i decided to start reading through the comments
me and my little friend pouilly-fuissé:

(please note my great grandmother’s crocheted lace doily. irony?)

the harlot said i needed a beer for this,
i was out.

let’s look at some of my favorites from that initial peekaboo:

anna wrote:
A. He can’t be serious… Since when is cable knitting with fine gauge yarn and big needles lace?

i am serious and maybe since now?

gretchen wrote:
Put me in the A camp. When Steven finishes a real lace shawl, let’s see what he thinks of his theory then!! Sorry, buddy. A

i have actually. and i gave it away. it now lives in london. my theory still feels pretty good.

sally wrote:
Steven, I’m going with whatever answer gets me that skein of cashmere. (Otherwise I’d have to go with C leaning towards A) But I really, really want that yarn, so if you like I will write a Treatise on Lace Options if needed and send it to your Store Ruler. Yup, I’m on your side.

that’s an awesome answer, a true harlot at heart.
(and a good way to win some cashmere)

willowcaroline wrote:
Well, I see it differently. When I looked at the pic of the sweater, I saw “lace” between the cables.. no matter how it got there. So B or D, which seems to be the minority opinion. I am not saying this is Shetland lace.. but that openwork look sure looks lacey to me.

yay! i am not alone.

rodger wrote:
I vote B.
And not just because Steven is cute.

um . . . what’s your number rodger?

there were some not so nice ones,
throwing around things like
“be a man”
“get over yourself”
“put on your big boy pants”
“man up”

how did my manhood get caught up in this?
when did cabling become easier than lace?
when did people start taking knitting so seriously?

ultimately, i’m going to bed with a smile on my face.
because little ol’ me,
born in detroit, and raised in the sticks of michigan
caused an international debate.

the great lace debate of 2010.

and queer as my perspective might be
(no wise cracks megan)
i found out some people saw things my way,
and that the definition of lace is debatable.

besides,
whether or not this sweater is eligible for the contest,
i’m still gonna kick their butts.

19 Responses to “my name is steven ambrose . . .”

  1. monica Says:

    I still gotta say though, I’m strangely proud of you over this whole episode of craziness. If that means anything. :)

  2. KatFox Says:

    Voted at YarnHarlot and came to see your blog. Beautiful blanket! Don’t think I could knit something that big without wanting to blind myself with my needles. ;o) I have to admit that I voted against you, but nonetheless-now you HAVE to knit that sweater. Defiance, assertion of your own independence, the fact that it’s so beautiful–call it what you will, you have to knit that sweater!

  3. Megan Says:

    I’m glad you know that I read your blog, and have included me in it. No wisecracks out of me. But I will say that since you are my best friend (even though you live thousands of miles away), I will gladly throw all the ridiculous people who tell you to “man up” into the volcano. Just give me the go-ahead. Maybe I’ll also burn them in the face with my cigarette. :) HA! I’m actually meowing back at kittens right now. Not so intimidating. :)

  4. Anna Says:

    What about teary blog comments?

  5. lisabee Says:

    well, i don’t have an opinion (i know: a first!) on whether that particular sweater is lace or not, but you’re one of the best knitters i know in addition to being one of the best friends i have, so i say make whatever you love, enter whatever counts in the contest, and enjoy your life. <3

  6. Charissa Says:

    Still love ya, man. Still saying it doesn’t count as lace. I think that lace is in the special use of stitches, and this is just regular cabling with a bit of a guage change-up.

    Now I like your point about the cables being alot of work to, though. I have long thought there should be a cable-off in the shop. I like lace. I knit lace. But I LOVE cables! I DREAM cables. We need the Autumn cable-off or something to prepare for cold winter.

    All that said, if the powers that be let you go on this one, I have a very similar sweater to this that I’m going to hurry up and finish to get on the scoreboard, lol!

