There has been an interesting discussion over at Historic Stitcher about knitting and the value of home making crafts. Because the Palmoa top is finished and blocking at home (yea! Even though right now I want to say I will never underestimate the power of blocking lace again, I probably will. It came out beautifully. I cant wait to get pictures to show all of you) I’ve got nothing else going on. I thought I’d tell you about how I got sucked into knitting and became curious about other traditional women’s crafts.
I always cooked. My Mom taught me the basics of cooking starting at 5 when I learned how to boil hot dogs. I liked spending time with her in the kitchen helping her make cakes or dinner. When I was very small (I’m still not tall, 5’2″, but smaller than I am not) she used to can. It always seemed like she picked the hottest day of the year to can, but I used to hang out with her in the kitchen watching her put mason jars into her pressure cooker. When I was 15, I saw a “Faces of Death” film around Halloween. At the end they showed a cow being lead to slaughter and being slaughtered. It had it’s head put in a contraption that held it still so it’s throat could be cut. It mooed pathetically. I was done with meat at that point. I eventually learned, that as a vegetarian, I couldnt live on frozen pizza, mac & cheese from a box, fish sticks, box pasta, and frozen fried rice. So, I took nutrition and got more acquainted with cooking. My Mom thinks I’ve surpassed her as a cook. I rarely make anything from a box, anytime I make cake it’s from scratch, it tastes so much better that way and it’s really not a lot of work. Hawkeye didnt realize how spoiled he was when we were together. We’re talking about a man who when I first lived with him ate only white pasta with alfredo sauce, Wonder white bread with meat and mustard, and drank only Kool-Aid and Coke. The first time I went grocery shopping he threw a fit because I refused to buy Wonder Bread. I’ve lived in my apartment for 6 years and even though it’s a studio I actually have more than a half butt kitchen. I’m so happy to have a 2 butt kitchen with counter space that I can actually work in. I’m loathe to give it up. If or when the time comes to move, I’m not taking any less than an 2 butt kitchen.
I use the butt system to measure kitchens. The butt system depends on how many butts can fit in the kitchen and work together comfortably. Right now, my kitchen fits 2 small butts or my small butt and one larger butt comfortably. There may be some dosey-doeing involved in cooking together, but it can and has been done.
About 3 or so years ago I decided to give myself something for Christmas. I wanted to teach myself something and decided on crochet. I tried to get into it, but it didnt work all that well for me. I didnt like that there seemed to be some ambiguity on where to stick the hook or put the stitch. While I could whip out a hat in a couple of hours, make scarves, and once made a pair of bunny slippers for my boyfriend (he said we were like bunnies, how could I resist. It made him laugh which was all I was hoping for) it wasnt working for me. One of the girls I worked with was an avid knitter. I watched her make socks and thought there was no way I would ever be able to do it. How could she keep track of all those sticks? Besides, I was a liberated woman and knitting was waaaay tooo girly for me. Only grannies knit.
Jessica was a contradiction to the type of girl I thought knit. She had been a Marine. She was a feminist, a strong woman with her own mind and opinions. She could knit, sew, crochet, quilt, card, embroider, weave, and a few other things I’m sure I’m leaving out. She had 4 kids, 3 boys and a girl. She was camping when she went into labour with one of her kids and was upset that she had to leave. She tried to convince the nurse to let her come back after she had given birth, but the nurse was having none of it. After I watched her for several months, I got more and more curious and thought I’d give knitting a go. (this was all about 2 1/2 years ago) Another girl I worked with tried to teach me to knit but she was left handed (I’m right handed) and it didnt work out too well. The first thing Jessica asked me was how I held my yarn comfortably. I showed her and the first thing she said was “You knit Eastern style” At this point I knew nothing about gage and thought I’d give knee socks a go as my first project. It didnt work out. Somewhere I have that first sock. It’s buriedin my stash, at the bottom. It would have fit a 4 year old girl and somehow I managed to knit it inside out. I knew even less about yarn and needles. Once I had gone long enough without knitting I forgot how to purl. I made some hats and scarves and got more of a handle on what I was doing. It took a while before I decided I liked knitting, that it was calming and could be engrossing. But, like with cooking, I liked the fact that I could make something out of nothing. Hawkeye watched me knit last summer and was fascinated. He says I’ve been bitten by Spider Woman, that knitting is making order out of chaos. He’ll be here in late July/August and is getting a new pair of socks. Knitting makes me feel more self sufficient, it makes me feel like I’m less of a consumer in this consumer culture we live in. I’m excited to be able to wear my new top tomorrow because I made it with my own two hands, it’s pretty, and it’s something I’ll get lots of use out of instead of throwing it away because it wore out quickly. Yes, I bought the yarn, but the shop is 4 blocks from where I live and I like the people there. I enjoy supporting them, especially in the economic times we find ourselves in. I feel spoiled by the fact that they’re right there and because my job pays me enough that I can afford to buy yarn. My last job paid me enough to pay my bills, buy groceries and my bus pass, with little left over. I never knew when I first picked up needles that I would learn new things. Something for a later post, is that the Palmoa top taught me a lot about how I knit and how to interpret and translate knitting patterns so I can knit them successfully. Before I started, I thought knitting was incredibly simple and that you’d have to be pretty dense to enjoy it. That was before I met Jessica, next to Donna, she’s one of the cleverest girls I’ve ever met. And, now that I’ve read some knitting blogs, these girls are a whole hell of a lot more clever than I ever would have thought before I started knitting. I know that in 2 1/2 years of knitting, I’ve just barely scratched the surface of all knitting can teach me. But that’s part of it’s charm and intrigue. Knitting has a lot more to teach me and I like learning. Sure, there is something to be said about endless rounds of stockinette stitches in a sweater and I’m trying to learn how to read and knit at the same time (much easier with stockinette than with lace), I’m discovering the beauty of lace and the magic of blocking lace. I like that knitting (at least imho) is very practical and durable.
