Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Theoretical Aspects of Knitting (and other weird stuff)

Thank you for your wonderful comments. While I haven’t yet sold my children into slavery, I have toyed with the idea of plonking them out by the roadside with a 20 dollar note attached in the hope some passer by will claim them.

The afternoon tea was a non-starter as both littlies developed various yucky illnesses – the boy had gastro and the girl a fever – we’ll do afternoon tea next week. That’s the problem with having birthdays in winter – it tends to laughs in the time of cholera, or plague or possibly flu. The latest flu scare is a little worrying – with strong and healthy people dying of flu.

I’ve had flu – in fact I used to welcome a decent dose of the flu in winter – not only did you get to spend a couple of days in bed or convalescing in a big armchair drinking cups of tea and knitting, but you could usually count on losing 5 kilos with absolutely no effort – I used to think of it as the no fuss winter weight loss program.

As you can tell, I haven’t had the flu for years (that’s my excuse for the Junoesque figure) and, let’s face it, being sick certainly lost it gloss when children came along. When I was young, being sick meant a day or so in bed, a pile of magazines, tinned tomato soup (a treat in our house) flat lemonade, crackers and mother’s soothing hands on my forehead.

Apart from a short spell at uni with a gay flatmate who gave me similar care, being sick hasn’t been as much fun since! But even after that, the prospect of a few days off from work and schlepping around the house, or lying on the sofa had its own appeal. Once you have children, forget about restful illness.

I look back rather wistfully on my time in hospital – daughter was a difficult pregnancy and I was on first name terms with the staff on the women’s and children’s ward after several admissions. I spent 2 weeks in their care trying not to have a baby (it worked until 34 weeks) and I thoroughly enjoyed it – people brought me meals, cups of tea and made my bed. I was fussed over and for 3 weeks or so I didn’t have to do the washing, ironing or washing up. As I look back, it was a holiday.

The second pregnancy only had one week in after the C-section, but even that was a pleasant break. I can see why my grandmother (who had 5 children) loved the 3 weeks in hospital that each new baby brought in those days. I remember her saying that ‘People brought me cups of tea!’- an unaccustomed treat for her. These days of course, it’s 3 days in hospital for a natural birth and five for a C-sec. Unless you’re a private patient – then you get a week for a C-section.

Had a lovely morning at Community Knitting yesterday. The same group from the first one, and a nice gossip. I got through 2 more of Taph’s beanies in around 3 and ½ hours – and the interesting thing was – all these ladies of a certain age – mainly in their 60s or so, and they were fascinated by my socks (I was wearing Spidey’s rainbow socks – heels re-knitted last week and had taken my sock knitting bag because it has my paraphernalia – scissors, darning needles etc- and one completed turtle walk sock). And when I cast on for the beanie using a twisted German cast-on, five of them clustered around for a lesson.

It struck me that these women had been knitting all their lives – for themselves and their families, for charities and presents, but they had never set out to learn more about knitting. They are all wonderful knitters, they can fair isle and cable, a couple have done intarsia. Most (I’m envious) can crochet, but they cast on and off one way. They knit but they don’t set out to extend their skills or learn the history of knitting. I’ve been vaguely obsessive for just over a year. I know and use 8 different ways to cast on, knit all sorts of stuff, know about the history and techniques.

This isn’t to say I’m an expert – or even a good knitter – I’m not on my learner’s licence, but I’m probably on my ‘P’ plates. I have aspirations. I am interested. I want to learn lots more about my chosen craft. I want to understand it.

One of the ladies said she couldn’t teach her left handed daughter to knit. I asked if she would be better learning the continental method. They all looked at me as if I were from Mars. I explained that the left hand did all the work, demonstrated (badly- I’m not good at the continental method) and suggested that some people fairisle this way, because they can have the colours in different hands. They still looked at me very oddly.

These are really good knitters. They make beautiful objects. Most of them have been knitting for longer than I’ve been alive. And I have more technical – and theoretical - knowledge than them. To say I was gobsmacked was putting it mildly!

So thank you to all of you – all you bloggers who support me and keep me interested and obsessive. Who discuss the technical and theoretical aspects of our chosen craft. Who encourage me to extend my skills and KAL and try the new. Who provide beautiful pictures of WIPS which make me slaver with covetousness. Who provide advice and encouragement and funny and smart comments. Who make me laugh as I vicariously join you in your lives. This WIPs for you.


Georgie said...

What an interesting post - I think perhaps a lot of the differences in knitting generations goes to why we knit. In this "day and age", for you and I, knitting is a hobby, a craft, worthy of learning and extending skills, and we do it becasue we love several or many aspects of it, and we do it for enjoyment, not utility. For older generations, it was something women did to stretch the family budget, along with sewing their own clothes, preserving their own food, etc - part of the "housewifes skills". Knitting toys, socks (the war-tiem effort for soldiers), jumpers, hats - all because it was a thrifty way of running the house. My great-gran unpiacked jumpers as they were grown out of and knittind new ones. Let's face it, when it costs upwards of $80 to knit husby a decent jumper, its much easier and cheaper to go to the local department store and buy one. Fashions, and expectations of clothing has changed too. Knitting is now much more a craft (many people make it an art, which I admire greatly) than a domestic task; garments and toys are much more disposable and cheaply avaiable too.

But how wonderful, in an ironic kind of way, to be passing skills up the generational ladder! As for 8 differnet cast-ons - I bow down to your knowledge!

Hope everyone in your house is on the mend!

Bells said...

Well Georgie kinda went and said it all! I know my mum shakes her head at me like I'm weird when I talk about the new things I'm learning. I wonder if to some women in older generations we sound like we're know it alls? I do sometimes think that's what my mum thinks of me, but really, I'm just excited about new skills and excited to share my new findings (new to me, not others, obviously).

You're not selling motherhood to me! You mean have to give up my sick days watching Jane Austen adaptations on the couch with my knitting and a box of tissues?

Jejune said...

Lovely post - very interesting and insightful comments on older-era knitters - it's quite true, now I come to think of it! Quite a different approach to the whole thing - we're leaping and jumping at every new thing, learning new techniques, trying new fibres, new patterns, new needles, using the 'net, interacting locally and globally... My mum and nanna knit because they had to, to clothe their kids and themselves. Maybe they already had good groups of women friends, and didn't need to search for the sort of support that I've needed and found, anyway.

And I can only laugh, bitterly, about the sick days. Even 18 years ago I only had 3 days in hospital after a caesarian... as for someone else looking after me? A week in hospital a few years ago because of eye problems was WONDERFUL (despite the awful procedures). When I'm sick the rest of the family does NOTHING. So I get to 'come back' to a filthy kitchen, dirty clothes, messy living room... you know what I mean!

MadMad said...

What a great post (I, being a lame-o, would have split it in two, thus giving myself two whole blogging days off. But you, I see are a better person, and we the better for it. But I think your comments will be long.) I, too, miss the hospital. It's sad - I've said it before, maybe even here, that I even fantasize about prison. I don't need people bringing me tea, just leaving me the hell alone once in awhile. Wouldn't it be nice to just sit? Think they'd let you knit?

And yes, it's fascinating about the knitting differences, isn't it? Do you think it's because we have the internet and have better access to "choices" and lessons that we can do more, or do you think it's because they see it as housework versus an art/craft? Very, very interesting.