I’m going to get on my knitting Soapbox for a little while since I’ve been frustrated of late with this whole “celebrity knitting/urban knitting” marketing that’s underway.  Since this is probably the only forum I have (for now) to voice my views on this topic, I’m going to take advantage of it.  For you folks out there I encourage and welcome your comments on this topic and look forward to the chance to have meaningful discussions on the topic.

When Was Knitting Only a “Grandmother” Craft?

1. My Background

Where should I start?  I know that everyone has their own story about where it all began.  Here is mine…

When I was a young girl, my Italian grandmother would always be seen crocheting delicate lace tablecloths, bedspreads, shawls and other things.   She always seemed at peace when she was doing her needlework.  In fact when she was reciting the rosary, she had the same expression on her face as when she was crocheting.  I guess she seemed to put her spirituality into what she was creating.  Most often, she was creating something for a woman in the family who moved into a new home, had a new baby or was getting married.  With six children and seventeen grandchildren this was often happening.  I was always fascinated by her commitment to her craft. 

When I was around 10 years old, my grandmother was visiting for a week and I asked her if she would teach me how to crochet.  I wanted to create those beautiful lacy things like she did.  However, instead of teaching me with the fine crochet thread, she took out a big fat plastic crochet hook and worsted weight yarn, then proceeded to teach me how to crochet a granny square.  Now it was the 70’s and these were popular, however, I never really got into the granny square fashion scene.  I continued following Nonna’s (Grandmother in Italian) directions and persevered to make something for my family for Christmas that year.

One day soon after learning to crochet, my parents visited a coworker of my Dad’s who did needlework like petit point and crocheting.  Well, it came up in the conversation that I was crocheting.  Instantly this woman said, “Come with me we’ll find some yarn in my stash which you can use”.  Now, years later, I realize how difficult that must have been for her.  After all, how could one possibly spare to give up any of those wonderful skeins and balls of yarn which you always have a plan for using one day?  Being the young newbie to the craft, all I thought at the time was “cool, I can finish the afghan with this stuff”

Well, I never finished the afghan.  I did however, learn how to make those smaller lace items eventually when I learned how to perfect the craft.

For years, I would pick from that bag of yarn which was someone else’s stash and make other things which never really got finished.

2. Knitting

After college, marriage and moving into my first rental house, I spotted a knitting & crochet magazine at the local Five and Dime store in town.  I just loved the sweaters in the magazine.Most often, the ones I admired were knitted and not crocheted.  So I bought an instruction book and knitting needles with the magazine.  I taught myself to knit.

My first attempt to knitting a sweater is still in my stash closet.It was a terrible fit with a grey rag acrylic.  Many other sweaters later I graduated to natural fibers.   After years of that, I began working with either fine lace yarns or super bulky natural fibers

Over the years I’ve developed a certain love for more traditional styles (I guess being a baby boomer, I’m starting to get nostalgic).I’ve been trying to master lace shawls, socks, and stylish jackets.  My stash has grown bigger than one closet and I’ve got a pattern collection that has taken over my bookshelves throughout the house.

I’m an addict.  There, I admitted it.  My stash and my project “to do” list is far bigger than what can be done in a century.  I’m always looking for the next project before completing one and I have several unfinished objects around the house for various reasons.  Most of those reasons were the next project was just itching to get started.  I read today about a “yarn harlot”.  This is someone who can’t stay committed to one project.  Yes, that would be me!  You can see some of my work on these blog pages.  I’m still knitting for others more often then for myself.  I guess this is part of what I’ve taken from my Nonna’s experiences.

3. Urban & Celebrity Knitting

I have been doing some kind of needlework for several decades; crochet, cross stitch and knitting.  Often times I would sit on the train commuting to the office, with needlework project in hand, and find that once in a blue moon someone would sit next to me with their own project, peek over at what I was doing and would strike up a conversation about how rare it was to meet someone else (always a woman) who still practiced the art of needlework.  There would be the comments about how our mothers never did, we learned on our own or from another family member and how we were addicted to the craft.

Recently, there have been several books and articles saying how “Knitting wasn’t just for grandmother’s any more”, “Celebrities are knitters too”, and the “urban knitting” trend.

Maybe they think this is going to attract the younger, hipper folks, but in my opinion, it minimizes the many talented needlework artists that have been out there for hundreds of years.(I’m not about to start a debate here on whether knitting did or did not start prior to the 12th century).

