Sunday, 21 August 2011

To knit or not - it's my choice.

You may notice if you've visited the "what I've made" page of this blog that I finished knitting a pair of socks today.  It's nothing unusual.  I do this quite often.  Of my own free will.  In fact knitting is something I really enjoy doing.  It makes the time I spend watching television productive.  Knitting also calms me and keeps me on an even keel. You've got to keep breathing while you knit or the work will become tight and unmanageable. The rhythmic repetition of movements, the feel of beautiful yarn in my hands, the joy of beautiful colours and the thrill of seeing something take shape are all things I really like about it.

As I was looking around the web today, I came across this blog post called Tough gals: do they still exist?  which has a bit to say about women like me.  Because I like to knit.  Apparently it's some form of feminine subjugation against which I should be railing.  (The author takes time to talk about people who make cupcakes and like gardening too.)

Let me be clear - I don't knit because someone tells me to.  I don't knit because my life depends on it.  I don't knit because I'm not allowed to do anything else meaningful in my life and I'm searching for some way to pass the time.  I do it because I like it.  It's my choice.  As a grown woman who makes decisions for myself and doesn't need permission from my husband or father to do things, I find it amazing that there are people in the world who would characterise my hobby as some kind of anti-feminist statement!

Men can knit too.  Knitting used to be a masculine pursuit and there's a quick summary of men and knitting over at Yarnboy.  I don't hear claims questioning their choice to do this.  Although there is a male character, played by John Batchelor, in the film "Red Dog" who secretly knits and doesn't want to be discovered.  There's a facebook page for men who knit and various online communities dedicated to men who knit.  And I think this is fine.  Fantastic, even.

I think one of the main points of feminism is to recognise that women are whole humans with an intellect and will and feelings and should be able to determine their own lives.  So where does someone get off being critical of women doing stuff they want to do?  Or men for that matter.

My Granny taught me how to knit. (And crochet and sew and cook.)  I was about five years old (!) and I was started on squares to be put together to make a blanket.  I must have been staying with my grandparents and the project needed to be finished before I went back to my parents.  So I was working on my squares, Granny had several going on her needles and Grandfather also got in on the act and knitted some squares.  I remember being thrilled that Grandfather knew how to do this too.  Granny crocheted them together and then around the edges.  The first thing I knitted - although in reality I probably contributed only four or 5 completed squares.  I did choose the colours though.  We still have the blanket.

Whenever I would stay with my grandparents Granny would supervise some kind of project.  I crocheted giant granny square rugs for me and my brother and sister.  We still have them too.  It gave me an edge when in my first year of highschool when we were all required to knit a scarf in the school colours as a project for Home Economics.  This was a gift for me and I got a mark of 20/20 for my effort.  Other girls looked at my growing scarf jealously.

Granny was of a generation of married women who worked only inside the home.  I remember asking her what she would have chosen as a career if she had had the opportunity to work.  She said she would have loved to have been a home economics teacher.  Her hands were never idle and she was happy to share her knowledge, patiently fix mistakes and admire my latest work.

My grandmother's reasons for taking up and continuing to practise these crafts would have been completely different from mine.  Necessity of providing clothing for her family would have been a main driver.  If I don't knit socks for myself, my family and my friends, they will still have socks to wear because they are available commercially.  But they are a much appreciated gift when they are received.

It's 3 years since Granny died, aged just short of 96.  Towards the end of her life I was grateful for the busy companionship we had, sitting together knitting and crocheting.  It's three years since we sat together and knitted - Granny knitted and crocheted right until the end of her life, producing many squares for charity blankets and Trauma Teddies for the Red Cross.  After she died, I inherited her knitting needles and patterns.  In her work bag was an unfinished hand towel.  I finished it and gave it to my mother.

So what's wrong with that?


  1. My grand dad could knit too. He was taught at school in the 19teens. They used to knit socks and scarves for soldiers in WWI.

  2. i had a knitting project in grade 8. i chose to knit a pink poodle. it was well beyond me. my mum tried to help. it was beyond her too. so mama brown helped. she got a 9 out of 10 for that pink poodle. she was so proud.

  3. Where's that poodle now Sheryl?