On Transparency and the Myth of the Perfect Lifestyle

Anyone who knows me will realise that I am a fan of the hat designer Woolly Wormhead. I love the way her mind works and the way her hats work. They are pieces of engineering delight. I admire the decisions she has made to make the best life possible for her family. Her choices would not suit  everyone, but they are hers and she had the courage to make them (and if I’m honest, her bold decisions were the  ones that made me think I could perhaps change my life to suit me better, although  brutal honesty compels me to add that I am doing it from a  more privileged position than others may be.)

Woolly writes incredibly honest blogposts about her life at times, and her last two posts are such.

On the issue of money (11-11-15)

Further thoughts on transparency (17-11-15)

I hinted on Twitter yesterday at my  discomfort in the entire “lifestyle” marketing that I see in the world today, but I had more to say than I could fit in two Tweets and I was reluctant to flood her timeline with my witterings. I then spent the rest of the day  pondering and this morning took the opportunity to post a comment to reply to the most recent post. I’ve reproduced it here, with some slight tweaks for context (ie being on my blog not hers) as I felt I wanted to say it.

On a general note I feel that “lifestyle” marketing promotes a sense of entitlement to many things – that pretty dress, NOW; that new car, NOW; that gorgeous bloke, NOW. It does nothing to promote the idea that we should plan, and save, for things we would like in the future. I also feel that if I was my 15 year old self living in 2015 as I was in 1985, I would despair. My working class background might bother me more than it did; my gawkiness and NatHealth specs definitely would; my desire to study sciences would not match up to any of the celeb obsessed ideals I see before me now and I would no doubt feel that I would be left on the shelf as those gorgeous blokes that are the only ones seen in the lifestyle marketing would never choose me. Superficial? Oh indeed, but it’s the experience of knowing life is not like that that helps me to see it for what it is. How on earth can teenagers today pick their way through it? Surely by peddling the myth of perfection, we are setting people up for discontent at best and deep unhappiness at worst?
So, that explains my disquiet at the pushing of a lifestyle; that feeling that if yours does not measure up you have somehow failed.
Woolly’s  photographs are some of the most appealing of any on the market, precisely because they are NOT pretty. They are however, strong. Interesting in composition, often using depth of field in a way I find very appealing, and showing real people that are different. No less photogenic, but not the identikit models seen in agency shoots (or even in Sirdar patterns). Her models make her hats appealing because they are full of sass. Maybe that’s as much a “lifestyle” marketing as the big boys, but I feel it’s more real. They look as if they would wear her hats, whereas other ad campaigns feature models that wear the clothes well, but don’t look as if they would wear them in real life.

Finally, regarding transparency; I am way more comfortable with people being open – I would much rather be told that something has been supplied for review, or that someone has bought something with their own money before reviewing it, because I will trust their opinion that little bit more.  I’ve only ever had one item given to me for review on the podcast (in fact one of Woolly’s books; the post can be found here). Because I have usually reviewed things I have bought myself I feel comfortable to gush about something I love. But I also try to make it clear that I have bought it with my own money so can have no pressure put on by the producer/publisher. In the case of Woolly’s review, it was provided, but I would have reviewed it had I purchased it, because it’s that good. I did however feel obliged to let my readers know I had not; I would have felt uncomfortable otherwise. Regarding other reviewers,  if I’m not sure that they’re not just sucking up because they’ve been paid or provided with free stuff, I feel uncomfortable. Regarding yarn support for pattern design, I know it isn’t as clear, but I’d appreciate more on it. A pattern using my yarn was recently published in a magazine; I know the designer, a member of the Knit group I sporadically attend, bought my yarn, but what do others think? Do they think I bribed her for the publicity? I would welcome much more transparency in this issue.
So… You can see how this wouldn’t fit in 140 characters…  and I haven’t even thought about and considered the aspect of living below the poverty line. If and when I have formulated something  coherent, I may well share it.  But it all came from these two posts and the ruminations from a day spent weaving, allowing plenty of head space…

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Exciting Times!

Over the last few weeks I’ve had fun with our Spinning Guild’s Celebration of British Sheep Challenge. We have decided as a Guild to try to spin as many different British breed fibres as possible, with a view to using the spun yarn to create an 8 inch square, using knitting, crochet or weaving. These squares will then be joined to make a series of blankets, themed along fibre types, e.g. longwools, hill breeds, etc. It’s provided everyone with a chance to spin outside of their comfort zone and try something new. In one week alone I washed samples from Rough Fell, Lleyn, Derbyshire Gritstone and Lincoln Longwool (they’re now waiting to be spun!) and then a couple of weekends ago, spun Oxford Down from a carded batt (from the magnificent Griffiths Mill) and Hebridean (which involved making rolags and spinning long draw – neither of which are skills I am comfortable with!) I have a stacking crate now full of washed samples ready to dip into when I get the time (I should be weaving, but that’s another story….). Of course this all ties in nicely with the Knit British Breed Swatchalong (more details at the Knit British site) but it also got me thinking about exploring and trying new things…

Which has lead to this:

Fibre Explorers' Club
Fibre Explorers’ Club

Yes, the Yarns From The Plain Fibre Explorers’ Club. This will be a quarterly club, with Round 1 covering the first quarter of 2016. Each month for the three months’ duration you will receive 150g of fibre, hand dyed by me in a not-to-be repeated colourway. Sometimes the fibre may be a familiar face, sometimes it may something a little less common. It may even be a special blend created specifically for the club. What I can promise is that each month’s parcel will contain 150g of fibre of which at least 75% is British (or British Overseas Territory) wool. It will probably be combed tops… but might not be! After all, we are exploring, right? The club will cost £50 per quarter, which includes postage, and each month’s parcel will be sent out by the 20th of the month. Sign ups for round one open this Friday. 6th November and close on December 31st unless the club sells out beforehand. It is a three month subscription and places are limted – so what are you waiting for?

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