People have had careers in knitting for centuries.  Knitting brought people together (yes, men too!) during the US Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, WWII and many other difficult moments in our history including the recent tragedy of September 11th, 2001.  I have to say, during that month, I did more knitting than I had done in several years.

What new knitters should realize is that they have an opportunity to learn a craft and become part of history, a community of people who love to “show & tell”, and to experience what their forefathers and mothers experienced when they were knitting.

Knitting is creative, spiritual, rewarding, inspiring, frustrating and many other adjectives and expletives which I’m sure each of you can put into words…..

I want to encourage everyone to remind the authors of these articles and books of these facts.  It’s time to get out of the knitting closet and proudly say, “Yes, I’m a knitter, I always have been, even when it was supposedly something that only “grandmothers do” ..

4 thoughts on “”

  1. Thank you! Thank you! You said it so well. I, too, learned young…crochet from an ancient babysitter we called Auntie Mary, and knitting from my mother. I went on to spin, weave, and almost anything else you can do with yarn, fiber or thread. (Had to give the really small stuff up though, when the eyes started gettin old.) I, too, am tired of celebrities knitting scarves and what the h**l is Urban Knitting anyway? Knitting on the bus? Been doing that for years. Knitting at my workplace? What better way to endure long boring meetings. I live in the ‘burbs…maybe I should start a Suburban Knitting trend? Anyway, thanks


    http://www.lazyriverramblings.blog-city.com  .

  2. i agree very well said!!  i didnt learn to knit until i moved to washington state 17 yrs ago and took a class.  i had always wanted to.  the rest is history, i took a lot of classes at that store.  classes on how to change colors, how to knit fair aisle and then i just took the classes to be able to sit around a table with a bunch of women who appreciated it as much as i did.  i dont like the stories i have seen either on all the celebs knitting.  drives me crazy!

  3. Hi, I’ve enjoyed reading your site.  Thought I’d just give a say to add to the mix of comments and shared thoughts.  As a male knitter I enjoy seeing articles about men who knit and it makes me feel like I’m not the only one or somehow out of my so called realm of expected activities.  After picking up the needles and then putting them down several times so far I’ve picked them back up again.  I can remember when Rosie Greer was written about doing needlepoint, I think it was.  I thought thats cool, if he can then I don’t have to feel weird about my interest in such things. My grandfather used to cross stitch.  He was very good at it but never really shared it with me.  I kind of just was curious and watched from afar.  My aunt supposedly made lace (bobbin) but never saw her making it.  I was always rewarded with a trip to the hobby store to pick out what ever I wanted for completing my weeks chores.  What I picked out always seemed to be fiber related in some way.  Those pictures where you glue on the super chunky bright yarns to make a picture where my favorite.  Then as time went on I got a book of various needle work techniques and tried some of them out and went with crochet for awhile and now I’m knitting.  My mom and I have had some real laughing spells when were trying to work thru a pattern and neither of us seem to be able to figure out what were doing wrong.  Now my sister in law is trying it out and we all have been going to festivals and I’ve adopted an angora rabbit.  Who knows where it will go from here.  I admire handywork and like to see how things are made even if I never take up the skill.  I’ve learned to appreciate things more when I’ve attempted a technique.  It’s just incredibly interesting.  With all this technology and the availability of everyday items we tend to take things for granted.  Knitting is for many a hobby, although I’m sure many make there living at it.  But, there was a time when if you didn’t get to knitting something you probably wouldn’t have something to wear or better get someone to do it for you.  I can just imagine how if we had to have our socks knit by winter that it might not be as much fun.  So it’s nice to have it as a hobby and yes it can be frustrating like when I had to cast on 20 stitches for a miniture sweater and it seemed as if I was working with an octopus just trying to get through the neck and then the increases just didn’t make any sense.  But made it through it and then thought what did I spend all my time doing that for when it has no practical use.  It’s an ornament that I could have bought.  Buit I had fun and learned something and accomplished it.  Yeah!  Well, this is more than you probably wanted to know but just thought I’d give my two cents worth, take care,

  4. I think the “new knitters” boom really started after 9/11, when people needed somethng comforting to do. And I think that, while there have always been plenty of lifelong knitters like us around, the media hype has resulted in a lot of new young knitters whose mothers and grandmothers didn’t teach them. So overall, I think it is a good thing.

    Glad to find another knitter on the site.

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