Autumn, the time for knitting to really begin

2 Mar 2010

You know, a long time ago when I was in my early twenties, in my second year of work after finishing Uni, 1983, I was happily knitting in my lunch hour along with several other co workers when the hospital social worker came in and clucked at us something about knitting being a away of keeping womens feelings in check, a way of controlling women and stopping them from speaking their minds, that our strong feelings were knitted up in our knitting and we were being subjugated because of it.
I have never forgotten her statement, it struck me to the core.
Mad militant feminist?

I do think she reflected the negative attitude towards what were seen as women's crafts in that time, as if women's traditional handiwork was to be valued less because it was something traditionally done in the home, valued less by women because it was done by women for free!

I remember feeling crushed,feeling guilty and a bit stupid.
Was I letting the side down because I loved to knit?
What feelings were tied up and knotted into my knitting?
Surely if I enjoyed knitting and did it of my own free will  the only negative could possibly be that I spent too much money on yarn.


I don't think that strange notion still exists, does it?

Every woman in my extended family when I was a child was a knitter ( except Grannie who did crochet instead) and I can't remember them being bitter and twisted. 
I do remember them as people who just got on and got things done and seemed pretty happy with their lot most of the time.

I honestly can't imagine living without knitting.
I do it because I love it, I love everything about it except perhaps knitting the second sleeve - always a bother that one.
Oh and sewing everything together can be a trial.

I knit for pleasure not monetary profit, except for the dolly clothes I guess.

I love that we can all get some great extra feedback by putting our finished projects up on our blogs and in Flickr and at Ravelry. 
I love the supportive online craft community.

Is there anything better than selecting some yarn, some needles, a pattern either from your head or from a book, finding a cosy comfortable spot, perhaps with an easy to read magazine or book or an old movie on the TV and settling in to start?

You cast on do a few rows, happy with the size, the feel, the look. 
OK,  it's time to go get that cuppa and perhaps a biscuit or two, not chocolate though or cake - too messy.
Now you can really settle  for as long as you can manage, maybe just until the end of your cuppa or maybe until the end of the movie - doesn't matter because you'll be able to find some more time later.

It is joy, isn't it, sometimes frustration and sometimes I guess like when you knit when you sit with a sick child in hospital you maybe are knitting your worried feelings into your work but they are the worried feelings of love.
I can't knit when I am angry, can you?

Knitting is such a pedestrian activity, anyone can do it, and you can do it anywhere and sometimes what you are knitting looks like nothing special but I can remember Stephen saying to the children when they were young that it was amazing that  so many warm, cuddly and useful things could be made from just a length of wool and a couple of pointy sticks.

And no Kate, I rarely swatch and I rarely block and I didn't know it was a sin and I have been knitting for 45 years.
And my mother and aunts who have been knitting since the year dot don't swatch or block either.
I do steam things into shape sometimes, does that count?
But the best thing about making stuff is that you can make up your own rules and change the rules any time you like.

Read Rhonda's post to find out what knitting means to her.

48 Responses to “Autumn, the time for knitting to really begin”

  1. I love this post, and I agree with you. And I think people like the woman who made that original comment to you say things like that because they just don't get it. When did being a feminist mean you can't do things you enjoy? Doesn't in my book :P

  2. Lovely post!

    I read Rhonda's post today too! I love to knit and so does my daughter. Just a wonderfully useful skill, and easy to take with you anywhere!

    We are heading into Spring here but I will probably still knit for a few months yet.

  3. I think everyone is starting to get all there woolly knitting out again as it starts to get a chill in the air. Love knitting and do it all winter it is a very calming activity and it relaxes me so much.

  4. Hello Jenny dear. You know what I love, that you can write just my first name and our people know who it is, that Mrs Rabe commented that I and the only other Australian blogger she reads wrote about knitting today and I knew it was you and that knitting unites us all - by us showing our knitting, sharing patterns and techniques and blogging about the love of this wonderful craft.

    The feminist view of knitting has changed somewhat since the early 80s, thank goodness. I do believe Germaine has taken up the needles. She lives in Queensland for a good part of the year now, in the hinterland of the gold coast.

    And finally, my friend, I have to tell you I LOVE the painting of the french knitter with cat. What a fine piece! And doesn't Katherine Hepburn look stunning in that photo - I can imagine what her contempories said about her knitting. It was not something a rising star should have been seen doing. But she was a real trailblaser and I'm sure having discovered the joys of knitting would not have let anyone put her off it.

    BTW, you're doing some lovely dolls lately. I don't often get a chance to comment but I wanted you to know that I always love seeing your work - both the dolls and your housework.

