It’s Cheap to Knit
Long gone are the days when knitting and sewing were cost effective and often done for practical reasons. Today there is so much choice in materials – luxurious yarns, needles, and accessories, that you can make any quality project that rivals a purchased one and often better. But that glorious hand-dyed merino wool can easily cost $20.00 a hank. DIY is not cheap when it comes to the needle crafts.
Quick To Knit
Time is not on our side either; very few projects are “quick” to make. Sure some projects like a bulky scarf or hat can be whipped up in a couple of days. But it can take months to make a complex lace wrap. Some projects would be a prohibitive cost to purchase considering the amount of time and cost of materials.
It’s a Tedious Past-Time
The Suffragettes, “feminists” of the early 1900s ruffled a few feathers by saying the act of knitting was nerve wracking and that lace knitters were engaging in a time consuming task. After all, William Lee invented the knitting machine because of the labour he watched his wife go through in making fashionable stockings by hand. The Suffragettes would certainly roll in their graves to know how trendy lace knitting is today.
Fast forward, and knitting is touted by psychologists as a way to heal, to relax, and to contemplate. It teaches patience, persistence, and the ability to focus. It certainly has its meditative qualities, and this is one of the reasons I knit – to hear the clicking of my needles brings me a sense of calm.
The Stereotypical Knitter
Years ago, knitting in the airport terminal, a fellow walked by eyeing me. Then it came out of his mouth “I thought only old ladies knit.” I wasn’t mortified, but it wasn’t exactly the best pick-up line. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, his words may have been a revelation for him; there are younger women who knit.
Thankfully, knitting has cast its old fashioned Miss Marple image. I have observed some amazing knitters:
- the young lady knitting socks while waiting for the bus
- an engineer knitting his girlfriend a Christmas gift
- the firefighter relaxing in the station
- the child proud of giving her teacher a scarf
- the man waiting in line and announcing to me he’s learning to knit
- and yes an older lady who knits the most complex of shawls that would even make the experienced knitter gasp in amazement.
There is no better time to pick up some sticks, yarn and get knitting! No one will think you’re anything but amazing.
“Hobby” vs “Craft” vs “Art”
I don’t know about you, but I dislike the word “hobby”. The word connotes as passing spare time with something amateur-like, and unappreciated by anyone else but yourself. “Craft” fairs better in my mind, implying skill and quality workmanship. Knitting is best described as a craft, but of course this follows practice and challenging yourself.
The elitist art world often rejected textiles as serious crafts, including knitting. This view is based on textiles playing a major role in our daily life, typically utilitarian – used and worn out, and for some hardly ever precious. Today, “knitting” is serious business, just check the collections of the major designers. It is also elevated to an art form by some textile artists – my home page is a sample of my textile art incorporating knitting, crochet, and paint.
There is two types of connection at work here, emotional and social. I think most knitters have an emotional connection to their work. We feel pride in our accomplishments and pleasure in giving.
I am fascinated by the revival of social knitting. Our need to connect with others and provide a service to the community has always been what makes us human. Through both World Wars, women, men, and children knitted essential items for soldiers and made them feel more comfortable during troubled times.
I will admit I enjoy knitting alone, its my private time and space. When I’m in a group, I talk too much and can’t focus on knitting, particularly if it’s a complex project. But I love to help, if you make a mistake I’m there for you.
Since the early 2000s, social knitting has rekindled an interest in knitting in younger people, and firmly planted the craft. It is here to stay. There always is a connection between members of any group, and the internet has made it possible for greater communication, providing endless information and material resources.
What all this talk boils down to is what does knitting mean to you. It’s okay for it to be whatever you want it to be – sell your work? pass time? make art? give for love? relax? skill? challenge? The choice is yours and the times and materials have never been more inviting.