  7. Yvonne Says:

    As a debater, who won’t make a teary phone call or blog comment, I see the point of your argument, and I tip my hat to you for causing the Great Lace Debate. :)

  8. Melynda Says:

    I learned with the launch of my first pattern how testy knitters can be. As much as they are a helpful group, they are also very opinionated. Unfortunately, no one advised me to grab a drink and take it all in- I’ve learned slowly :)

  9. marji Says:

    I am NOT a fan of Elizabeth Zimmerman. There. I said it out loud. I expect the torches and pitchforks to show up soon.

    Anyway, I, being older than dirt, would describe that sweater as cabling with openwork in between. I once knit an afghan on REALLY large needles and it was quite open and airy, but it wasn’t lace. It was just open and airy.

    I don’t have a definition for lace. I just know it when I see it. And for me, at least, keeping in mind that my opinion is entirely irrelevant, that sweater isn’t lace.

    And cabling is a much bigger PITA than lace IMHO, which we have already established is irrelevant.

    However, I do hope you kick their butts. Just cuz. ^_^

  10. Aimee Says:

    My first impression at looking at the picture was, “What a cute lacy sweater.” I wouldn’t have even noticed there were no yarn overs unless I read the pattern. My second thought was, “How do I get that pattern?” My third thought was, “Way to get famous, Steven A!!!”

  11. vicki Says:

    the sweater looks lacy to me. whatever, though, you’ve made me laugh and given me a lovely lesson on perspective. thanks.

  12. Amber Says:

    Hi =) I just popping in from Yarn Harlot. I am going to say that the sweater isn’t lace by definition, it is more ‘lace weight’. But I think it should definitely count considering it is A) using lace yarn, and B)Cables definitely aren’t any easier (or harder) than most lace.

  13. Juliet in Grand Rapids Says:

    Thank you for the great lace debate! So tell us about the socks.

  14. Dena Says:

    I believe your quote was from Mr Harvey Milk, was it not?

    Lace or no, (I’m no specialist, so I have no idea if it is or is not Lace), it’s a gorgeous sweater!!

    Funny your name came up on Stephanie’s website, the day before, I was admiring your work on Ravelry. I bought the patterns to those afghans because of your lovely work :)

    Hope you post a pic of the finished sweater when you are done!

  15. Jenna Says:

    I’m with you! If only to be against all those haters:) Plus, for every “rule” in knitting there is a person out there breaking it and getting along just fine. Here’s to rogue lace knitting!

  16. Kimberly Says:

    Maybe you should look up the original definition of lace or…heck I dunno, just do what you like, you made me laugh :)

  17. Rose Says:

    Reference: Mr. Harvey Milk.

    My vote: Z! Keep on marching to the beat of your own drummer. Knit what you love, with whatever yarn you love, however you love to do it! Knitting should be fun and relaxing. Some people really need to loose up with their tension!

    There are enough of the “proper” pieces of knitting out there, and a serious dearth of hand knit orange hot pants! Rock on, Steven :)

  18. Gretchen Says:

    Steven, dearest, it’s Gretchen – did you see my follow up comment over at your annex blog (YH)? I realized later that it was you, and I did know you knit lace, and that I wanted that lace, and that blocking it with friends and a little party atmosphere was a fantabulous idea, and when I finish my own Girasole (which I had to knit since I didn’t win yours) I was going to do the same thing. I still think A, but are you gonna listen to me? Why would you? I think, actually, you should go ahead and knit/submit it and see if anyone notices!!!!

  19. turtle Says:

    oh wow! (i don’t remember voting for sure but it could just be my blonde roots poking through) And like any addict, cashmere? want it!

    I have to agree with you, while i am a big time traditional lace knitter when i first looked at the photo i saw a kind of lace design in the yarn between the cables. So…. would the definition lie in the size yarn and needles used? If they are not specific on this note i would say go for it. I mean, a ton of us are now knitting lace shawls using sock weight and size 4-6 needles… and it is still lace.


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