Ugly Amnesty 7 – Smells Like Wool Spirit

Now, here’s an interesting one. Mooncalf Makes doesn’t know this about herself, but I probably would never have started blogging if I hadn’t been inspired by her.

Back in 2009, I’d been knitting for several years and was hungry for fresh inspiration. I searched for knitting blogs on t’Internet and Mooncalf Makes was one of the first I stumbled across.

It fuelled my faithful reading that Saffron was preparing for a New York wedding. The glamour! The romance! The fairytale! Yes, scratch at the surface of this feminist (and notorious hater of weddings) and you will find a young girl who still loves a Happy Ever After. The story culminated on the steps of New York City Hall and I couldn’t have been happier.

Fast forward a few months and my interest in knitting blogs had led me to sewing blogs. Which began a niggling curiosity. Should I? Could I? I advertised on Freecycle for a sewing machine, and became the proud owner of a Toshiba the very same day. The rest is history.

Little did I know back then, but Mooncalf Makes has an ugly history. Well, ‘ugly’ is a strong word and it’s one we don’t use lightly here at Didyoumakethat Towers. For once, I’m going to call this something else. Beginner’s Bad Luck? Novice’s Noodle? Let’s cut to the chase. Early on in the knitting career of MoonCalf Makes, she was what some people might call, erm, still finding her style. You wouldn’t know it to look at her blog now, but once upon a time Saffron made knitted items that used novelty wools, yet aspired to cool status. One of her early makes was the Rock Star Scarf:

Was that to go with the Rock Star Handbag:

And the Rock Star Legwarmers:

Let’s not waste any more time here. I feel a, frankly, incredulous interview coming on…

  1. You’re known in the blogosphere for being a superb and inspiring knitter. At which point in your career did you realise that acrylic, hairy wool was not the way forwards?

Well thank you kindly Ms DidYouMakethat!

I feel that a full appreciation of these … ahem … ‘artefacts’ requires a little historical context. The time, if you can picture it, was 2006.

Back then there was no Ravelry, no wealth of online knitting magazines, no pattern reviews, not very many blogs, few online yarn shops. To find out about a pattern or a yarn you had to google and hope something turned up. These were dark days.

But there were a few lights illuminating the darkness; the Stitch and Bitch handbook was gaining enough popularity turn up in my local Borders, Knitty had an online archive of free patterns and yarn companies were beginning to produce ‘new’ ‘trendy’ yarns. And believe it or not that horrendous fluffy acrylic yarn (I think we called it ‘eyelash’ then as though that were classier than ‘fun fur’) was quite the thing!

Knitting wasn’t as mainstream as it is now. It was fun and cool and we were knitting bikinis in bars and just, like, being totally subversive. There was a feeling that we were being revolutionary in our crafting; that it wasn’t just a hobby but something radical and political and shocking; that we were part of a new phase of feminism that was taking back some of the crafts and traditions of the women who came before us and making them our own. It wasn’t just all about the jumpers.

Quite how that looks in retrospect when seen through the early knits of a lone knitter is something else.

2.      I have to ask about your idea of what a ‘rock star’ is. Do you really think they care about wrapping up against the cold?

I didn’t call that thing the Rock Star Scarf. Knitty called it the Rockstar scarf!!! The pattern even came with a warning “strangers will pet you when you wear this scarf, but f**k ‘em; you’re a rock star.”

And  course rock stars need to wrap up! Here’s Marc Bolan wearing a very similar number in pink Toasty warm!

3.      Let’s talk about the leg warmers. Were they actually worn out in public and did they stay up?

Not much of this stuff ever made it out of the house. But in their defence they’re not acrylic. Back in the day we had a material called Mohair. Real mohair. Not fine kid mohair. No, this was good solid fluffy itchy stuff. It tickled and made you look like a Muppet. Or like you had the legs of a Muppet.

Again I blame Knitty. According to Knitty these are no mere ordinary commonplace legwarmers. They’re Postmodern Legwarmers. I assume they were named by someone with no understanding of what postmodernism is but it sounded, you know, cool and edgy. Now, obviously, it sounds (and looks) ludicrous.

4. Now, on to the handbag. Didn’t it give you a rash? I’d love to know what inspired the red ribbon accessory.

I never used the handbag. I have no idea what possessed me. Either the last 5 years have removed all traces of the lunacy that inspired it from my mind or I’m repressing some dark and terrible memory. Either way. I don’t know what could possess someone to spend time and money creating this object. The rockstar thing and the postmodernism genuinely did seem to make more sense at the time but there’s just no excuse for this. And then to think that it was somehow improved by the ribbon… the mind boggles!

But if I’m guessing… the ribbon covers a badly sewn fun fur seam where the handle joins the bag.

5.      A serious question here. Several of my readers are novice knitters. What advice would you give them?

I suspect your readers are more savvy than I was.  But it can be tricky when you’re learning to knit and your skills and budget are limited. You have to choose patterns based around what you can knit, rather than what you would most like to own in the whole world.

I suppose I’d suggest that new knitters might want to at least factor wearability into their project choices and think about whether they’d buy something if they saw it in a shop rather than as a pattern.

And also, don’t be too hard on yourself if you make something that never gets worn. Every knit teaches you something, gains you some experience and knowledge and takes you one step closer to knitting that dream pattern that first got you interested in learning to knit in the first place.

Thanks so much, Mooncalf Makes! I feel certain that if a contemporary rock star needed a handmade item, he or she would be knocking on your door. Some people claim that life on the road is all about groupies, hard drinking and excess, but it isn’t. It’s all about the knitting…

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5 Responses to Ugly Amnesty 7 – Smells Like Wool Spirit

  1. Ashley0107 says:

    I’ve made my fair share of fun fur scarves, or as they call them on Ravelry – muppet pelts. It’s partly a novice thing, but also partly it was the fact that the only place I could find that sold yarn of any kind was Wilko’s! Yes, Wilko’s!
    I didn’t knit for a long time, then I moved for uni. And wonder of wonder’s there’s a real life yarn shop in my little city! It’s small but warm and friendly :) It was that shop that made me want to knit again. And then I found sewing bogs and then knitting blogs and it’s all gone from there.
    Is it bad that I’m actually planning on knitting some leg warmers some time soon? And plan on wearing them over tights and my purple metallic Doctor Martins? Oh yes ;)
    Thanks for sharing Mooncalf Makes! :)
    Ashley x

  2. carin says:

    It is interesting to read about how knitting on the web has evolved basically during the last 5-6 years. I used to knit a lot when I was around 15-16 (and now we are talking mid-eighties so it was some time ago) – everyone did! We all did sweaters or cardigans, with a lot of different colours and patterns, and I so wish I would have kept at least a few of them…now I have started again with a few small knitting project, but it is definitively time to go for a bigger one – hopefully I have not forgotten how to do it. And it is definitively still as fun – maybe I could get one of my friends to join me in this!

  3. Siga says:

    It was soooo interesting to read all this. Especially since I’m relatively new to MooncalfMakes blog and it was fun to see her early knitting endeavours and hear about a wedding in New York. Thanks for such a lovely post & interview!

  4. Bells says:

    Excellent interview! I too started reading Ms Mooncalf around the time of her wedding. A big hook!

    Change the date to 2003 instead of 2006 and set it in Australia and this could have been me. I purchased a lot of mohair and eyelash and I remember sitting in a pub with a friend feeling awfully radical, armed as we were with copies of Stitch n Bitch. Can it have only been within the last decade? It feels like we’re talking about much further away in time but i suppose time moves quickly on the internet.

    A world without Ravelry and decent yarn? Dark times indeed! Well done Mooncalf!

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