Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cultural Appropriation is Very, Very Tacky

Ad for Reynolds Yarns, from McCall's Needlework & Crafts, Spring-Summer, 1972

What is a Kutu, you ask the wise, old hermit who lives on the mountain top.

He strokes his long white beard, and replies, Know this, seeker of truth, Kutu is a town in the Congo, a Bantu language in Tanzania, and a blood sucking flea in Malaysia.

Kutu is also one man’s answer to "How was it in Cambodia?", a Warrior Priest in a Massively Multiplayer Online game, and an acronym for the mother of all menstrual cramps.

However, if you seek full enlightenment, you must know of the terrible depths to which this venerable word once sank. For once upon a time, Kutu was a collection of wild, wooly and wretched ponchos, replete with false promises of witchcraft and social acceptance.

Knit yourself up a Kutu and you will be magically transported to the deck of a cruise ship with your exotic lover. Fortunately, this ad also reveals that Borneo royalty wore Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses to protect themselves from the tackiness of their royal garb.

For the even more snark:

This woman thought that a mohair Kutu with zebra stripes would be just the foxy new thing to wear to the new social club for singles. Something that would say, “I am a confident, cosmopolitan woman who will still knit and cook for the right man.”

But the other women whispered behind her back and the men stammered and made excuses rather than look directly at her. It was the minister’s wife who finally pulled her aside and asked why she wore something so obscene to a church organized social.

“We can support your decision to become a feminist,” she said, “but do you really have to wear a picture of your, ahem, womanhood on the outside of your clothes?”

Reynolds didn’t just supply Southeast Asian inspired poncho patterns to white suburbanites. They were also hard at work meeting the demands of the superhero niche market. The woman on the far left is summoning her fishy friends, while the one in the centre is about to use her awesome flying squirrel powers to nab an arctic bank robber. We’re not sure what the final woman’s superpower might be, but it appears to have something to do with rainbows.


  1. ha ha, outrageous!--Kutu No. 1500 is certainly an eye-catcher! I once saw a framed ink-blotch picture in a urologist's waiting room that resembled No. 1500 and I thought at the time, what the hey?

    Obviously Reynolds' mandate was to sell, sell vast quantities of yarn to make ugly, ugly 'exclusive' unwearables.

  2. Lol! I love your comments - you consistently make my blog even funnier.

    And I agree completely. I didn't want to say anything outright, because I suspect Reynolds still has an active secret police. But I am deeply suspicious of their motives.

  3. Do you by any chance have this actual pattern? I've been searching for it for a long time