Posts from the Yarnologue

“Little Old Ladies,” my eye!

Yesterday I saw a headline for an online news outlet that read, “Knitting Isn’t Just for Grandmas.” I felt that same momentary flash of rage you just felt. Then I managed to calm down.

Part of me is sympathetic to the person who wrote the headline. I worked at both a weekly newspaper and a monthly magazine so I know how hard it can be to write an interesting headline.

But they couldn’t come up with something more interesting? And there aren’t any knitters or crocheters on staff who could have helped them out?

The two publications where I was on staff were both rather small, and there were still several knitters and crocheters among my coworkers.

This annoying transgression isn’t limited to that one outlet. Society in general has the annoying, and narrow minded, habit of pegging knitting and crocheting as activities for “little old ladies” despite the efforts of yarn lovers of all ages to correct it.

little old ladies

Our crafts aren’t boring!

But, really, what’s wrong with a little (or big!), old lady sitting in a comfy chair stitching a beautiful, and useful, item? After spending decades working hard to care for her family, possibly working outside the home, and folding all that laundry, doesn’t she deserve to take some time to relax?

Unfortunately, knitting and crocheting, along with the little old lady stereotype, have become shorthand for implying you could be doing something “more interesting.” As knitters and crocheters, we know our crafts are not in the least boring (although they are relaxing). They are also long-term pursuits compared to some other activities.

For instance, my husband and I enjoy hiking, but I have to image that at some point we won’t physically be able to climb mountains. At least, not really big ones. I will, however, continue to knit into my golden years.

So if our respected elders can’t go on a hike, or dancing at a nightclub, would people prefer they just to stare off into space? Suddenly knitting and crocheting don’t look so bad.

Our crafts are open to all!

“Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.”
Elizabeth Zimmermann, Knitting Without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All Sizes

My other issue with the “little old lady” phrase is that it’s so limiting.

Knitting and crocheting are cross-generational! They are not limited by age, gender, race, or political affiliations. Anyone who puts their minds to it can learn knit and crochet.

People are overlooking the fact that those little old ladies who knit were once young ladies who knit. These crafts are skills that are honed through years of practice. You don’t wake up one day knowing how to knit an Aran sweater.

Someone who has never touched a crochet hook doesn’t wake up on their 68th birthday and realize they are eligible for Social Security and suddenly know the difference between a HDC and DC. They might, however, wake up suddenly wanting to learn.

And that is one of the beautiful things about knitting and crocheting: you can learn at any age. It’s not like a yarn store owner is going to refuse to give you lesson because you don’t have an AARP card and grey hair.

My maternal grandmother taught me to crochet when I was very young and my mother-in-law taught me to knit when I was in my 20s. I, in turn, taught my nephew to knit when he was 10.

Our crafts are passed from one person to another, from one generation to the next.

It’s impossible for them to belong to one generation or gender. As long as we continue to teach the younger generations our crafts will remain vibrant.

It’s also important to keep knitting and crocheting in public. We will change their perception by wearing them down!

How does the “little old lady knitting” stereotype make you feel? What do you do to combat it?


Posted in: miscellaneous

12 thoughts on ““Little Old Ladies,” my eye!

  1. Ruth says:

    I learned how to knit first when I was about 12. I promptly forgot all I learned because it wasn’t “cool.” Now here I am almost 20 years later kicking myself because of all the years I wasted not working on my craft. I am very thankful that a few years ago I was introduced to a great lady, about my age, who is an amazing knitter! And I have, in the 2 years since, made amazing progress! I am shortly to start on my first sweater project (after Christmas, so I don’t feel rushed by the holidays!). And it delights me that my soon to be 4 year old daughter wants to learn how to knit was well!

  2. Cindy Vogel says:

    I love this blog topic. The stereotype that only “grandmothers” knit is undeserved. First of all, I’ve bee a knitter before I even entered school. Second, my experience has proven that the older you get the less some people can do these crafts. Eye sight starts to weaken and often times we are cursed with arthritis and such. I plan on doing all my artistic creations until I’m gone and since I don’t have children I guess I’ll never fit the stereotype. Oh well.

  3. Sebrina Bishop says:

    I am not little or a grandma or an old lady and I love to knit, dance, read, and sew. I grew up wanting to do these things not because I had a grandmother who taught me or an elderly aunt or anything like that.
    I saw a vogue magazine and a Glamour magazine and I could not possibly
    afford to own some of the amazing pieces of clothing in those mags
    unless I made them for much less. Today I teach myself all
    those little abbreviations because I can’t stand not having
    a closet full of wonderfulness. I want to look like a
    Vogue model even if I don’t have the money.
    To all those that must know. Fashion was my fixation for learning to sew, knit and crochet.
    Love the blog keep up the good work.

    • Ann says:

      The garments your create are probably better than what you’d buy in a store because they’ll be custom fit AND in colors you prefer!

  4. Pat Smith-Major says:

    WHY when someone describes a negative “a little old lady” is used OR “it is so easy my grandmother can do it” I will NEVER buy a product advertised that way!!!

  5. KAREN CARR says:

    I started teaching myself how to knit at the age of 11 and I say “teach myself” because my mom was left handed and I right handed, and she only knew how to crochet…..so…..I was left on my own to learn the art. I find people (men included) that love to knit and crochet are very creative and love creating something useful. I am always amazed with each new stitch I learn and each new project that turns out beautiful!!…..I sell some items but love giving some items as gifts or donations to cancer patients and the needy……..so what can one do to help someone who needs a hat or sweater or a blanket and feel a since of pride and accomplishment if they can’t knit, crochet or sew? Sure one can go to the store and BUY an item but the sacrifice comes in the time put into the item that is given….not the money spent!! I am thrilled to hear young women and girls say that they really want to learn the craft…..my children’s first blankets were made by my own hands……..I gave those blankets to my children to use for their children. They can become heirlooms also!! So Knit on Ladies and hold your needles and hooks high. Stay creative!!

  6. KAREN CARR says:

    I also wanted to add that I am a grandmother and my granddaughter loves everything I make for her and protects those items as if they were precious jewels. I pray she has the desire to learn to knit and crochet also.

  7. gail says:

    I was fortunate to be raised by a mother who knew how to sew and knit, even if she viewed it more as a necessity in raising four children on one income. Nevertheless,I developed a love for both. My aunt(her sister) was a master craftsman when it came to knitting who was willing to help me whenever I needed it, from high school, when I knitted my first sweater, until she died many years later. It never occurred to me to care whether or not it was cool or not because I was hopelessly hooked on that KMart yarn, and to this day, I’m usually happier with needles in my hands.

  8. Ruth says:

    I taught myself to knit by reading an old Sear’s Teach yourself to Knit book. I am the oldest of seven and there was not a lot of money around for “entertainment” so we all learned to entertain ourselves and now with a stress filled life I am THRILLED I have many crafts – all self taught – to calm me at the end of the day. And as I tell my husband I am not drinking or having another self-destructive habit/hobby!

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