Do special occasions bring family together, or does family getting together make occasions special? I think the answer is probably a combination of both of these. Even gatherings which may have a sad focal point, like funerals, can still turn into really special family occasions. Remembering the past together can strengthen our sense of identity and belonging.
I was lucky enough to be part of a very special family occasion recently, so have been thinking again about the importance of family. My husband and I have our birthdays just over three weeks apart, and this year we both turned sixty. Our lovely daughters did a great job of organising a surprise party for us. We had no idea what was going on and it was wonderful to catch up with so many family members, plus a few special friends, so unexpectedly.
I have mentioned on my “About Me” page that we have four adult children and five grandchildren. It was lovely to have all the grandchildren together for a couple of days, getting to know each other a bit better. The two families live quite a distance apart, and travel between the two locations can be a bit difficult and expensive. The five grandchildren got on really well and shared some very memorable times.
The girls had managed to get our younger son and his partner over from Melbourne without us knowing, and my husband’s brother over from Brisbane. Unfortunately our older son was not able to join us as he is still on “The Longest Walk NZ”, but he did manage to talk with us on the phone during the party. I am the oldest of five siblings, and it was great to have everyone together for the first time in a long time. I have always wondered what it would be like to have a surprise party and it was GREAT!
Our families are such an integral part of who we are. Whether we come from really good families (which I am lucky enough to have done), or not so good families, the things we experience growing up help shape the people we become. Special family occasions bring groups of people together who share a common history and knowledge of background which people outside the family can never fully understand. This creates unique bonds between them.
I really value family and special family occasions. I feel truly blessed to have grown up in the family I did, and to now be able to watch my wonderful children and grandchildren living their own unique lives. I hope that you are as blessed as I am.
This day and age knitting has a definite gender bent. We tend to think of it as a “granny” hobby done only by little old ladies rocking in wooden chairs. Maybe we think of young pregnant women waiting for the little bundle of joy to arrive. We never even consider a man to be a likely candidate to pick up knitting needles. Yet, this is by its very nature a sexist attitude. Could it be that as a society we’ve decided what a grown man can or cannot to just because we think it’s too feminine?
1.) Men deserve to relax too!
The truth is knitting is not just a pastime you engage in to simply throw together a pair of mittens. Let’s face it: buying them is quicker, easier, and cheaper! Knitting is not as much about the final product as it is about the process. It is almost meditative, a soothing, repetitive motion that has a similar effect on a person as the gentle rocking motion of a swing has on a small infant. The “click, click” sound the needles make are reminiscent of rain pattering on the roof at night. The whole experience makes a person feel cozy and relaxed.
2.) Creativity is NOT limited to women.
Men typically have a very good spatial sense. That stands them in good stead with this type of hobby. Like chess, certain knitting patterns require thinking rows ahead. Obviously, women can do this and have been for generations. Men can do it, too. It’s possible that because men often think in a logical and linear fashion, some of these knitting patterns may actually make more sense to them than to women. Now, don’t misunderstand, that doesn’t mean men are necessarily better than women at this, just that they may have an advantage that makes knitting just as likely a hobby for men as it is for women.
3.) Men actually started this whole knitting thing to begin with.
It’s really true! In the 1500’s it was men who handled the knitting and the passing on of the tradition. There were rigorous tests and requirements for young men hoping to knit for a living. They had to be able to make several different types of articles at a high rate of speed with a certain level of quality before they were allowed to be considered knitting masters. The only reason that knitting ceased to be a tradition taught and apprenticed in such a manner was because a man invented the knitting machine in the late 1500’s. It took a while, but once the machines caught on and clothes were made more easily, faster, and cheaper, hand-knitting became more of a tradition or hobby than a necessity. It then was passed to the women who began to use knitting as a way to train for manual dexterity and industry, a classic way to not be idle.
4.) Constructive idleness can be a great alternative to simply “vegging out”.
