Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Moral Compass Is Slightly Skewed

I have this hat:


You've seen it before, but I like to show it off whenever I get the chance because it's pretty awesome.  But it's problematic.  I feel awful for buying it, because at the price I paid I know some poor Bolivian was royally screwed in the transaction.  Since I can't find fair trade chullos they're just going to have to come off the list of hand crafts I'll buy.  I'm not the best at not playing into an economic system that routinely hoses it's workers, but I make an effort.  I don't expect a cookie for trying to meet the basic standards of human decency, I'm telling you this to come to a point.

I'm really getting into making hats.  And I want to make chullos.  I'm a little put off by the cultural appropriation involved, but not enough that I will deny myself the chance to do colorwork alpaca motifs.  I could try and rationalize it by saying that I have Peruvian friends or it's an homage to Andean culture but really I'm just kind of an asshole.

I've bought yarn and I've been charting out common motifs found on chullos and playing around with the construction of the hat itself.  All is going well.  And then I get my KnitPicks catalog in the mail yesterday.  What should be on the back cover but this:

Wow, awful scan.  Sorry about that.

First impulse:  Something I'm doing is cool!  Yay!  Second:  I've done a hell of a lot of work when all I had to do was buy this handy kit.  Third:  Oh, this isn't cool.  Wait, then what makes what I'm doing okay?

My moral conflict is reaching the tipping point.  This hat may be more of a bad idea than I initially thought.  Maybe it's time to put down the needles and get a backstrap loom.  That way whenever the urge to make a culture specific garment strikes, I can do the crafts of my people.


  1. I'll give you a virtual cookie! I love these hats and I've been looking for a pattern for one, I hadn't even thought about the cultural appropriation issues, bad Susie :-( (Of course my knitted colourwork isn't really at a point where you'd recognise anything I produced as a chullo: it would be an interesting coloured head-blob.)

  2. Aw, thanks.

    The way I'm thinking of it now, is that earflap hats and a lot of geometric motifs aren't culture specific. So if I make an earflap hat that's not shaped like a chullo (have the crown fit more closely, for example.) and stick to patterns that are cross cultural I won't feel guilty about it. It's chullo inspired rather than a reproduction. But I haven't figured out a way to rationalize having alpaca on it yet.

    All this is a long way of saying earflap hats are cool and you should totally make one, even if it turns out to be a colored head-blob (which it won't.)