The modern knitter

I still feel a little embarrassed to admit that I’m a knitter sometimes. I know I shouldn’t, but certainly here in the UK there is still very much a feeling that knitting is for grannies and I’ve only once dared to knit in public (whilst I was waiting for my appointment at the fracture clinic after I broke my leg) and that only lasted about 10 minutes or so.

Last Saturday the Guardian newspaper published The Rebel Knitter’s Guide, a feature about the renaissance of knitting, accompanied by several patterns for small knitting projects.

Now I can’t say that I would want to knit any of the accompanying patterns myself. There was a variety of projects – easy patterns for beginners and more advanced projects for improving knitters. I suppose that some people might be encouraged to learn to knit and want to try one of them, but they were a bit too twee for me (such as a banana cozy which looked decidedly dodgy!) and wouldn’t have inspired me to pick up some needles. But we all have different tastes, so I’ll let them pass.

The main thrust of the feature article was about how knitting has “been reclaimed for the modern woman”, how over the past 7 or 8 years, knitting has started to become cool.  Groups of knitters meet in cafes to knit and chat, yarn shops are vibrant and trendy places to hang out and how knitting has a new “edge” to it.

The author interviewed a knitter called Mazz, who recently got into trouble with the BBC because she designed and distributed knitting patterns for Dr Who characters. The BBC took exception to this – copyright issues I guess – and Mazz received quite a lot of attention in both the knitting and non-knitting world because of it.  The author labels her a “rebel” knitter and continues to expand on the rebellious side that modern knitters seem to have.

I don’t think that “rebel” is quite the right word, but I guess the author wanted to put a different slant on her article and I certainly agree that knitting today is certainly “edgier”.  Fair-isle or cable jumpers are still popular but a lot of knitwear designers are successfully bringing the traditional techniques into modern and trendy garments.

Knitting is appearing in the press elsewhere too. The BBC Green website also has an article about how it is cool to knit and how knitting can be environmentally friendly and last year the Daily Mail ran a piece about knitting with plastic bags. Very topical at the moment, where we’re all encouraged to do our bit for looking after the environment. There’s also the celebrity angle – it’s been much publicised that Julia Roberts, Madonna and even Russell Crowe are knitters.

But despite all this, I still hesitate to admit I’m a knitter, because I’m worried about people taking the mickey. Will features in the media like this, help to change people’s attitude towards knitting? Will they help it to be seen as fairly normal hobby, like painting or photography? I hope so. There’s certainly a push by today’s knitters to prove that knitting doesn’t have to be just about grannies knitting hideous jumpers for their grandchildren, that it can be fun, relaxing, satisfying, environmentally friendly or a even way to make a political statement.

However it doesn’t help when you get adverts like the recent Shreddies advert which shows grannies knitting the shreddies and I think that this is indicative that most people still think of it as old fashioned.

It seems that in the US, crafting, quilting and knitting are a lot more popular, particularly amongst younger people – is that true? Perhaps my US readers could comment on that?


3 thoughts on “The modern knitter

  1. It hasn’t stopped my son knitting, or from doing it in public-we were sat waiting for a train at Sheffield station and he got his out and carried on when we go on the train.

  2. I’ve just started to learn to knit and I love knitting in pubic. On the tube, in the hairdressers, waiting rooms, on the bus and even at a cricket match – I’m a serial public knitter. And each time, lovely people have approached me to share their knitting stories or to offer advice. It’s a real ice breaker and for some reason makes you seem approachable. It’s a bit like walking down the street with a cute puppy or new baby – people want to come and talk to you. I think everyone should try it!

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