Knitting has also taught me that it’s not for wishy-washy girls with no brains of their own. Knitting and other traditional women’s crafts are for liberated women. I can make my own sweater and I can make it in any colour and any way I want. How liberating is that? How liberating is it to not be dependant on a department store with labels that say “Made in China” How liberating is it to find a community of so many different yet wonderful people in knitting.
I feel much the same way about gardening. I love it that I can grow some of my own food. I live in a city and dont have a space at my apartment to plant a garden in the ground, so I use pots. Still, I can grow just about anything I want. It started last summer with 2 tomatoes and some flowers as an experiment. It’s a learning process. I’m learning how to prune my tomatoes and how to use human and bug friendly pesticide. I just got some Spinosad because I found thrips on my tomatoes and the broccoli was being decimated by cabbage loopers. Yes, gardening takes attention and care (so does cooking and knitting) I’m firmly convinced that the amount of care that goes into gardening is represented in the plants you grow and if you grow veggies, it’s represented in the taste. Because I’m hoping for an abundance of tomatoes and beans, I’m hoping to learn pickling and maybe canning as a way to preserve for winter. I think it’d be pretty darn cool to grab a can of my own home grown tomatoes in the winter for tomato sauce rather than go up to the store to buy it. Even if I dont can, I can always blanch and freeze which will preserve for winter.
With knitting, I’ve learned that I like to be able to make my own clothes. I’m going to try to overcome my very bad middle school sewing experiences and have Donna teach me to sew. It’d be nice to have shirts, pants, and skirts that fit well rather than mostly fit.
In our culture, or at least in American culture, our economy is dependant on consumer spending to make it go. Our economy is so dependant on consumer spending (instead of making things) that it makes up 70% of our economy. I dont think that a way we can continue to live. There is a constant message of buy, buy, buy, consume, consume, consume. It seems to me like there is a constant message to buy the next big thing, to buy thneeneds just because someone puts out an ad saying you need it and there is something wrong with you if you dont have it. There are so many people I work with who say they cant cook. I may be biased, but I think cooking is an essential part of good health. I dont need a thneed just be someone wants to sell me one and that doesnt mean there is anything wrong with me, or anyone else. Dont get me wrong, I enjoy convenience just as much an anyone. A little more than a week ago I went to Sears and bought a nice new fan for my apartment. Yes, I did have one, but I got rid of it because it wasnt very effective. The grocery store is less than 2 blocks from where I live which does come in handy when I run out of something. Thursday I was making strawberry-rhubarb crisp and ran out of brown sugar. The store has a good deli and if I dont feel like cooking or making anything (super busy day at work, several restless nights, bad headache, bad cramps, etc) I do like the convenience of hopping up there and grabbing something for dinner.
I think, in a way, that’s where feminism also failed. Imho, Feminism taught women that the only way to be liberated was to be in the corporate world, to be in the office. That was the one and only way to lead a fulfilling and equal life. To choose to be at home and raise a kid, to enjoy sewing, knitting, and other home crafts, meant there was something wrong with you and you werent sufficiently liberated. That you were being oppressed and didnt know it or wouldnt acknowledge it. The choice though, that is what is liberating. The ability to choose. You can be a girl and choose to have the corporate job, come home, knit, take care of your garden and kids. You can be a girl and choose to stay at home with your children and find a fulfilling life raising your children. You can be the girl with the corporate job who likes to work on cars, hang drywall, and sew. You can be the woman in the hijab who likes to do plumbing and electrical work. That’s what is liberating, the ability to choose and not to have a certain way of life forced upon you. Granted, we’re not there yet and have a ways to go. But, eventually, we could get there. Here in the US, more and more women do realize they have that choice.