knitting, RANT ALERT
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stereotypes, bandwagoning #ANDknitting

If you were reading twitter on Wednesday you might have seen the appearance of hashtag ANDknitting.

This was created by Mason Dixon Knitting’s Kay Gardiner (@KayGardiner ) in response to a piece on the Guardian/Observer website entitled, Knitting and needlework: relaxing hobbies or seditious activities?

On the surface it looks like…could it be?…an article about knitting, written by a knitter regarding the practice from within the practice. No, it couldn’t be. What it was, in fact, was another lazy look at the “recent revival” in knitting and crafts. Recent? Revival? Is anyone else sick to death of the use of these words when it comes to knitting being mentioned in the media.

“Yes!” she said, upon discovering a rusty pair of needles in a dusty needle-roll in a museum vault and holding them aloft, “let’s start a knitting revival”, said no knitter. Never!

The author seems to be trying to dispel some myths about knitting, but ends up entirely ladling stereotype and cliché over a pile of yarn barf. Why, oh why, oh why does any mention of knitting HAVE to be accompanied by the association of grannies? There is even a large archive image of older women standing over the garden fence knitting, only strengthening the stereotype and image that knitting is the pastime of crones, with nothing better to do.

To add insult to injury the article continues on to state that, guess what? it is ok to be seen to be doing this thing, this “relic of women’s domestic servitude”, because Kate Moss and the Duchess of Cambridge have been seen knitting. High class and high fashion mean it is ok?  *resists urge to swear violently*

To say that this “recent interest” in knitting is due to high profile celebs taking up the practice is insulting, especially coming from someone who appears to be a knitter.  Again I say, why, oh why, oh why? Why, when there are millions of knitters out there, do journalists take the lazy and ill-informed approach  of barely scraping the surface of the thing? – interview people; look at Ravelry and its 4 million users; find your local knitting group; look how many yarn festivals, crawls and related events there are out there. Surely to goodness it is not difficult to see that knitting has been a hobby that has been enjoyed for many, many years by a diverse and varied bunch of people – all ages and both sexes – you might think that what you write is only going to be of interest to a small minority of readers, but arming yourself with a bit of research and info is a powerful thing!

Knitting doesn’t need to be revived!   Yes, there’s been a shift from occupation to recreation over the years and there are areas of the craft that one could say are on the wane. Here I mean very local traditions of knitting certain styles, where perhaps the main upholders of the style or patterns have passed on or  – like in Shetland – the decline of knitting in the younger generation as school budgets that accommodated its teaching were cut. However this does not detract from the fact that knitting never went away. It has boomed for sure, gone from strength to strength, gaining popularity and new inknitiates. While we may have seen the Kates knit in the news, perhaps it is only a recent interest for them!

I know I don’t need to tell any of this to the majority of you – but this kind of rainy day, space-filling pap really annoys me. If newspapers really want to fill space with interest in traditional crafts  – and traditional does not mean dust-covered and ancient! – then at least do a bit of legwork.

20130514-190849.jpg

look, a piece of knitting! it’s cool now, apparently!

That idea that knitting is cool now, cos trendy people do it (!) is further galling when the author makes a comment that knitting is something to do “for women who just have too much time on their hands”. Oh! and there is also the assertion that knitting is now art, nothing practical, or terribly useful – just art for lazy gals. I resist the urge to swear, but please feel free to use your own expletives here.

Another lazy omission – there is no mention of the importance and the definite rise in knitting groups  – a bunch lazy gals sitting around and knitting together  maybe doesn’t carry much interest for the author.

And the importance of thing which every knitter needs isn’t really stressed either. Oh, ok, wool and yarn are mentioned, but in reference to dusty boxes, spinning goddesses, weaving witches and Ghandi – which do you relate to more?!  How about a word on yarn from indie dyers, or any British yarn company? Revival knitters have no interest in yarn, right?

I now draw your attention to the sentence that craps over every knitter, every where, ever.

Needlecraft, it seems, is just not relevant to the reality of modern women’s lives.

