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Much Too Young to Act this Old

September 18, 2012

I was going to tell you all about my recent trip to Washington, D.C. I was going to tell you all about my sightseeing adventures and the fun that I had. That was what I was going to do but now I am too worked up over something to do that.

Yesterday afternoon I found myself in another waiting room. This time it was the dentist’s office waiting for my son to get some filings. (As a side note, do a better job of brushing your darned teeth child! This is getting ridiculous!) As I do when I am stuck in a waiting room, I knit. This time it was a sock and I was at the beginning, sloughing through the 1×1 ribbing on the cuff. I love to watch people in waiting rooms while I knit. It is a never ending stream of amusement. Today man and his daughter came in for their appointments. He was a very friendly fellow, a little older than I, cracking jokes with the receptionist, while his daughter, a teenager with jet black dyed hair, took a seat, got out her chemistry book and start on her homework, all while ignoring her dad. I am quite familiar with these actions, being the mother of a 12 yr old girl. Since she wasn’t interested talking, he moved on to me.

He noticed my knitting and remarked that I must have just started the project. Since I was knitting the ribbing of a cuff down sock, that was a good assumption. He then told me about his grandmother and how she used to spend all of her time making those multi colored “flowery” things. She would have piles of them, he told me. Then she and her friends, all “old ladies”, would all get together and make them into blankets. I told him that it sounded like she crocheted and that she was making the classic granny square blankets. It was a lost cause to explain the differences of knitting and crochet to him, and besides, he seemed like a pleasant enough fellow. Until he said this: “You seem much too young to be doing that.”

I have spent the last 24 hours trying to let it go. I am fully aware it was just an offhanded comment from someone who had never met me before. He didn’t know me, didn’t know what I was like and was only equating knitting with his own experiences. Easy to let go of and move on, right?

Except that I can’t.

I know, I shouldn’t take exception at being told I was too young, whatever the reason for it. This was different. Upon seeing that I was a knitter, which is immediately lumped into the category of “grandmotherly”, I felt like I had been told I didn’t fit in. For goodness sake, I have an 18 yr old son. Biologically speaking, he could, in fact, make me a grandmother. (If he does anytime soon, I might kill him. Please, please, please, use common sense my child.) Why does knitting have to have the reputation of being a grandmotherly activity?

I am a wife, a mother to 3 highly active children and I work full time. I also travel, can handle a compound miter saw with the best of them, have been known to shoot tequila, cuss like a sailor, run, cross country ski, hike, create stained glass, swim, dance on tables, play quarters, cheer my boys on at hockey games and a whole heck of a lot more. I generally don’t have much of a filter and often times say exactly what I am thinking, the consequences be damned. I don’t have a neat, orderly house but do have an extensive collection of boots. On the best of days our family operates on a level just short of chaos. In short, not your typical grandmotherly type.

According to the Craft Yarn Council, today’s average knitter is far from the grandmotherly type as well.

“For the third consecutive year, CYC conducted its research online in late fall of 2011. The sheer volume of respondents substantiates trends in consumers’ perception of these crafts and their motivation to purchase yarn. All regions of the country were represented and the data is projectable to all online knitters and crocheters. Sixty-three percentage of respondents said they both knit and crochet, while 23% said they only crochet and 14% they only knit. The age range of respondents also represents a broad cross section: 18% were 18-34 years old, 19% were 35 to 44, 29% were 45 to 54, 26 % 55 to 64, 8% 65+.”

The CYC also estimates that there are over 38 million knitters in the US.  The online website Ravelry has over 2 million registered members.  Keep in mind, these numbers only represent the crafters who have the technological skills and access to go online.  That’s a lot of younger, tech savvy knitters.

I live in the greater Twin Cities metro area.  According to the state census, the population of this seven county area is small compared to a lot of urban areas, but still stands at 2,873,444 in 2011.   A quick survey of the yarn shops listed by the Minnesota Knitter’s Guild shows 23 yarns shops just in those seven counties.  That number doesn’t include the big box stores such as JoAnn Fabrics, Michaels Arts and Crafts and Walmart, all of which sell a lot of different yarns, nor do they include many shops who aren’t listed with the Minnesota Knitter’s guild, or any of the independent dyers, spinners, or farms in the area that also sell yarn.  Knitting and crocheting seem to be popular activities, fully capable of supporting many small businesses.

The people who I know and meet that knit are as wide and diverse as you can get.  There are my high school friends who knit and crochet, a past board president of a large non profit who fully understands not only my project polygamy but also my need for stash, teen age girls, my mother in law and her friends, cousins much younger than I.  My co-worker, who is 10+ years younger than me, is knitting several pairs of fingerless mitts for her future sister in law’s bridesmaids.  I have taught girls from my daughter’s girl scout troop to knit and now my 10 yr old son’s best friend can rock a mean knit stitch.  While I was in Washington DC a couple of weeks ago, browsing a yarn store (souvenir yarn of course) I chatted with a woman in her early 20s who was in town for a girls’ weekend/bachelorette party.  Her friends hadn’t yet arrived so she was hanging out in a yarn shop she had never been to, talking to the other knitters around the table, both women and men, whom she had just met, while knitting on a shawl.   If you do even the quickest of Google searches regarding knitting blogs or podcasts, your results will be as diverse as you can get.  Young, old, male, female, they are all represented.

Why did that one little comment get me so riled up?  I know who I am and I am quite comfortable with her.  I have no fear of knitting anywhere, anytime, with anyone.   I knit in waiting rooms, on planes, at hockey games, on subways, at the pool, in restaurants, it doesn’t bother me at all to get the odd look or question from someone as to what I am doing.   Except when I hear the sterotype of what a typical knitter should be.  That gets me angry.   I am white, female and in the middle class.  I don’t often get sterotyped, except when I am knitting.  I am not old enough to be a grandmother so why on earth would I be doing a grandmotherly thing?   Frankly, the grandmothers I know don’t fit into the “grandmother” persona either, knitting or non knitting.  They are out kayaking, traveling to France and hiking the Superior National Hiking Trail.  They also drink wine with me at the fire, will drive for an hour and a half to visit a yarn shop and can cross country ski and bike me into the ground.

I should be happy someone thought I was “too young.”  I’m not.  I am only “too young” in connection to his preconceived notion of knitting grandmothers.   Knitters come in all ages, shapes and sizes.  We are as varied as the projects we make.  We may have a little too much yarn and spend a lot of time playing with it, but we are also armed with pointy sticks.  Don’t mess with us or project your sterotypes onto us.  We will poke holes in all of them.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go block the lace shawl I just finished, turn the heel on the sock I am working on, listen to a knitting podcast, install my new microwave and watch my daughter’s tennis match.  Maybe I will even have time to spin. By candle light.  While wearing my bonnet.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2012 5:15 pm

    I’m 29 and I just taught myself how to knit – and I love it! I, too, wrestled with the “old lady” stereotype as I timidly wandered into the yarn store for the first time. But once I saw the pattern start to form on my first lace scarf I didn’t care anymore. Way to fight the stereotype with a well-written blog! 🙂

    • September 19, 2012 9:36 am

      Welcome to the knitting world! So glad you braved the new world of yarn shops and patterns, it is well worth it. Be careful though, yarn fumes are powerful things. Pretty soon you will find yourself rationalizing that skeins of yarn are just as warm as a blanket. 😉

  2. September 21, 2012 2:55 pm

    Knit In Public Day should be every, not just once a year, that’d kill that stereotype off pretty quickly!

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