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.
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?