It's winter - and for some reason when winter comes I just want to grab some knitting needles or a crochet hook and make something. My mother and grandmother taught me the basics - but I don't know how to do anything fancy. But that's okay. I've had fun making scarves each winter with all the wonderful new yarn that comes out.
I'm a bit unique in my generation. My mother taught me how to sew and cook and knit and iron. I had the skills to be a good housewife before I left primary school. But in my generation you couldn't be a stay-at-home mum. The expectation of two incomes has been factored into the price of everything so you can't be one even if you want to be. And so off to university I went. Many of my peers didn't get taught these skills. They say to me "Oh you can sew! You are so lucky! I wish my mum had taught me to sew! I really want to take lessons somewhere!!" I tell them they aren't missing out on anything. By the time you factor in the cost of a pattern, material, thread, buttons/zips you are better off buying off the shelf. And that is before you consider your time and that your creation may not suit you or fit very well. At least with off the shelf you can try it on before you buy it. My arguments never seem to convince them though – they still feel like they missed out.
Now don't get me wrong - my mother was not setting me up to be a housewife - sewing was a school holiday project we would both choose and work on together. I would ask her if we could sew something. I would tell her that I wanted to cook something. I wanted to be able to do the things I saw her doing and I very much enjoyed learning these skills. Most of these skills sadly get used very often. Watching waistlines means I never bake cakes and the cost of sewing means I never sew anything from scratch - I just do repairs and take up hems.
But somehow knitting made its way into my life. Knitting has recently hit the news in the Australian Media. Our former Prime Minister Julia Gillard (toppled just two days ago now) posed knitting for a famous Australian Women’s magazine called the “Australian Women’s Weekly”. Here is a link to the photos of Julia Gillard knitting. It is quite a strange look for her. From the career-orientated Prime Minister of Australia to a homely woman knitting. There was a huge backlash against her posing in this way. Julia has made it known for a long time that knitting is her pastime – it was not a setup. It really does represent what she likes to do. But had they photographed her painting a picture, or taking photos, or working in her garden would the backlash have been the same? I don’t think it would. I think knitting is bundled up with the tasks that women once had no choice but to do. So to see Australia’s first female Prime Minister choosing to do it presents an uncomfortable picture to some.
Change often comes with a pendulum swing. Total rejection is ultimately followed by a smaller return to the old. Feminism is talked about in waves. Initially all traditional activities were considered bad by feminists. The current wave of feminism says that it is okay to take part in traditional activities as you are doing so through choice and not because you are being forced to due to your sex. So from that point of view Julia Gillard can knit away as much as she likes.
The fact is that women are still knitting – for a whole variety of reasons. For me I knit for others. I loved knitting pink scarves for my nieces using pom-pom yarn and loved hearing about how much they loved them. I am currently working on a few items for my fiancé – I love that I can give him something that he can’t buy in a store. It is made exclusively for him by me in colours that he likes. And he knows how much time and effort I put into it for him. You just can’t replicate that with something you buy from a store. We are all familiar with women saying they show their love to their family through their cooking. I guess I’m showing my love to my family through my knitting!
Finally I’d like to share this little presentation with you done by the maker’s of Lion Brand yarn. We all have our own reasons for what we do – and they have put together a lovely slideshow of the reasons people have told them how knitting and crochet make them better. Enjoy!