Today I had a very grounded conversation with a good friend. We talked about knitting. My friend had come to stay overnight and as it happened she brought her knitting. Now, neither of us proclaim to be super knitters but we come from families where our mothers and grandmothers knitted and knitted very well. We discussed her current project…the makings of a beautiful wrap in charcoal Italian wool. It seems there had been a couple of false starts with this piece, I suspect it may have started out with a different intention, however, after a chat and a good look at the progress it was decided that the shawl would proceed and perhaps a fringe could be added.
We talked of our Mother’s skills as we sat in the autumn sunshine. My friends Mother was particularly skilled in not just knitting but in many other fine and delicate needlework modalities. My Mum had knitted all of her life, as had her Mother. Mum knitted like many other women of her era, for pleasure and as a way of clothing her children and family. I remember as a child having at least one new cardigan or jumper each year to match a new pleated skirt. It was (still is) also known that knitted and well cared for garments could stand the test of time and be handed down to child after child or from family to family. I have two knitted jumpers that are over twenty years old, they are not ‘old hat’ just not worn out and one of them has travelled overseas with me many times.
A couple of years ago after a couple of health problems I knitted my husband and son a jumper each. I remember feeling the thrill of knowing that I was using time in a valuable and meaningful manner. I also recalled the connectedness to something that was hard to explain. It sounds a bit strange now but at the time the process of knitting jumpers for my family members was particularly therapeutic.
When I pick up my knitting (not that I knit as much as I would like to) I immediately feel a kinship to all other women who knit, especially the women in my family who taught me to do so. Knitting is often joked about as an old women’s hobby or something people take up when they can no longer manage to do anything else. I have to dispute that notion, one can only knit if they know how to knit. Okay, it’s possible to learn to knit later in life but I suspect it’s not easy to become comfortable and proficient to a point where it’s enjoyable and can be used as relaxation. Coming to knitting late in life might be akin to learning to swim or ride a bike as an adult having never done so as a child, the natural comfort isn’t quite present, I suspect. I stand to be corrected around this issue but there is something profoundly fascinating and satisfying about the feel of a knitting needle in each hand and the yarn wrapped around the index finger…and having an intuitive almost innate reflex to both. I have a strong hunch that this response comes from years of knitting and the primary act of learning to knit from a trusted adult.
What is also interesting to me is the fact that I know many women who knit, work in a range of professional careers, raise families, conduct relationships, and generally live busy and active lives. So, I want to debunk right away the subtle innuendo that knitting is somehow a tad pedestrian and mundane. Women from all walks of life and ages knit (so do some men) and value the tradition of the predominately female skill that unites a sisterhood of knitters across the globe…