Addicted to Knitting

Archive for October 18th, 2007

Why Knit? Why knot!

By Marti Rannells

Knitting has often been looked down upon as an old ladies hobby not as something younger women and girls do. The trend to give up needlework began in the late 60s and early 70s .The Women’s Liberation movement, and easily-purchased, ready made knit items were among the top reasons knitting was put aside. During this time there were still knitters out there but knitting  wasn’t celebrated the way it is today. What is it about knitting that has seen it rise to such prevalent popularity again after numerous years of being looked down upon? To find the answer to this question I believe one is required to look at the history of knitting and compare knitters, past and present.

Knitting is believed to have been practiced for thousands of years, originating in Persia, though there is no factual evidence to prove when or where it was started or by whom. Knitting was developed into an advanced craft the by 16th century. Knitters learned their craft out of necessity, using materials available. Most knitters had there own sheep that they sheared for the wool. First, they had the task of washing the fleece, carding it and making it into roving material. Next, they spun in into usable yarn to make necessary items for living. I am amazed at these women. After all, I buy my yarn ready to use, have patterns made by other people and simply follow directions. I cannot imagine having to make up patterns for socks and hats with nothing to guide me. Yet these women did this in addition to their normal work needed for survival. There were some patterns available to the public. I recently read in an interview with Barbara Walker in Vogue Knitting that the Library of Congress has pattern books as old as the 1860’s in their archives and certainly families had patterns that were passed down but many of these were mislaid long ago.

Today knitting is one of the main craft industries. Yarn companies are on the rise .Knitting BLOGS abound on the internet. A Google search will yield me approximately 466,000 hits for a search of knitting BLOGS. Magazines, books, and stores for yarn and knitting are plentiful. I have discovered books on knitting for kids and there is a series on men who knit. Why is knitting once again so popular? Could it be that in this high tech world we live in some of our creativity has been erased and we are searching for an outlet for it?

I have always been a crafty person and have tried many venues, but I have never gotten very enthused about any of them. Most of the crafts I did were short lived and bored me after a time. I started knitting as a result of a scarf given to my daughter by my husband’s daughter Dawn. It was one of those furry fun scarves that were prevalent a few years ago. I begged Dawn to teach me how to knit all the while thinking that I would make a few scarves for gifts and that would be the end of it. I had no idea how much thought and talent goes into knitting. I was soon very bored with the scarves and anxious to try something else. A search of the internet led me to instructions and books that would teach me more than the simple knit stitch. I was a bit daunted at first when trying to learn all the terminology and stitches. Yet I persisted and very soon I had knit a simple hat. I believe the hat only promoted my desire to learn more. My persistence led me deeper into the community of knitters that prevails on the World Wide Web. I have now been knitting almost 4 years and while I have not reached the skill level that I desire, I continue to practice and hone my skills that I may reach that place where I am a skilled knitter.

I cannot write about knitting without touching on the need inside of me that is met by my knitting. Part of this is the creative process and using knowledge to make something useful, practical and beautiful. I believe it is much deeper than this. I feel a certain kinship with women of old when I am knitting. It takes me back to roots I didn’t know existed. I think of my ancestors who created knitted items as a means of survival against the elements. I picture a woman in a chair by the fire rocking and knitting. The sound of the metal needles clacking as her fingers fly as is comforting and soothing to those who listen to it. What a wonderful family life, everyone gathered together in the evening with no technological devices to mar the serenity of the scene. I am connected to this woman by the art of knitting. That woman and I are both putting a bit of ourselves into our knitting. Each stitch contains the love we feel for our craft and the person we are knitting for.

I also find it therapeutic and relaxing. I can gauge my mood by my knitting. If I am worried or concerned about something, I can leave my troubles behind. My attention is focused on the stitches and needles. I find it best to use a simple knit stitch and do nothing complicated when my life is extremely stressful with emotional issues. If I try something complicated like lace when I am under stress, it’s almost a sure thing I will later rip it out. When things are going well with me and I am well rested, I can tackle a more difficult stitch.

There are people who look askance at me when they see me knitting in public. The image of old lady knitters is still in many people’s minds. I don’t mind the looks I get. I am proud of the fact I have persevered in my craft and continue to learn. I believe the feelings of worth and satisfaction make knitting more than just a hobby. Ask any knitter and she will tell you that knitting is more to her than something she does with her hands. Knitting becomes a way of life.

October 2007