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.
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.
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?