“This is not your grandmother’s knitting” is a phrase usually used to evoke the image of knitting as a newly revived craft. There’s even a cute Etsy shop by this name which currently carries knit pokeballs and bow ties. It’s usually intended as a craft-positive, creativity positive idea. Yet, for me, those good intentions are overshadowed by negativity – towards women, towards aging, towards grandmotherhood and (by implication) motherhood. I know the speaker means well, but…
To me, the phrase conjures images of ‘your grandmother’, a weak little old lady who was surrounded by fussy bric-a-brack who knit scratchy sweaters which you were embarrassed to wear in public, but you did so out of a sense of duty and forced gratitude. It sort of sounds like Mrs. Weasley and her her sweaters. Sweaters which Harry Potter was the only one sensible to appreciate as labors of love and beauty.
My own grandmother was a little old lady, sweet and salty and a little bit fussy, occasionally confused, surrounded by bric-a-brack. She not only knit me very trendy sweaters (she’s been gone since the late 1980’s so they are very dated now) but she also knit me two freakin’ Doctor Who scarves. TWO. Because I was an ungrateful brat and didn’t like the color scheme on the first one. Show me one of your chic, trendy knitters who is as badass as that, and I’ll show you a lady who has more class than to diss Grandma!
To me the phrase evokes the picture of a woman who is very loving, and constantly making things, but somehow lacks any humor or playfulness. Loving, but not fully living. Such a grandmother would faint at the sight of a bag shaped like a vulva or venture into anatomically correct crafting of any sort. My own mother (who has been a grandmother for over 20 years now, so she counts) designed, sewed and embroidered a gorgeous female torso which she used to display in her living room.
My grandmother also did a lot of other crafting. Here’s a beautiful, vibrant granny square afghan which, in this picture, is helping my cat keep me warm. She also used to ‘do pottery’, which means she used to glaze bisque pieces and send them off to be fired. In the ’70’s this seemed to be a ‘fussy old lady thing’, now there are apparently shops devoted to it.
There are two major ways in which I think my knitting differs from grandma’s. First: she was more skilled at it. Secondly, I’m much more of a yarn snob. Part of the second might be due to the fact that it was harder to get good yarn back then. She opted for inexpensive, washable yarn for just about everything she did, which, given that it was the ’70’s and ’80’s, was often the ‘crunchy’ acrylic stuff. After 30 some years of washing it has softened up a lot without pilling or fading. So maybe she was right about that (but I’m going to keep on going as I have been).
I’m in no rush to become a grandmother myself, but I expect it’s going to happen sometime in the next ten to fifteen years. When it happens I really hope to carry on crafting as my grandmother did – to make things I thing my grandchildren will enjoy, and to do my best to take on large projects for whatever they want, whether or not I get the pop culture references.
I’d be proud to carry on that tradition. If it’s not your grandmother’s knitting, then let me know what is (or was) and how it’s different.
Blog Contests and Yarn Giveaways
I’ve entered a drawing for a skein of Delicious Yarns Sweet Sport at Crochet Ever After (2/28) as well as one for a Lion Brand yarn tote and Pelt yarn at All Free Knitting (3/1)