  5. Drewzel, so true, some people still don't get it but it's lovely that so many people do.

  6. Mrs Rabe, I knit all year round I must admit but it's a much more satisfying past time when the weather is bit nippy.

  7. Debbie, don't your fingers just itch to get knitting as soon as the weather starts to change.

  8. Hi Rhonda, I love the French knitter too, , the setting the clothes, the cat, the knitting - it's just right. And thank you for the dolly compliments.

  9. This was a wonderful post. Thank you!

    I have a sister in law who "doesn't get" handwork. That's her loss. I don't knit (yet) but do sew, needlepoint and cross stitch.

  10. Oh Jenny,
    this is a wonderful post. I've been knitting since I was about 7 or so and yet I still feel like it's a daggy, old fashioned thing to do and so don't do it publicly. Why? I have no idea, but it's something i really must work on changing.
    I find it relaxing and I always feel so proud when I finish something and see it being worn or used.

    I'm pleased to read that you don't block either. My mum never did, but now that you mention it I do remember seeing her steam some things. I don't think it's something that I will start doing, I've turned out good enough stuff so far.

    cheers Kate

  11. Loved your post and agree so much with it, I have knitted since I was about 4 (60 now) and as a very young girl my German mother taught me her cast one method and had me knitting for all my younger brothers, fair aisle, cables etc.!
    I and my mother, never swatched, blocked etc., either.
    I have actually spent the hot weather knitting wash cloths!!
    Love your blog, I am a new blog reader and loving it.

  12. Hi Susan, I can't imagine not having some kind of needlecraft to do.

  13. Hi Kate, I did read in one of the Rave;ry forums about blocking and the UK knitters seemed to think that blocking was a US knitting tend but I have no idea if that is true.
    I can't believe you don't knit while your watching your children play sport.

  14. Hi Charlotte, and welcome to another non swatcher and non blocker. Knitting cotton things is great for the summer isn't it.

  15. I knit for my happiness! I love to choose yarn, dream about a garment on a certain someone, to collect special color combinations in a basket... all of it makes me smile. I take my knitting everywhere with me, I feel lost without it. Thank you for this post, I like knowing that it makes you (and others) so happy too! :)

    best - Annri

  16. Love the Kate Hepburn picture and also the one of the French woman knitting. I've just come from Rhonda's blog so it's a great Aussie knitting day.

    Like you Jenny, I've never swatched or blocked. Mum and Auntie taught me to knit when I was about four, I simply can't sit in front of a television without knitting and I prefer to have something in my hands when chatting.

  17. I am just beginning to knit a few things. I find it quite nice and relaxing. I love to knit on something in the early morning before the children are up or at night after they are in bed. Its a nice way to produce something while working out the day, either what the day will be like or what the day was like.

  18. Oh wonderful sentiments! The same thing is true of Smocking or embroidery. I haven't thought about it before but you are right. You just can't smock (or work the Featherstitch) when you are angry!! More people should knit and smock!

  19. Even though I've put my knitting aside for a while, if I pass by the yarn shop I will have to back track and go in. Then the temptation is just too great and after feeling all the hanks and skeins and drooling over the color combinations, I walk out with a sack full and a renewed knitting fervor. You put it so nicely! I'm sure I'll have to go look at the shop now!


  20. I just wanted to say, I marvel and stare at women that can watch a television show or hold a conversation WITHOUT looking at their knitting.

    I have to sit at the table, hunched over my knitting like an obsessed cave dweller. Heaven forbid I drop a stich!!

    I have a ways to go before I'm that good...


  21. Hello Jenny!
    Thanks for the lovely post -- will stop by Rhonda Jean's too and have a look. I'm about to deliver my sixth child (tomorrow? maybe?) and I love to do handwork whenever I have to sit at the doctor's office waiting: there is lots of waiting between prenatals and the other children's orthodontics and eyes and whatnot. You wouldn't believe how many women say to me: "I wish I had time to do that," and then turn back to their gossip mags or watch the office TV. It always makes me laugh a little inside. :-) Thanks for the post.

  22. ok ladies that's it! No more shall I feel dowdy for knitting. I will take it with me tomorrow when out and about and knit with pride. I'm sure my daughter will be happy about that, she is beginning to wonder if the cotton jumper that I'm knitting her will be finished before she grows out of it.LOL
    Yes Jenny the amount of hours I spend 'waiting' could be put to good use.

    cheers Kate
    ps glad to hear that there are many non-blockers out there. I feel almost 'normal' LOL

  23. Hi Rose, it is the strangest thing to watch Tv without knitting. Sometimes the kids like to have all the lights out to watch a movie and it drives me nuts because I can't knit.

