Almost a meme but not quite

G'day all!

I've been doing a lot of ravelling recently. Probably too much. Anyway, in the Yarnthropology group we were asked:
Tell us your story of how you learned to knit/crochet/spin?
Was it part of your culture/history?
How will you pass along your knowledge?
Why do you do what you do?
What would you like to see as the future of your craft?

Given it is an older topic and possibly of interest to my readers, all half dozen of you ;-), I thought I would write up a reply here rather than on Ravelry.

Tell us your story of how you learned to knit/crochet/spin?

I learned to knit when I was mebbe 10. I'm not too sure when, but I know I had knitted myself a jumper (sweater) by the time I was 11 or so. Mum taught me, Western style. I learned how to do that slow way - stick the needle into the stitch, wrap the yarn by taking your hand off the needle, pull the new stitch through. I think Mum was surprised by me being able to pick it up at all - I was a very unco child and lefthanded to boot. My first jumper was in Cleckheaton Country, then a thick and thin 12 ply (chunky) yarn, in white and blue. All wool I believe. Mum chose the yarn cos it would hide the wonky tension. It had cables. Nothing like starting with something easy! I wore it so much that the elbows wore out and then I grew too big for it. I presume it went to the big rubbish bin in the sky.

I later taught myself the "lever" technique, copying Mum's way of knitting. It was MUCH faster and my tension was better after I worked out the best way for me to tension yarn (wrapped around my right pinky finger). I think I just copycatted what Mum did. I'll have to look and see how my sisters knit cos both of them can. By the time I was in my late teens, I was experimenting with knitting backwards, knitting one row right handed and one left handed (no purling, not that purling was an issue to me anyway) but came back to doing things "normally." I then knitted some pretty amazing 80s knits and one early 90s one, if I say so myself.

Crocheting never caught on with me. Mum could only show me how to do it right handed and I just did not grok it. Anyway, my next up sister was the crocheter. It was only last year that I worked out why I couldn't figure out how to crochet. I was wrapping the yarn around the hook in the wrong direction for a leftie. So now I can crochet, and I basically taught myself out of the Happy Hooker.

Spinning was something I picked up nearly 5 (!!) years ago. I bought a spindle to ply up some machine knitting yarn I had bought. Then I tried a little spinning of top by copying pics of stuff online and in books. Oh dear! Another obsession was born. Thanks to Catherine, you know who you are, for showing me how I could draft finer yarn. I will not say I am the best spinner out there by any means but what I spin is certainly usable and that is what really counts in my book.

Was it part of your culture/history?

Mum always was crafty - she knitted, sewed, embroidered, crocheted, made heaps of stuff for the school fete, made costumes for me (and my sisters).... I wish I had the pic of me in my variegated purple Villawool handknitted by Mum jumper and purple cords standing in the middle of the wisteria (I can still remember insisting on putting those clothes on and having a photo taken cos the wisteria was so pretty!). Mum got the craft gene off her Aunty May (or should it be Mae?). Granma had no craft gene at all it seems. Mum made a lot of her stuff and nearly all her dresses were handmade. Only when my brother and sisters got married did she get a new dress. She hadn't bought dresses for herself in years. For years after she died, I'd see material and think Mum would've liked that, oh dang, no point buying it for her. The Old Man was also crafty - he was a panel beater, a craftsman, and also liked woodworking. I have no idea what his parents were like - they died before he met Mum. I also don't know if his brothers and sisters were crafty cos most of them pegged it before I noticed. One of my sisters reports that one of my aunts used to knit but Mum had to help her a lot. One family of cousins are crafty. What it boils down to is in my family at least, it was considered normal to be making stuff and to watch the telly and knit or sew at the same time.

How will you pass along your knowledge?
Oh gosh, I can only guess through this blog. I help people out at the LYS but I am an abominable teacher. I think I am starting with the basics but apparently I just confuse people. Pity cos I like passing along stuff that I know. Knowledge is power and I am happy to share what I know even if it is to my detriment.

Why do you do what you do?
Another interesting question. I tend to fidget a lot if I don't have something crafty to do. I was not allowed to knit or doodle or whatever in meetings and whathaveyou (I usually volunteered to take minutes as a result) so if I was not writing notes I'd be playing with my security pass, twirling round and round and round the leather string I had put it on (the metal one annoyed me with its noise). Idle hands and all that. Knitting keeps the fidget at bay. It also seems to help me be more social (or sociable). I'm actually pretty shy and a natural introvert, so knitting is a good way to ease my way into something. (People at my LYS would laugh at this but I'm ok with the group at the table so I can be noisy and outgoing, but dump me in a group of strangers and I'll be hiding in the corner.)

Playing with fibre, whether knitting, spinning, dyeing or felting, satisfies some need in me to make stuff. I love colour and playing with colour. I love watching colours change in yarn, whether it be whilst I am spinning, dyeing it or knitting it. It is very tactile, touching stuff, making things of beauty or at the very least usefulness. Then there is the "peer pressure" side of it too, such as when everyone is making a Feb Lady Sweater (which is on my queue and which I anticipate making out of my own handdyed handspun yarn, so I had better get a wriggle on with that!). I like to pretend that I don't want compliments or attention for what I've knitted but really, I love it when people say that looks pretty or great on you, etc etc.

I think it comes down to being happiest/calmest/most content when I am making/creating. Some people need to organise, some people need to be boss, some people need to be followers, I need to make. Making and being out in nature are probably my two greatest joys.

What would you like to see as the future of your craft?

Argh, stop asking me tough questions! I would like to think that the arts of knitting and spinning (and crocheting) won't die like it nearly did in the 90s. I think there is enough info out there on the web and in books, now, that it would be hard for it to become irrelevant and unnoticed. There are so many people with so much knowledge that they are sharing - the way knitting has changed in the last 10 years is amazing. This is not your nanna's knitting at all! Where will it go? Well people are pushing the boundaries every day. Ravelry is a tremendous resource. The various crafting mags have online presences that help disseminate info and love of craft. It would be great if more blokes got into it but it has to be attractive to them. How it can become so I don't know but cultural stuff may play a role - it's not "masculine" to like "women's work" such as knitting and needlework but blokes can be just as good as women can.

In other news, my sister's fingerless mitts are nearly done. I have one thumb and the ends to do. Unlike in this pic.

Because I am juvenile

And I bought a very amusingly shaped butternut pumpkin (squash to Americans). Which I promptly stuck a fingerless mitt onto. Not often you get to see an amusingly shaped pumpkin wearing cashmere!



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. It is always interesting to hear how people got started in the craft. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Now THAT is one heckuva butternut squash!! The ones in my veg cupboard are nowhere near as exciting :-D I'm having some for my dinner tonight, yum.

    Interesting read about your craft "roots"!


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