Knitting & Crocheting

A post on Teresa’s blog about crochet and the stereotype that it is just something old ladies do got me thinking.

Why do people think that only old ladies knit or crochet? 

Misinformation, a perceived inability to learn the craft, or envy?

I suppose it depends on the person.  I learned to knit at the age of 12, I was in 6th grade.  I had wanted to learn to knit since about 3rd grade.  The catholic school I attended was located next to a convent and catholic college.  The college had as one of it’s majors, elementary education.  So our school benefitted from lots of student teachers helping in the classroom.  What does this have to do with learning to knit?  Hang in there, I’m getting to that.

The college, in order to split the school year into equal parts (or some other strange reason known only to them), had a policy of “January term”.  This was a time, the whole month of January, that the students would use to learn a new thing or use for travel.  Our school then lost much of it’s student teacher population and the now harried staff decided that one hour each day should be used to teach us something that was not part of the regular curriculum.  See, it’s coming together now isn’t it.

Yes, that was how I learned to knit.  But it wasn’t easy.  In 3rd grade, I was too young for the knitting class.  It was only open to 4th-6th grade students.  So I learned German that year.  I can still count to ten and say my ABC’s, yes & no, and thank you in that language.  Not much retention I admit but I was only 9 years old and haven’t had reason to practice much in the 37 years since.

In 4th grade, I put knitting down as my first choice, something for my second (although what it was has been obscurred by time and irrelevance), and hairpin lace as my third choice.  Our school also had a policy that the order of selection to a class would switch each year in a show of fairness.  That year, the 1st grade got to pick their classes first and knitting was opened up to 3rd grade students.  I was placed in hairpin lace.  Yes, I still know how to crochet hairpin lace.  However due to the ridicule from the student teacher, I didn’t practice that as much as I might have, but I can still create the long strips and attach them to make afghans, shawls, etc.  Someday I’ll search out the more intricate patterns and make something that isn’t rectangular in shape.  🙂

In 5th grade, I again put knitting down as my first choice, something obscured for my second, and square dancing as my third.  This year, the 6th grade got to choose first and I was relegated to learn square dancing.  Yes, I probably could still turn out a decent Virginia reel, but not with much enthusiasm.  You see, I was so set on learning to knit and none, absolutely none, of my relatives knew how to knit or crochet and therefore I had to learn at school if I was to learn at all.  And I was very determined to learn.

So in 6th grade, my final opportunity to learn and the 1st grade’s turn to again choose first so my chances were not good, I put knitting down as my first choice.  And my second choice, and my third choice.  I handed my paper to my teacher.  My teacher brought the paper back to me in homeroom one of the following days.  He told me, in front of the class, that I would have to change two of my selections since they could not all be the same.  I told him that I didn’t want another class.  That was too bad, he said, but I would still have to make two other selections.  At this point I was both frantic and furious.  I said that I would make the selections but that if I was placed anywhere but knitting, I would not participate in the other class.  My teacher was shocked.  You see I was a very shy child who never spoke unless called on so this was quite a radical departure from the placid, meek child he had taught for the whole first semester.

Nevertheless, I was determined.  I rapidly answered his statement that I should learn at home with the information that I had noone at home to teach me.  I also stated that I had received my third choice every year since third grade and that didn’t seem fair to me at all.  I stated that the system of switching which grade began selection was also unfair since 6th grade was the last chance any of us had of getting a class that we really wanted and why couldn’t we have our first choice since the other grades had at least one more year to get theirs.  The rest of my class sat in mute amazement that I (of all people) would argue with a teacher.  But I had.

The teacher didn’t seem too impressed with my disobedience because he told me to erase two and make other selections.  That was when I told him that he could make me change my classes but he could not make me participate in them and that “I would sit like a bump on a log” if I didn’t get to learn how to knit.

I guess he had a chat with the principal about me and perhaps about the system and it’s fairness as well because it was announced the next day that a change was being made.  When our class got their notices as to which class they would have at J-term that year, we all got our first choices.  And I not only learned to knit, I got a smile from my teacher.  That was definitely not what he was doing as I argued with him in front of the class.  I was glad that he was not angry and I was overjoyed that I would finally be able to learn something that I had wanted so badly to learn.

I still knit today, 34 years later, and I taught myself to crochet when I was 20 and pregnant with my oldest.  I didn’t think there would be enough time to knit her a blanket and so I taught myself to crochet and made a baby blanket for her out of lacey granny squares.  I think the poor blanket was relegated to a bottom shelf in the closet, in dire need of repairs but I’m pretty sure it’s around somewhere.

There hasn’t always been a load of free time to practice my knitting or crocheting over the years.  Still, I do them when I can and make baby blankets or sweaters, hats, booties for the new arrivals in the extended family and beyond. 

And BooBoo’s monk’s robe is now done to the armpits and I have started the first sleeve.  My calculations were a bit off for the sleeve the first time but that is fixed now and a nice wide sleeve has about 3 inches finished length so far.  I figure I’ll need about 17-18 inches, so it’s just a beginning but I know it will go more quickly than the body did simply because there are so fewer stitches needing to be worked.  Hopefully time will allow the posting of some pictures soon.

Don’t let the stereotypes get you down.  Carry on with your knitting, crocheting or whatever other “little old lady” craft you enjoy.  The people around you will be blessed by your creations and you will spread joy in the world.

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