  24. I agree, Folky Dots , it is great thinking and dreaming time.

  25. Yes Jeannie, world peace through hand craft.

  26. Liz , it's lovely isn't it, exploring yarn shops, even sifting through thrown out yarn at the op shop ( thrift shop) is great.

  27. Chris, when i worked as a physio I used to marvel at the ladies who had strokes who were determined to knit again even though they only had one useful arm. And the ladies with very poor eyesight in the nursing home where I worked who kept on knitting they just swapped to larger needles and thicker wool. Once you have the bug you are infected for life.

  28. Dear Moey, you're still on deck then. Good luck.
    And yes we make time for the things we really want to do don't we, like knitting or reading or exercising, whatever.

  29. Go Kate, you know they have an International Knit in Public Day
    You know it never occurred to me not to knit in public.

  30. Oh Jenny, I love knitting, I adore Katy Hepburn and I just think your blog is great!

    What a combination.

    Cheers! Karen (near Bundaberg)

  31. Loved the image of Katherine Hepburn, how beautiful and serene. I've always wished to look like her and Audrey too.

  32. It's late winter here in the northern hemi but I still knit every day. I bought some daffodil yellow sock yarn back in September for March knitting--when it's gray and the spring fever hits it's sooo nice to have a bright color on the needles.

    Deb in Wisconsin

  33. I have always loved to sew, embroider, bake and garden, but as a teenager in the 80s was viewed as very uncool and a bit odd. Now I find that I am in vogue! I have friends, who previously showed no interest in these activiies, phoning me for help with projects of their own.

    PS I have only recently started knitting but am enjoying learning.

  34. Marvelous post! Since more and more young women are knitting today I think it's being rediscovered as the art form that it is! Hurry for all us knitters!

  35. That comment sounds like a really negative take on the fact that knitting can be a calming activity.As if women doing something because its meditative quality relaxes them makes them the victim of some kind of socially approved " drug" to control them.
    I wonder if, in the context of its time,(when Valium was "mother's little helper") it reflected a suspicion of , and hypersensitivity to, (by some ),anything that was seen to make women in traditional roles feel content,and so keep them from getting out there and fighting for their rights. A total lack of understanding of the role of handcrafting in many womens' lives but a real comment of its time,maybe.
    I read an interesting post recently (can't remember where, unfortunately) where the person described her decision to cook from scratch, make as much as possible,sew, knit, slow down, consume less etc as a radical political act, defying the pressures of our society to do exactly the opposite. Almost like the wheel turning full circle.

  36. Hi Karen, Miss Hepburn is just great isn't she.

  37. Oh Tanya, weren't they both just the most beautiful women, I once read a biography of Katharine and I just wanted to be her.

  38. Jayne, I have always done this stuff too but I was oblivious to the fact that other people thought it daggy ( uncool).

  39. Great comment. I think it's hysterical that taking pleasure in the domestic arts is now seen as somewhat subversive, an act of rebellion even.
    If women's liberation was about the right and the ability to choose, though mostly aimed at the middle classes, perhaps it has matured enough now to truly allow and show respect for the choices that individuals make.

  40. Hi Jenny,
    i loved this post and yes it is the time to start knitting again, I have already started this year crochetting, but doing granny squares, actually granny hexagons, they don't get you too hot. By the looks of many of the comments a lot of us can't just sit and watch tv, I have to do something. I have knitted for many years, and will admit being a young woman in the 80's it wasn't something that was done in public lol. My girls don't want to learn but each want something made, including ponchos with a hood that reaches to knees to snuggle up and watch tv, but not get too cold when going to raid the fridge. For many years I had a high stress job so knitting was a wonderful form of meditation the repetative click of the needles, so the tension would go away plus there is now many hand made blankets. At the beggining of each autumn the 3 kids will argue over whose turn it is to get a new blanket.

  41. Hi jenny, love the pictures. I read recently that we should knit in our breaks to help relieve the stresses of work and this was the opinion of a social worker.Bev

  42. I think this is a great post! I remember when I was a kid my Nanna would always have a basket of knitting in the living room down beside one of the lounge chairs. She taught me to knit (basic) from the age of 4. My mum knits too. I really want to take it up again; I have tried a couple times in the past, but being of the "time-poor generation" lost patience with it fairly quick. However, I'd like to think that now I am a bit older I'll have more success, so I have marked knitting down as one of my goals for 2010.
    Btw, being a feminist is all to do with how you think, and nothing with what you do. I think a lot of the early feminists didnt realise that.

  43. What fabulous photos. I like them all but I especially like the cartoon one of the 3 girls knitting. It is just so cute!


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