A person can be knitting and still be resting. If you are watching a movie or television you can still be working on a project and take advantage of that otherwise idle time. When one stops to consider the tremendous amount of time our society spends doing nothing more than watching television it’s actually quite staggering. You could convert that time into something useful like a garment, rug, dishcloth or some other item. There are organizations that like to have hand-knit items for the people they are helping. One good example is the cancer support groups that help provide hats for chemotherapy patients. If you could master a simple hat pattern, you could learn to practically do it in your sleep and provide something useful and beautiful for someone in need. (See “Handcrafting to Support Charities“)
5.) Delayed gratification and patience are stretched and strengthened with knitting.
Chances are it will take several days working consistently to produce a project, and “several days” would actually only apply to a small project. A larger project, say a sweater for example, may actually take weeks or months. Knitting is not something you do to get quick results. It’s something done with the idea of creating something beautiful to keep for a long time, a treasure. Some people like gifts, some people like quality time, some people like someone to do things for them. Knitting does all three.
The fact is, these are all good reasons to knit for both men and women. It’s a nice idea that a man can put off that normal societal pressure and take up such a useful, relaxing hobby as knitting. Women never abandoned the craft even though it really is so much easier to buy garments already made. Maybe there is simply a part of us that needs to keep that tradition, that love of something personally made. Knitting can certainly help fulfill a need in us to keep connected and do things that are special and unique for one another. Embracing the fine art of knitting is to embrace a classic piece of our heritage, and one that is worthy of our attention and dedication. Maybe it is time for women AND men to begin to knit.
JJ Vazquez is a primary contributor and editor for the blog located at the Begin to Knit website. She is also CEO of the Vazquez Group, a business dedicated to education and cultural advancement. Visit Begin to Knit to receive “Purls of Wisdom”, the site newsletter.
If you’ve never looked into the history of baby clothes and knitting it’s really terribly interesting. For example, many women took up knitting after the Stock Market crash in the 1930s. It made sense at the time. A few ounces of wool could keep somebody knitting for weeks at a time when most folks could not afford much in the way of entertainment. Knitting your family’s clothes, including baby clothes, was a wonderful way to save money. Throughout the thirties, as interest in knitting grew, so did the number of patterns. Manufacturers created patterns for every skill level with more diversity in style and technique than ever before.
During the 1940s knitting baby clothes became even more popular. When the war broke out in England, millions of women started knitting for the soldiers and for refugees. They also did even more knitting for themselves and their children. This was the era when, because of wool rationing and chemical shortages, women sometimes chose to unravel old sweaters and reuse the yarn. Because of the shortage of rubber, rubber diaper covers for babies became hard to come by therefore women started knitting wool soakers to help keep things dry.
By the late forties countless ladies had learned to knit and now that the war was over they turned their energies to knitting for their families. Rationing was at an end and supplies were readily available. Now that the men were home there was a “baby boom” and baby knitting was very popular.
Near the end of the 1950s, though, the popularity of knitting started to take a downturn, blamed largely on television. Ladies were more interested in watching their TV shows and could not stay focused on the knitting task at hand. This is when bulkier yarns and larger needles were introduced in an attempt to make knitting quick and easy but, sadly, knitting was being left behind.
Over the years ladies continued to knit as a pastime or hobby, not because they needed to to save money. Patterns became even easier and yarns became more fanciful and knitting for babies still remained a popular pastime. Women began knitting baby hats and blankets to donate to hospitals, and mittens and scarves to donate to orphanages. (See also, “Handcrafting to Support Charities” and “Octopuses (Octopi?) For Premature Babies“.) Little neighborhood knitting guilds started popping up here and there.
There have always been enough women interested in knitting to keep it alive and countless individuals are once more adopting this well-liked activity. This time men have joined in too, and children are taking up knitting and creating their own distinctive works of art.
