Knitting, it’s not just for Julia…

So the current media circus swirling around Julia Gillard is to do with an article for the Women’s Weekly showing her knitting. Now it’s not exactly a secret that she knits, this has been known for some time. Yet suddenly she’s being attacked all over the place for it. Mainly old white men are calling her ridiculous for showing off a hobby popularised by 50’s housewives. Like this trite example:

She is giving encouragement to young female politicians by plying a hobby now synonymous with mad old aunts – Andrew Bolt

Like he’s such an expert!?

So, is knitting such an olde worlde hobby that it will lead Julia further from the voters?

The more than three million users of Ravelry, a knitting website, are sure to disagree.

Also, I personally disagree. I like the idea of Julia knitting in her spare time. It’s something I totally relate to. I’m a rather busy person and it’s great to have a hobby that you can do while you do other things. I can knit while I read, watch tv or have a conversation with friends. I also get to know people through knitting, I can totally imagine having a chat with Julia about her favourite type of yarn and trying to persuade her to use circular needles.

Tony Abbott grinning inanely from his bike however leaves me cold.

So why is knitting so excellent? My friend @bekswhoknits has already written a great post about this topic and I thought I’d add my 2 cents.

Knitting allows you to make pretty things. Since I started knitting in late 2007, I have made the following items (and many many more):

Celestarium

I love it for the beautiful colours. A good skein of yarn is a wonderful thing, it feels delightful in your hands and has colours to die for. Having a house full of yarn means having a house full of warmth and colour. Better yet, you can make it yourself. Chris Pyne may make cracks about spinning a yarn (yeah, never heard that one before), but it’s an amazing thing to be able to do. How many people do you know who can take a sheep and use it to clothe their family?

One thing you may notice about most of the knitted things above is that I like to knit lace. It’s a bit weird since I don’t often wear lace, but following a lace knitting pattern seems to itch my brain in a really satisfying way. I do make practical things like jumpers, hats and fingerless gloves but I always come back to lace.

I also like having a productive hobby. I’m not good at doing nothing or even doing one thing at a time and even when I’m relaxing I am driven to create. Knitting means that I can relax and have something to show for it. If I’m really tired, I just pick up an easier project. Knitting is portable as well, I can do it on the train and on planes. I would knit in meetings at work if I could get away with it.

But how many others share this hobby? Well you might be surprised. In my city I know of about six knitting groups that happen at least once a fortnight. I also do some social knitting at work during Wednesday lunchtimes. Some people at my work who knit don’t come along to this, but do show me their projects or ask for opinions about patterns.

There are a lot of us and we’re a diverse range of ages. A knitting retreat that I helped organise recently had people aged from their mid 20s to nearly 80. The mean age would have been mid to late 30s.

My point is that knitting is awesome, funky and it’s not going away in a hurry. The usual mansplainers should check their facts before they run off at the mouth. I don’t love everything Julia does, but I thoroughly approve of the knitting.

My first Geocache

My newest hobby is an odd thing called geocaching. It involves going out with your smartphone (or other GPS device) to find containers cunningly hidden by other people. What’s the point? Well, I find it a fair bit more interesting than just going for a random walk. Some of the caches are quite challenging to find and there’s a sense of satisfaction when you locate one. Each cache has at minimum a log for you to sign. You also log your find online.

I got into this following a talk at the ALIA Information Online conference by Andrew Spencer who blogs as Geocaching Librarian. He put a really nifty mystery cache inside his library, people have to solve clues in order to locate it.

This inspired me so I decided to give it a go. When I went to the Geocaching website, I expected to see a few caches around Perth. To my great surprise, Perth was liberally coated in them. The nearest one to my house was less than 300m!! At this point, Craig and I signed up for accounts on the website, downloaded the free apps and went to find some. It was bizarre to both of us that there was this secret world that we’d walked past for so long without knowing about it.

A creative cache container

A creative cache container

Soon we were learning about the different types of caches and finding trackables (special travelling items that get moved by people from cache to cache) and moving them along. I have even assembled a geocaching bag that includes useful items such as a telescoping magnetic probe, an angled mirror and tweezers. This may sound crazy, but some caches are VERY small and can be challenging to retrieve. My bag also includes little toys and knick-knacks that I can add to caches to replace swappables I take out.

A camouflaged nano cache

A camouflaged nano cache

At some point I heard about night geocaching and dismissed it as crazy talk. It didn’t sound very appealing in the summertime, but then I met another cacher who raved to me about a cache that was set up especially for night cachers including reflectors that shine in the light of a torch. I checked the site and found two in the hills not far from our place so we decided to give them a try. Craig’s very bright cycling headlamp came in extremely handy.

The first time I saw the reflectors shining off into the distance in the dark was so magical. It was like something out of a Miyazaki movie, I just bounded along in my eagerness to follow them. This particular night cache even had solar lights set up at the cache location, the people who created it went to a great deal of trouble. The second night cache we found that night was harder. Since the cache had been set, someone had put up a large wire fence. We were undeterred and crawled under the fence. At one point I got a face full of spider web and Craig narrowly missed walking into a spider also. We were so pleased with cracking these two night caches, we decided to have a go at a few regular caches on our way home. Much to our surprise, they were easier to find in some respects than they would be in daylight. Ever since then, we have been out night caching on a number of occasions.

John with a nano cache

John with a nano cache

Today we went out and placed some caches for others to find. I’ve been planning to hide some in my local area for a while now and I’d even prepared some small containers by spray painting them in drab colours and assembling contents for them. We ended up placing two and when I got home, I created the pages for them on the geocaching site. My first cache was published very promptly and an incredible 30 mins later it had been found by some extremely keen cachers! I’m looking forward to my second cache being published and seeing who gets to it first.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue to hunt more down. I’m nearly up to 150 finds (including one at Perth station and another up the top of the DNA tower in Kings Park!) It’s a great hobby, I totally recommend it. 😀