I had a eureka moment recently.
It started with me turning on tv for the first time in months and what just happened to be on the screen? A glamorous Amanda Seyfried talking knitting with Ellen DeGeneres. I was struck by the way it was being discussed as you would discuss any other kind of hobby, like fishing, golf, cooking, gardening. No one said “Oh, I’ve heard knitting is hip”…..
Thankfully, the USA seems to have gotten over that phase. Knitting just IS. Popular. Empowering. Acknowledged. Main stream. Phew.
When I moved down here to NZ in 2007 I was disappointed by the negative attitudes to knitting. Sure, it was popular in some quarters, but much less so than in the USA. This puzzled me, because worldwide, New Zealand is known as the land of sheep, and I knew that there were knitters hiding in plain sight. Whenever someone exclaims that knitting is popular I sigh and wish that it were universally true. In my knitting classes I’ve met women who are laughed at and teased by their co-workers because they knit. Comments like “oh you’re such a granny” are common. The derision comes not so much from men, but from other women.
I think about this a lot. Why I knit. Why others don’t. Why some who know how to knit choose not to, or make fun of those of us who do.
Recently a thoughtful woman asked me about my dedication to knitting. She told me that she never learned to knit because her mother was a bra-burning feminist who was determined to discard the shackles of domesticity that her own mother had felt burdened by.
This was my epiphany.
My mum always had a job. She needed to earn money. Her weekends were spent doing all the domestic things she loved, that she didn’t have time for during her working week. She sewed, knitted, gardened, cooked, raised chickens. I realized that to her, domesticity was a luxury and an escape from the drudgery of, yes, work! She passed that feeling to me and my sister, and we never felt the need to toss off her apron strings. We’ve both had careers, but we didn’t discard the wonderful creative hobbies of our mother. Why would we when we saw what pleasure our Mum derived from them?
Here she is in our kitchen in Christchurch, probably on a Saturday, curlers in her hair, looking happy to be at home and in her element.
My Mum worked until she retired at 65. Much of her working life was during the 50s and 60s when it was unfashionable for women to work in much the same way it’s now unfashionable not to. Retirement was a thrill for her. She thrived on spending every day being productive at home.
I thank her for giving me her work ethic and a love of making things.
Here she is with my father, wearing her favourite blue and white crocheted dress. She was emancipated in another way too: her naturally black hair started turning grey when she was in her 20s, and she never dyed it, except for a blue tint in the 60s. Credit must be given to my Dad, who encouraged her to keep her natural colour every time she felt the pressure to dye it.