Now, knitting clubs can be found everywhere – your neighborhood, your church, even online, and the patterns that you can find at no cost are unbelievable. There are so many free patterns online that you’d never be able to knit them all. “Ravelry” has been mentioned before on this site. Another site you could look at is “Baby Knitting Patterns”
With the introduction of knitting factories, knitting began to be done as a commercial business, rather than as a personal hobby. This happened when knitted fabrics became more popular and the demand for items became too much for local knitters to supply. In a knitting factory, knitting is taken to serious levels. With the recent rediscovery of knitting as a hobby, a music club has opened called “The Knitting Factory.”
Some of the knitting factories located in China and other countries are so large that they employ over 1000 people each. Foshan Huilin and Ningbo Tianyu are some of the largest knitting factories in China, and they produce the bulk of knitted materials for the United States. In these factories, the knitting machines knit fabrics not only for the items traditionally seen in knitting pattern styles, such as sweaters and hats, but also many other items that someone would not normally think of as having been knitted.
Some of these items are polo shirts, towels, fleece and many others. Of course, in a sense, nearly every fabric can be considered a knit fabric, because each fabric starts out as thread, such as cotton yarn, cotton wool, merino wool, sock yarn or wool blend and which has to be woven together to make a cloth.
Although a traditional knit fabric is a little different that a woven one. The knitting factories also cover areas such as dying and finishing the materials.
The knitting factory began during the Renaissance, with the introduction of mass produced metals. This made it easier to make knitting needles, and so knitting became more popular. The first knitters had knitting guilds, and there were no females allowed. Only men were allowed to join the knitting guilds.
However, when the knitting machine was invented, it eliminated the need for knitting guilds. This is when knitting became a job for women as well, because someone still had to knit the trickier knitting pattern styles that the machines couldn’t handle and the women learned the fancier art of knitting. By the Victorian era, knitting was almost entirely a female occupation. Nearly every woman knew how to knit in some fashion; however, the richer females considered knitting a rather vulgar pastime.
The Victorian knitting machine was usually run by women and children, as were many factories in that period of time. There are still a great number of knitting factories today, but most are located in other countries, with China having the most of any country.
Knitting is a fascinating and interesting subject. The history of the knitting factory shows that while the practice of knitting has changed over the years, it still is a necessary part of our day to day lives. Imagine where the world would be if there were no knitted fabrics. There would be almost nothing to wear! This makes a knitter one of the most important people to have in a civilized nation.
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Although the earliest known samples of knitting date from the 11th century AD, it is thought to have originated long before this. Examples of single needle knitting have been found from as early as 300BC.
According to Wikipedia:
“Knitting is the process of using two or more needles to loop yarn into a series of interconnected loops in order to create a finished garment or some other type of fabric. The word is derived from knot, thought to originate from the Dutch verb knutten, which is similar to the Old English cnyttan, to knot”.
It is thought that knitting spread from the Middle East to Europe along the Mediterranean trade routes. In the 13th century AD Spanish Royal Christian families employed highly skilled Muslim knitters to make garments and household accessories.
Fashions in Elizabethan times created a high demand for fitted stockings. A very important home-based industry grew up in Britain to meet this demand, and the fine woollen stockings were also exported to countries including Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. The advent of various knitting machines led to a decline in hand knitting as an industry. It began to grow as a hobby instead.
The popularity of hand knitting has risen and fallen several times throughout history, largely influenced by social and political conditions. The First World War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War all created a need for people to return to hand knitting garments.
Fashion trends during the 1920s and the 1950s and 60s raised the popularity of knitwear as fashion items. However, the introduction of clothing such as track suits and sweat shirts as alternatives to woollen garments, led to a sharp decline in the hand knitting market.
The good news is that the 21st century has seen a renewed interest in handcrafts and creative hobbies in general. Today there is a huge range and variety of yarns and patterns available, and the internet allows people around the world to connect and share patterns, tips, and ideas.
If you would like to read about the history of knitting please check out these Wikipedia articles.