Saturday, 10 January 2009


I overheard a conversation in my male-dominated office last week that ended like this:

Male colleague 1
(directed at a female colleague who had just floored the chatting group with a single witty comment) “Why don’t you go and do some… knitting, or something.”
Male colleague 2 “Careful. That’s a bit unPC.”
Male colleague 3 “Oh please, what is she going to do? Call a lawyer?”

Although I was not involved in the ribbing and subsequent comments, my initial emotional response at overhearing the knitting comment was strangely one of quiet smugness. Rather than seeing it for the sexist insult it was intended to be, I felt somehow superior that I have this skill. And I fall plumb into the beginner category. I am by no means an accomplished knitter, sticking to scarves and, well, crocheting.

It brought to the fore the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head about the upswing in popularity of crafting, homemaking and handmade goods over the past few years. No longer are these skills considered the preserve of old-fashioned housewives, and fortunately we’re still able to learn them from our pre-bra burning era relatives.

This phenomenon is most evident in the various über cool delis springing up in cities around the world, where there are good, wholesome and homey morsels on offer. In central London, five bite-size meringues will set you back £1. And the fact that they’re a regular at the slick deli I pass on my way to and from the office indicates that they’re selling, which means that those who can’t are willing to pay top dollar to those who can. In effect, they’re paying for the skill.

Likewise, there are quite a few inner-city knitting groups and specialist wool stores owned by knowledgeable yarnmeisters in London. And I’ve read two or three articles about knitting in mainstream newspapers in the past few months – a topic that would have been laughed out of an editorial brainstorm around the turn of the century. So this skill is obviously in demand, which is why being one of the population who knows their summer tweed from their merino 4 ply leaves me feeling grateful, yes, but also rather smug.

Track of the week

Devil You Know by Pinback (Autumn of the Seraphs)


Jenny said...

Smug we should be. When I see the price of designer handknits on the fashion pages of the Sunday mags I am outraged yet delighted that I have the skill to produce items of equal quality. People who make things and make things work have long been undervalued but as you say times are changing.

serenitymeadow said...

You made me your smugness...I would have reacted the same way!!! Wish I had some little cafes to go and knit or meet up with others and chat...there doesn't seem to be any here in my neck of the woods. That's why I love blogging. Have a great weekend, Kelly.

UK lass in US said...

It seems that no matter how many articles I see on how more people are knitting these days, I still don't know anyone else who does this stuff. If it wasn't for the internet and blogs, I'd think I was the only 30-something with a collection of knitting needles and a basket ful of yarn.

Angie said...

While my knitting skills are rudimentary at best I'm glad my Nan taught me to knit. Those male colleagues sound like they need to find a good knitting group to join! I love looking at everyone's on-line knitted goodies as it inspires me to try & knit some more.

Knit and Sew City Girl said...

Hiya! My friend who works in Canary Wharf and knits like us, has been laughed at by her colleagues when she mentioned that she knits. However, her colleagues are now asking her knit them things like mobile phone/ipod cozies, hats and scarfs. I think it is a skill to be proud of.


Barbara said...

Only the wise know how to knit!

Kirsty said...

Great post - thanks for sharing your feelings about hand work (of any kind really).

Anonymous said...

Great post - love the part about people that can't are willing to pay people that can! Smugness is the proper attitude I think - people making handmade are on the "cutting edge"!! :)

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