I have been tardy with my goal of a weekly post but we were away this bank holiday weekend. Currently knee deep in post holiday washing but will be sharing a free pattern that is SUPER quick to whip up as soon as I have some spare time (as well as gushingness about our lovely weekend away in lovely little Sallyvan!)
Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to inspire a lot of people to learn to crochet. They have either seen my crochet projects and felt motivated to learn or have asked me to teach them. It is so rewarding to see someone else falling in love with it all, have them message me pics of yarn stashes, their works in progress and talk about how much they love it. It can add another dimension to your friendship and gives you something else in common you can share.
One of my friends recently took up the hook and is learning to crochet. She tells me she has found it really relaxing. I was really chuffed. She posted on Facebook about her crochet and received a comment along the lines of “crochet? How old *are* you?”
I managed to bite my tongue but what I really wanted to say was “DOES IT MATTER?????”
What is this image of crochet (and quite often knitting too) as something just done by little old ladies in rocking chairs? Now I am pretty sure all the little old ladies (and maybe some big ones, lets not be sizeist) didn’t reach the age of 70 and suddenly pick up a hook and start crocheting. These women have probably been crocheting most of their lives, many will have learned as children, possibly at school or from their own mothers. They will have spent a lifetime making things for their children and grandchildren, their home, for gifts, for charity and so on.
Just to bust another stereotype of this being a female ‘thing’ my Nan tells me my Dad was taught to knit by his Dad because Nan knits “european style” (that is yarn in your left hand if you a right-handed, more like crocheters hold it).
If you read my earlier blog entry about my journey into crochet you will know I learned it as a child from my Nan on my mother’s side of the family. I didn’t instantly transform into some twee old lady on contact with a yarn and crochet hook, I’ve a life as a normal-ish teenager, a young mum and now a thirty something who is only just starting to look my age and sport some laughter lines.
So what IS this stereotype all about? Why is yarn craft seen as something ‘for old people’?
I follow lots of popular crocheters via social media and blogs, I subscribe to Simply Crochet magazine and almost all of the people I am reading articles about or reading columns, blogs or patterns by, are between the ages of 20 and 50 hardly what anyone would consider elderly at all. They seem like fun, trendy vibrant women with busy lives, huge amounts of originality and creativity and flair. Some of these women actually make yarn crafts their entire living by designing, blogging, teaching. These are definitely NOT octogenarians tucked up under a blanket in a rocking chair making lace doilies (not that I have anything against lace doilies, I actually rather like them) whilst waiting for God. Octogenarians are not all frail old ladies of a stereotype either, my nan is in her mid eighties now and very much an active busy person and hopefully with a lot of mileage left on the clock 😉
So, I am left pondering, when exactly did crochet (and other yarny things) become something only old ladies do, supposedly?
I have my theories, as I always do, and I can’t help but feel yet again this has a lot to do with the lack of value for handmade things. We live in a throwaway world, you buy cheap stuff and when you get bored you chuck it out and buy more cheap stuff to replace it. Stuff is cheap because it is mass-produced. No one want’s to spend weeks or months (or years!) making something they can just buy a mass-produced version of. They see making stuff by hand rather than just buying it as something belonging in the past, obsolete, no longer necessary.
There has been a change in what children learn too, so much time is spent being academic, cramming for exams and the like, that practical skills and crafts have become second rate subjects. In my short lifetime I have seen ‘home economics’ become ‘food technology’ the name change I guess an attempt to turn it into something scientific sounding from something far more practical sounding? I might be wrong, I often am and I am willing to be educated. It does feel like what once were essential and useful skills like knowing how to cook and bake properly, how to sew, how to knit/crochet are now seen as just ‘hobbies’ and indulgences for your spare time. It has been interesting watching some of these skills become ‘fashionable’ The Great British Bake Off has younger generations feeling trendy in a pinny rolling out pastry and its started becoming cool to sew thanks to the popularity of Cath Kidston-esque goods. It seems though when it comes to yarn it’s still very much tied up in its Old Ladies image.
Personally I don’t even care about what others people think, I crochet on the bus, in the park, on the train, on break times at work and I’ve got varying reactions. Some are fascinated, some come out of the yarny closet and tell you they love to knit/crochet but a lot tell you their granny does it, some eye you like you’ve pulled something dangerous from your bag and others snigger. My favourite reaction yet is the child of about 6 years old on the train who just sat there transfixed, eyes wide in wonder like I was performing some kind of witch craft. I guess it probably did look like sorcery seeing a hat appear right before his very eyes like that.
See basically I don’t care if people think crocheting makes me an old lady, I know there is this whole amazing fun crochet community out there keeping alive a skill that could easily be forgotten with the passing of our grandparents generation if it wasn’t for newer generations getting hooked and passing it on too.
What I do care about is people being made to feel bad about crocheting by people who think its just for old folk. Firstly I love old people and I don’t think its nice to use being old as some kind of insult and secondly I don’t want to see potential crocheters being put off by the ignorant comments of others.
I love my connection to my Grandparents through yarn just as much as I loved sitting on a bench in the garden yesterday with my 16 year old daughter as we both sat sewing in the yarn tails on our As We Go blankets. We aren’t just making blankets, hats, scarves and the like. We are making memories, real tangible physical ones that will exist long after my Nan has gone and I am gone. Crochet items are like leaving little stories about yourself and love notes to people you care about. What’s so unfashionable about that?
Well that’s my thoughts about it anyway.