A Timeless Pursuit? Feminism and ‘traditional’ Crafts

‘How can you enjoy baking and knitting so much if you’re a feminist?’ this, sadly, is something I hear far too often. And for me, the answer is very simple; it has everything and sometimes, nothing to do with feminism. I just really enjoy it.

It would be foolish to negate the latent symbolism behind such
activities: the 1950’s housewife diligently baking and knitting
clothes for the kids whilst her husband, the breadwinner and man of the house, is out earning money…but times have changed.

I would be reticent to claim that feminism has ‘reclaimed’ knitting
and baking from such eras in time when women were expected to do little else. However, whether women actually want to do these things or not is the key to the whole debate. It is about choice. That’s the key issue at the heart of the feminist movement in my opinion. Like to knit? Carry on knitting! Like to bake cakes? Keep on baking, girl! You’re not hurting anyone and you’re developing transferable skills in the process (and in this current economic climate, a diverse range of transferable skills is a must-have).

Women should not be made to feel guilty about enjoying ‘traditional’ crafts such as sewing, embroidery, knitting and baking. Like most social pastimes, these crafts have changed beyond their initial remit. Knitting isn’t about making booties for the kids anymore (though, if you wanted to do that, I’d say good for you; it’s cheaper to knit them for a start…), it’s about creative expression and exploring the boundaries of a craft that had been used to keep women in their place; in the home. And that, my friends, is what women have been denied for so long; a chance to express themselves.

Women are constant innovators in this respect. After WW2 due the lack of wool, women used to unpick garments they’d already made and redesign them to follow whatever style was en vogue. Women were called upon throughout the war to capitalise upon their knowledge of basic crafts to provide garments for soldiers fighting on the front, such as balaclavas, gloves, socks, etc.

Crafts such as knitting and embroidery offer so much in the way of
variety in these modern times. You don’t need any real technical
knowledge of either of these activities to sit down and have a go. The internet has revolutionised crafting in this respect; I learnt to knit from videos posted on YouTube. Yet I believe knitting is as relevant as it ever was; it has merely become more accessible to the masses. Apparently, knitting clubs in schools have really taken off, according to The Guardian. Good, I say! I want to hear those needles clacking together!

Knitting, like feminism, is about making a statement about the things you believe in. Or not as the case may be; it really is such a lovely way to pass the time. Yarn-bombing, guerrilla knitting, creating pieces of subversive art, knitting nonsensical things to decorate your home with or knitting a pair of socks for your mum; it certainly isn’t limiting and it certainly isn’t boring. Just like feminism, I would venture to say. You make it your own and in my opinion, it is a timeless pursuit that is constantly changing.

Some interesting websites:

http://www.sublimestitching.com

http://nannadknits.blogspot.com/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theguardian/therebelknittersguide/therebelknittersguide

http://www.knittingpatterncentral.com/directory.php

Written by Kat Williams. Kat is a knitter, feminist, bookworm, lover of tea and horror novels. Co-founder of SFN, she can also be found blogging here: http://booksandting.wordpress.com/.

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