Twitter knitters were incensed – some felt “stabby and crabby” –  and it was Kay who then  tweeted,

OK, just for fun and to educate @guardian : knitters tweet their other occupations with hashtag #ANDknitting

— Kay Gardiner (@KayGardiner) April 9, 2014

I urge you to read the #ANDknitting thread on twitter – although no amount of tweeting or blogging will make a difference to a newspaper who publishes lazily researched pieces, rather than something of real interest and substance – just you see how irrelevant knitting is to people’s lives.

I fonging love being part of this love-in of knitters, this tightly wound skein of like-minded individuals who, excluding that author, find that knitting and craft is not only something they do, but find it is part of them and connects them to so many.

Like I said when I reviewed Ann Hood’s excellent compilation, Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting, (on the latest podcast) knitting is about connections with others; those who taught us, those we now knit with or pass the skills onto. Knitting is learning. There are tough lessons along the way in the quest to create and perfect – not to mention the crazy maths, the decoding of instructions, the horror of realising a dropped stitch 9 rows back and the victory of managing to loop it back up through your garment to put it back on the needle!

For me knitting is something I have connections to in my family’s past, but it is also something I do for fun, for love, knitting for peace and for clarity and to push myself to learn new skills within the craft.

Norwegian designer Siren Elise Wilhelmsen’s 365 Knitting Clock

When you knit you watch the time that you spend doing it become something. There is the act of knitting and there is the creation of something – most people knit to do both, some knit to keep busy or find calm and others make a career of knitting.

There is knitting for art too (so neatly coupled with the idea of time, above), but do not for one second believe that because someone knits they are doing it to waste time or just because one has nothing better to do. (Nothing better to do is perhaps a good description of the author at the time of writing her piece on the knitting revival)

I also tweeted…

#ANDknitting people? Knitting people do not knit because celebs do. we knit to the click of our own sticks ( I am copyrighting that phrase!)

— Louise Scollay (@LouisebScollay) April 9, 2014

By that I do not simply mean that each knitter is singularly unique in their craft; we form a collective rhythm of clicking sticks. We blaze our own trails and, actually, have our own knitting inspirational figures, such as designers and those who work in the wool and knit industry promoting knitting a wool the right way! – although instead of knitting because they do, we continue to knit as we are inspired by what they bring to the craft.

From one riling, hackle-raising attempt at looking at an aspect of everyday culture to then reading #ANDknitting  – I feel even more secure in the knowledge that crafty people are the best bloody people in the world and while there will always be the uninitiated who say “hmmm, I wish I had time to sit and knit all day” or “Knitting? Like what grandma’s do?”  we will stand united, safe in the knowledge that if we really wanted to, we *could* impale them on our DPNS or throttle them with our circs, but we’ll quietly carry on, perhaps being the only ones lucky to truly know the revelations and intricacies of the knitting world we occupy.

Blogger, podcaster, library assistant, support worker, hollyoaks watcher, silly laugher #ANDknitting

13 Comments

  1. Hi, just wanted to make sure Siren Elise Wilhelmsen got proper credit for the Knitting Clock pictured above.

    • louise says

      The photo’s caption is left off!! Thanks so much for letting me know

  2. Lesley says

    I think to an extent you undermine your own argument by criticising the use of photos of “grannies”. Traditionally most would have learned to knit with their mothers and grandmothers – and what’s a more likely time for someone to drag out their needles than the news of an impending grandchild / new baby? Knitting has undergone some kind of revival in popularity, it’s much more visible in younger women’s circles, but it never went away. Ravelry and wool week and wool fest are tribute to the extra-ordinary levels of skill, craft and art around wool.

