Posts Tagged ‘Call the Midwife’

Knitting rage

March 13, 2013

As  the traditional crafts teeter on the brink of extinction, it’s sad to see people who should know better making mistakes.  In a TV programme on Sunday night, a crochet square was clearly referred to as ‘knitting’ (BBC1 Call the Midwife).  It was an outrageous and egregious mistake for a programme whose dominant mode is an affectionately detailed presentation of the materiality of life in post-War London.  It’s not the mistake alone that I mind: it’s the leading astray of impressionable youth; the missed opportunity to offer accurate information to those who are ignorant of handcrafts.  They missed the chance to educate and that is unforgivable.  The distinction bewteen knitting and crochet is important: is, if you like, the equivalent of calling a bolt a nail, or of calling a Band-aid a bandage.  They do broadly the same job, but in very different ways.

A classic small square like this is the basis for an 'Afghan rug' - though more commonly the outermost edge is black.

A classic small square like this is the basis for an ‘Afghan rug’ – though more commonly the outermost edge is black.

Knitting is enjoying a resurgence of popularity – the groups of ‘knit bitches’ and ‘knit witches’ and the less outspoken groups of knitters who just get together occasionally – all of these suggest that knitting is making a comeback.  I still love knitting: it has carried me through many a dark hour, ever since girlhood.  My Auntie Beryl taught me to knit when I was about six, and I still have the needles we used.  She really knew how to teach: allowed me to choose the wool and the needles myself.  I chose lavender fluffy yarn – very impractical for a beginner as it snapped easily, the colour slowly turned grubby grey, and the fluff got tangled, but I loved it and perhaps I learned to ride out the frustrations along with learning to knit.

They are shiny pink anodised aluminium (I think) and most recently they knitted this scarf for Bunny -my grandson's  favourite soft toy - who has been feeling the cold.

They are shiny pink anodised aluminium and most recently they knitted this scarf for Bunny -my grandson’s favourite soft toy – who has been feeling the cold.

Almost everything from my early life has been shed as I traversed the world  to and fro, to and fro – so I was amazed to realise that the shiny pink size 7  needles at the bottom of my oldest knitting bag (circa 1960) actually date back to the 1950s.  Possibly my oldest possession.

Plastic, and long enough to hold most needles, with little holes at the end to accommodate the over-long ones.

Plastic, and long enough to hold most needles, with little holes at the end to accommodate the over-long ones.

The knitting bag is a little younger – probably late fifties or early sixties.  No doubt an expert could make an informed guess on the basis of the pattern, which reeks of the late mid-century to me.  Even at the time, while appreciating the convenience, I felt a smidgin of doubt about those irregular boxes and pseudo-random green stalks.

DSCF1063

Do you see what I mean?  Years later I heard:

‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful ‘.  (William Morris)

Alas, by then my knitting bag was an essential item.  Some of those pale brown marks in the background are not the design, but stains.  Probably Nescafé, given the era and my known habits as a teenager.  We used to have ‘a last coffee before bed’ – in my mind’s ear I can hear Dad’s voice saying those very words.  Knitting as if there was no tomorrow, I usually answered:  ‘just to the end of this row’ and quickly sneaked round the end onto the next one.  Decades later he let on that he had tumbled to my devious behaviour – that part of it, at least.


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