Me and Knitting: A Brief History.

Hey y’all. Today is the first day of the Knit and Crochet Blog week I talked about last time! Here’s today’s prompt:

How and when did you begin knitting/crocheting? was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?

I come from a long line of crafty people. My grandparents all came from rural homes in Kentucky (except my grandad, who grew up smack in the middle of Brooklyn…long story). In isolated places where indoor household plumbing didn’t arrive until the mid-80s – that’s 1980’s – you can imagine that being good at making stuff yourself came in handy.

These are my great-grandparents,with my great-aunts, great uncle, and my grandmother on the far right. (She has a bandage on her head! The story is that one of her sisters pitched a rock at her, but who knows.) They lived at our family’s homeplace in Greasy Creek in Pike County, Kentucky. My great-uncle and great-aunts live there now, on the same land.

I can guarantee that all those dresses were made by my great-grandma’s hands. I have several baby quilts and crocheted blankets that she made for me. If I ever get around to having babies of my own, I love that I will be able to wrap them up in something she made.

So that little girl on the right there, my nanny? She grew up to meet and marry a handsome soldier from Brooklyn, and they lived a glamorous life in the Big Apple for a while before moving back to Kentucky. (Not such a long story, I guess….can you imagine the reactions she must have gotten, bringing that accent straight from Appalachia to NYC?) Anyhow, she was so skilled at almost every craft. She quilted, crocheted, embroidered, cross-stitched, tatted, and sewed. Oh, how she sewed! Just look:

She made that pink suit, and the teeny matching coat, dress, and hat for my mom!  So stylish! She passed away when I was fifteen, and I’m so grateful to have so many lovely things that she made.

My paternal grandmother, my Granny, is just as talented. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos around of her work, which reminds me that I should take some the next time I’m home! I clearly remember learning how to crochet at her house. My sister and I would sit and make huuuuuuge single chains of crochet. I’m sure Granny was glad it kept us busy and quiet!

The funniest thing, though: no one in my family knits! I’ve heard discussions of the social class or regional distinctions between knitting and crochet, or that crochet was more in vogue than knitting after the 1930’s, and that could all be true. I’ve not done extensive research. All I can say is, a lot of ladies in rural Kentucky learned to crochet and not to knit, and so they taught me how to crochet and not how to knit.

I actually learned how to knit from my oh-so-patient fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Bayne. Bless her for teaching a room full of fourth and fifth graders (so, 9-11 yr olds, for my non-American readers) how to make the knit stitch. She cast on for us, and we ran out of time to learn how to bind off before the end of the year. I think I ended up teaching myself that out of a library book.

Here is the very first thing I ever knit! Lord, it’s ugly!

I don’t really even know what it was supposed to be. I think a blanket for my American Girl doll. When other kids were outside playing kickball, you could find me indoors creating historically accurate clothing and accessories for my dolls and writing historically accurate stories about them. I was an odd child.

I was such a craft dilettante as a kid, though. I did every craft under the sun, but only for a little while. I stuck with nothing long enough to really get good at it. It was only when I was in college and the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch thing happened around 2002-ish that I really came back to knitting, spent a significant amount of time with it, and got good at it. I’ve been clacking away with my needles ever since!

Whoa, I did not mean to prattle on so long! To sum things up – I’m so glad I inherited the skill and drive to make beautiful and useful things with my hands. It’s something that can’t be taken away from me and something to be proud of. : )

(Click here to see a bunch of other participating bloggers write about this topic! If you’d like to participate, just tag your post with knitcroblo1)


12 thoughts on “Me and Knitting: A Brief History.

  1. I learned from my grandma too! What wonderful pictures you have of the hand-made things you have. I’m going to have to see if I can dip up any pics of us wearing Grandma’s handmade items! 🙂 Thanks for the story!

  2. I LOVE that you’re from Kentucky as I’m a Southerner too. I’m way down South at the bottom of Florida. My ancestor’s (like your’s) came here in the 1800’s and my family is still here in the same three counties that we’ve always occupied, having a town and a county named after my kin (that means relative for you non-southerner’s). I especially love that all of that crafting has been passed down in your family as it has in mine too, but maybe not as much as in yours. It is a wonderful talent to have isn’t it? I love that I can knit and crochet and even do a little sewing. I hope to do a lot more sewing when my grandkids get a little older (I babysit) and I have more time to do it. I want to make lots of things for my home, it makes the house so much cosier to have handmade things rather than store bought.

    • Hey fellow Southerner! : ) Although I don’t live on my family’s land, I’m so glad that it’s still in our family, and has been for at least 5 generations now. It’s nice to have a homeplace!

      And I completely agree…handmade things really make a home, to me. I hope you pass on your talents to your grandbabies and teach them all these crafts! : ) I worry a little that the knowledge of how to make things will be lost if we don’t pass it along.

  3. It’s cool that you still have the first thing or at least a picture of the first thing you ever knit. Its great that you come from a long line of crafty people. Love the pictures. I wish I could have learned to knit in school

    • I do have it still, stuffed away in a box somewhere. It’s neat to see how my skills have drastically improved! I think crafting should be a required subject in school…wouldn’t that be awesome!

  4. Wonderful story! And great pictures! I love that you spent time making historically accurate stories for your dolls! Did you read all the books? I was in my 30’s when that craze hit, but know if I was younger I definetely would have wanted one. Maybe I need to take a trip to their store next time I’m in NYC!

    • I did read the books! I had (still have actually, she’s in my closet) Felicity, the Colonial girl. I’ve heard the store is amazing! I might have to borrow one of my nieces and take her one day, so I’m not the single lady having a tea party at the American Girl store by myself…hehehe. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

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