One good thing about not having to write a dissertation any more is that I can read non research-related things without remorse. Another good thing is that I can knit – almost – without remorse. Unfortunately, for now, I’m not that good at doing the two simultaneously. Nevertheless, I figured that since I cannot knit while I read, at least I can read about knitting…
Taking things to a more serious ground, I’ve been curious for a while to have a closer look at some of the much acclaimed books about knitting. Luckily I’ve found that the Wellington City Library as quite a good collection of them. After some nagging Chan recovered his long lost library card, and hence I came into temporary possession of the legendary Stitch’n bitch: The knitter’s handbook by Debbie Stoller – among other volumes.
To be honest, a late-comer to the knitting revival, and completely ignorant of knitting history and knitting culture, I was quite sceptical – I mean stitch’n bitch, seriously? And that lady with the cowboy hat on the cover?! But with this book topping a list called Must-have knitting books on Goodreads, there should be something about it, right? As I soon learnt the title in fact makes more sense than it might seem at first sight… As it appears, the use of the term stitch’n bitch to refer to social knitting groups goes back to World War II.
What about the book itself? After a quick read through, I think I have two main thoughts to share: Firstly, I wish somebody had pointed me to this book when I first picked up the knitting needles a few years ago. Secondly, I’m really glad to have read the introductory chapter talking about the craft of knitting and women.
I don’t know about you, but I often experience that with so much information and so many options out there, it is quite difficult to find just what you need. And this is not only true for knitting. I remember that when I set out on my adult knitting venture a little less than two years ago, I would learn from family and friends who were only slightly more experienced, and try to look up information about materials and techniques online. These latter efforts were sometimes time consuming and weren’t lacking in dead ends. Often I would find out later that there was a better way of doing something, even things I hadn’t expected to involve any special technique. However embarrassing it sounds, I’d never heard of weaving in yarn ends or seaming techniques… so I’d just “invent” my own solutions, only to find out much later and accidentally, that well… that wasn’t the best thing to do.
I guess one can avoid these problems if there is a knitting class available and more a striving knitting community around. But I had no idea even about how to find these, if they were at all around at the time. So this is why now I wish a Stitch’n bitch volume had miraculously appeared on my door step back then. It all would have been much easier.
The book provides easy to read explanations of everything a beginning knitter wants to know. From choice of material and tools, basic cast on techniques and stitches, to shaping and finishing techniques, as well as correcting knitting errors and the basics of colour knitting. And not only that, being a modern knitting companion, it also speaks about contemporary knitting groups, the online knitting community and resources for knitters, be it personal blogs, web pages, Ravelry, knitting books and magazines. Just reading through all this made me realize how much I’d learnt from here and there on my own account.
The other point I mentioned above relates to something I have always thought of as more of a personal struggle of mine. I love knitting and I love crafting things with my own hands in general, but I often feel discouraged when realizing how long it actually takes. I cannot avoid thinking that there certainly are more productive / useful / acceptable ways of spending my time. Plus knitting has this stigma of not only being incredibly time consuming, but also something older women / housewives are supposed to do. The words of a good and much looked-up-on friend of mine often resound in my head: “Why waste time and energy on something that can be more efficiently done by technology?” And note that this particular (and I cannot emphasize enough: much loved and appreciated) friend is a hobby endurance athlete, dedicating hours on hours to training.
But then Debbie puts it right. Knitting – and other “women’s” crafts – are, of course, a tradition to be continued. And – most importantly – they are hobbies that are objectively not less cool than woodcarving or playing sports commonly associated with men. It just somehow so happened that in the midst of the feminist movement chores traditionally done by women – including knitting – came to be looked down on, while in actual fact they are things that should be treasured and done with pride. This is an idea to hold on to in my opinion.