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)