    • louise says

      My argument about the use of the grannie stereotype is that it becomes compacted through over use and then becomes the only, or strongest, image that gets trotted out when any one mentions knitting. Advertisements (Shreddies, Wonga, etc) and most images used in “reports” such as this are of old women.
      I talk about connections to others in knitting and for me it does include the fact that my granny knit and so did my grandad, and many older people do. I do not look at connections as stereotypes and don’t think it comes across like that.
      I would love to see more emphasis on the diversity of age & sex of knitters in the media but there is no getting away from the fact that grannies is a hard stereotype to budge.
      Thanks for your comment

  3. I am with you 100% and have banged on about this sort of crapola on my blog – it makes me really see red. Interestingly, I put forward a story idea to the Guardian about fibre festivals (I’m a hack, #ANDKnitting) – and was told ‘not this time – no call for it.’ Obviously I failed to mention grannies, the Duchess of Cambridge or the fact that it’s for lazy people. I think I even mentioned men (shhhh) in my pitch…

    I can think of all sorts of inventive places to put a knitting needle…

    • louise says

      That is shocking. In the wake of #ANDknitting you should submit something again. Quite right, it is crapola!

  4. Kay in New Mexico says

    Knitters know there is more to “knitters” than the stereotypes that get trotted out. We already know that there is an enormous range of people who knit and the sorts of items they produce; for example, the four-million-plus members of Ravelry alone represent pretty much the entire spectrum of humanity that is old enough to manipulate needles – and they produce a truly staggering amount and variety of knitted output.

    I don’t think newspaper or magazine writers who don’t knit will have broader horizons unless they are (or become) knitters or personally know knitters and what they are doing. We can fume in a venue like this one, but it’s rather like preaching to the converted, isn’t it?

    But… why do some knitters care so passionately what non-knitters think? Are knitters so insecure about their knitterly selves that they require the recognition of non-knitters? Louise, this is a lovely, right-on rant here for sure, and you’ve put it out for the right people – knitters. We feel good when one of our own tells us we are important and fabulous and talented and not just stereotypes. A little righteous indignation makes us feel alive! Yay, us!

    But don’t worry about getting knitting info into the Guardian or the Daily Mail or (in my case) the Albuquerque Journal. Because we have the internet now, and now we are collectively a sort of massive entity, and we can find ourselves and each other and fiber fairs and indie dyers and makers of spindles and, oh, everything.

    Remember Rose Castorini in the movie Moonstruck? “I know who I am.” That is necessary and sufficient. I know who I am.

  5. Well said. The saddest thing about the article is that the writer is supposed to be a knitter.

    I have thrown my hat into the ring on my own blog. https:knitlotion.co.uk
    to which I have linked your post.

  6. /anne... says

    I have a theory – there are two voices in that article. One, the writer who _is_ a knitter, and values craft (there are actually several positive statements in the article, for example the Gandhi quote); and the commissioning editor, who added spiteful comments like the ‘lazy woman’ paragraph.

    It wouldn’t be the first time that an editor has run roughshod over a journalist’s work – and if this is true, I’d hate to be Karen Luckhurst – she can never safely get out a credit card in a yarn shop again!

  7. Pingback: On the value of craft | Lottieknits

  8. I have been knitting since I was about 8 and blogging about knitting for the last 4 years while at the same time legal director of a national charity. I always carry knitting with me wherever I go and my most amusing moment came on my way into the House of Lords for a lobbying meeting with a group of peers. My brief case was scanned, as usual, and I had to show the amiable security guard my project bag, complete with a pair of socks in progress (magic loop fashion)

    I blogged about my ‘double life’ here http://chopkins2011.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/lawful-knitting.html

    I have to confess, however, that I retire last August and have 2 grandchildren (I hope I haven’t spoiled the image!)

    • louise says

      Hahahahah! That’s brilliant, I would have loved to have seen their faces. I will read that blog, thanks so much for commenting.

  9. Here here Louise! I too am sick of getting excited about knitting articles only to find that the author hasn’t looked into it at all. This is why I was relieved to find the latest guardian piece you contributed to and actually mentioning such things as ravelry!
    I was delighted to do a bit of light granny myth-busting at the weekend at the knit cafe I run here in Copenhagen. We were at a new cafe, and the lovely owners were very surprised to see a bunch of women under 35 getting together to knit! They thought it was great and told us that the shop owner over the road had popped by and wanted to join us too! 🙂

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