I have knitted since I was six. I am a knitting granny. I predate the women’s movement which is still fighting for equality in education, jobs, pay, social value etc. here and in the rest of the world.I never stopped knitting. OK. I actually stopped to go out to work, housekeep, have babies and so on, but you know what I mean. I knit on busses, in the staffroom, on planes (in the days when there was room to wield a needle) just the way I breastfed babies in all those places too. Part of life.
This book, Knitting for Good, surprised me with its author’s explanation that knitting had been seen as not appropriate for a woman who wanted to be taken seriously, and that she (Betsy Greer) had come to it only after being released into exploring her crafty side by Riot Grrls. Well, whatever, she discovered it, which is good!
I discovered it because in my youth it was the way we got clothes: in the war, people unravelled old garments and re-used the wool to knit something else, as coupons were needed during rationing to buy any clothes. They also sewed too, of course, but I didn’t take to sewing as much. Even after rationing, it was much cheaper to use wool or material from the market and make your own clothes than to buy ready made. Clothes were expensive comparatively in those days, and my mum had six growing kids. Home made, hand-me-downs and rummage sales were staples. Now clothes are cheap – and part of the book takes on the consumer society where our compulsive buying is possible only because of exploitation of cheap labour elsewhere: look at your clothes’ labels!
So the author wants us to be liberated AND creative, well dressed AND socially responsible. Sounds good to me. There are chapters on knitting for yourself and for others, knitting for charity, and knitting for political expression too!
One of my favourite groups is mentioned, afghans for Afghans, which delivers (in creative ways because of the war) garments hand knit for children in Afghanistan who are often displaced, homeless, cold, in an extreme climate. Clothes must be wool for warmth even when wet, and follow certain criteria to be worn, especially by girls, in a Moslem country with strong social expectations. It is one of the tragedies of that war that Afghanistan is home to some of the world’s best expert knitting, with exquisite designs in fine wool as part of a folk tradition.
Not mentioned, because it is a new project, though one that would fit well into her chapter about knitting as non-threatening political statement, is the Wool against Weapons project, which is planning to unroll a seven mile long pink scarf between Burghfield and Aldermaston next August 16.
Also not mentioned, a book, which I have not blogged because I read it years ago and use it constantly, Knitting into the Mystery. I read knitting patterns for fun (it takes all sorts, right?) and don’t blog them, but this book is one simple pattern AND a caring and meditative book about practical prayer. How often we say “You are in my prayers” with more or less attempt to fold the person in the love of God: most of my friends don’t ask God to fix things much, because that doesn’t seem to be the way God works. The knitting of a prayer shawl is a concrete (well, woolly,) way to pray for someone and fold that person in love and warmth in times of need or rejoicing, not that differently from the sweater that wraps a cold Afghani child in the knowledge that some individual wants well for them and cares.
Knitting stops me fidgeting.
Knitting stops me snacking (sometimes!)
Knitting tells people I care.
Knitting is prayer and meditation.