But what if Grandma had Ravelry?

31 10 2007

I had a good chat with a grad friend yesterday about all things to do with academia, pop culture, and blogging, and knitting appeared on the menu eventually. (As it is wont to do. You understand.) He was curious about it in the context of this modern fascination & resurgence we have with making stuff again: from home beer-making to wiring our own electrical sockets to building furniture to, well, knitting.

I suggested you’d really have to put knitting under the category of “handicrafts.” (As much as certain knitters would dearly love not to be lumped in with that great Other, the Crocheters, we do work with certain materials that fill a particular niche of creation.) He figured there’d have to be something more to it, like “makers”, since there’s a real interest in the creative aspect now, people creating trends all over by making things from their own hands and brains that feels different from what craftspeople would have done in a day gone by.

Ravelry screenshot

My first thought was, ein Minuten, bitte. There’s a healthy segment of the modern knitting population that is pretty okay with aligning themselves with the knitting traditions of days gone by. (Well, actually, my other thought was, try convincing your average knitter that the craft they do is comparable with home beer-making (without, say, inviting said knitter to imbibe in the fruits of said beer-making) and just see how well that works out for ya.) They may have adopted these interests in a new and exciting modern context, but denying the roots of our craft traditions is not so okay.

But still, it’s undeniable that the current enthusiasm for knitting is something more than what our grandmothers partook of. Even in my young knitting memory a culture has grown around this practice that has fostered some pretty remarkable developments. Local yarn stores are prospering, people are forming Stitch N’ Bitches. Characters on popular TV shows knit and it makes them lovable, not dorky. (Or maybe a lovable kind of dorky.) When I first started, your go-to project was something out of Patons acrylic blend because that’s what the booklets told you to knit out of and oh my goodness now you’re telling me you can substitute yarn? Now, online companies like Knitpicks are the square-one shop for everyday purchases and are sending merino and laceweight and cotton-linen flying off the shelves. This is a climate where you can publish a pattern online, suggest a yarn to go with it, and three days later the store is halfway to selling out their entire stock. This is a climate where knitters represent and feel proud. This movement has a force and energy that is driven by modern communications. It’s just not the culture our grandmothers were a part of.

Google search screenshot

Except the thing is, this is also a kind of climate where the online world does things like move as one to knit a lace stole. Fair isle is still fresh. Kitchens are filling up with ballband dishcloths. Knitwear designs follow the trends of the fashion industry while still relying on the traditional techniques of the craft. Modern knitting is functional, practical, artistic, entertaining and empowering all at the same time. You can’t say grandma wouldn’t feel pretty darned good about that.

There is this mixture of old and new going on in this modern knitting culture. I don’t know how it all fits together, but it’s enough to give an academic Thoughts, I tell you what.

Meanwhile, Icarus and I have had some long talks with each other and had some very intense quality time which has brought us all the way up to the end of Chart 1 and I have had to explain with my utmost patience that we need a short break, before my right arm seizes and becomes a whole new entity called the Claw and you do want me to keep knitting you, don’t you, and what’s this you’re trying to tell me about needing another skein of yarn to finish and you need me to take you to Lettuce Knit?

Tonight it’s going to rest up while dear sis and I sit down with selections from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bones, and sugar cookies. …There’s not something else I should be doing is, there?


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7 responses

31 10 2007
Clinging to October « Knitting to Stay Sane

[...] Sadly doing that does not make the thesis finish itself. Nor does reading the blogs, although Martha has a great post up today about knitterly things. [...]

31 10 2007
Sarah

I so wonder what knitting would be like today without the internet – but in all honesty I can’t really imagine life itself without the internet anymore!

I was thinking the other day about how what was once a necessity, or a way of saving money has now become a luxury in many respects.

I really value the links to my heritage that knitting gives me, there have been many knitters in my family and I love the link back to them.

Ah I just love knitting full stop!

31 10 2007
Glenna C

Also don’t forget this is an age where whole television fandoms express their love through knitting. (See: Jayne Hat, HP scarves!)

31 10 2007
marianne

Great post, Ms.M…. seriously, my Grandmother didn’t knit although she did a lot of other needle crafting handwork and enjoyed it her whole life… Mom did knit but not for long and didn’t do much with it, I just love making things, all sorts of things, have always been happy whilst working with my hands and really, knitting is just so very clever, eh?
My Grandmother would’ve loved the internet, gleefully so… my mother on the other hand won’t even look at a computer…
I think we’re very lucky to have it, and each other to connect with, it’s an amazing world we live in.
so… here’s a wild theory… perhaps there’s ‘something’ in us sounding off that ‘all hell is going to break loose’ and we’d best be in a good position to use our hands to make things… I know… I’m really not such a gloom and doom person, just a wild theory.
I’m rather glad to see folks interested in making things themselves.
(ramblerambleramble) :^)

31 10 2007
Lady O

*applauds*

I think I see a conference paper… just sayin’

31 10 2007
sinensis

Lady O I can’t imagine what you mean. :-”

2 11 2007
Diana

Very interesting. I love your post title! (You can just imagine a Grandma sitting in front of her Ravelry screen!) I think it is amazing how things go through waves. Some things seem like fads, but some have staying power. Very cool to think about.

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