The Bulky Backlash:
Are We Finally Fed up with Instant Gratification?

We've seen more bulky colorful beginner-friendly yarns introduced to the market in the last two years than in any other "up" knitting period in history.

Our yarn lexicon has been pushed from bulky to superbulky to polar to gauges for which we still have no term beyond "wow, that's huge."

But indications are that one-stitch sweater days are finally slowing, at least for this round in the cycle. Increasing numbers of knitters tell me they are tiring of the dumbed-down projects they're being fed in books and magazines. Even yarn shop owners -- the intermediary bulk-pushers -- have expressed the same concerns.

And the wonderful new knitters who joined us in the past year or two -- helped by all the media attention we've received -- have finished their superbulky one-hour hats and scarves and are hankering for more.

We're on the cusp of a resurgence of challenging and sophisticated projects that will require a significant investment of time and effort to complete. But don't fear, you won't be forced to go it alone.

All those accomplished knitters who felt alienated and overlooked during the days of bulkdom are finally venturing back out into the open. I welcome these role models with open, respectful, and grateful arms.

How'd the bulk binge begin?
To disspell negative stereotypes and appeal to new knitters, many in the industry have perhaps focused too much on how quickly and easily you can pop out that first garter-stitch scarf. Hip new books touted cast-on-in-the-morning-and-wear-it-in-the-evening patterns or, in the case of The Yarn Girls' Guide to Simple Knits, sweaters you'll finish faster than you can outgrow a bad haircut.

It's not about where you go, but how you get there We've acknowledged time and time again that most of knitting's true curative powers come not from the results but from the process itself. With instant messenging, overnight delivery, and automatic everything, the simple act of knitting helps us maintain a healthy level of patience in a world where things seem to come faster and easier every day.

Where have all the role models gone?
Two designers in particular have represented sophisticated, time-consuming knitting: Kaffe Fassett and Alice Starmore. Both are noticeably absent today.

Kaffe Fasset grew quiet over the past two years, partly as his energies turned more to fabric designs, partly, I suspect, because his patterns were far too fine and complex for the times.

Likewise, Alice Starmore virtually disappeared off the map for reasons too lengthy and controversial to mention here.

Great Danes
I don't necessarily see Fasset or Starmore playing a major role as we move forward, although Starmore now has a smallscale online business with her daughter Jade. But I do anticipate a significant influx of sophisticated designers -- from Norway in particular -- whose work was underappreciated during our days of one-stitch wonders.

For example, the $250+ Hanne Falkenberg kits -- once considered the exclusive realm of independently wealthy knitting geniuses -- are appearing in more stores than ever. And thanks to international online ordering, it's now possible to purchase her kits directly from Denmark at a fraction of their U.S. prices.

The recently translated book Poetry in Stitches by Norwegian designer Solveig Hisdal has been a surprise best-seller, while Norsk Strikkedesign has introduced us to a host of sophisticated Nordic designers whose work belongs as much in museums as on our humble needles.

Both books call for simple wools at embarrassingly reasonable prices, disproving the theory that anything sophisticated must cost a fortune.

Bye bye bulky?
Bulky fans fear not, I doubt we'll ever stop seeing sweater-in-a-day patterns or superbulky yarns. They will always serve an aesthetic and functional purpose, providing rich textures and instant gratification just when we need them. Rather, these yarns and designs will simply return to their natural niche in our broader knitting ecosystem.

I'm ready for the challenge, but how do I begin?
If you dream of embarking upon a more complex knitting project but don't think you can do it, here are some time-proven steps that will get you started.

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