Knitting for CashNo Foolin!

Gorgeous Vävnaden Handwarmers, inspired by an early design by Bohus Stickning’s founder Emma Jacobsson. Photo by Joe Coca.

The 8th edition of Piecework’s Knitting Traditions is making its way right now to your favorite yarn shop or newsstand. In this issue, we pay tribute to determined individuals and an array of cottage industries and cooperatives that have turned to knitting for income over the last 500 years or so.

Due to changing political, socio-economic, and cultural landscapes—and often because of grim personal circumstances—knitters across the world have taken up needles and yarn to sustain themselves, to feed their children, to pay the bills.

A beautiful colorwork hat translates traditional Macedonian motifs into a stylish twenty-first century hat. Photo by Joe Coca.

In this issue, you will meet Ceceila, a Cowichan knitter in western Canada who recalls knitting into the early hours of the morning by candlelight, knowing the sweater she finishes for sale will keep her children from going hungry; and James Moar, an invalid in 1880s Shetland, who learned to knit from his sisters so he could contribute to the family income. You will discover the powerhouse stocking knitting trade that flourished in Wales for over two hundred years and the knitting cottage industries of Macedonia that have thrived from the eighteenth century to the bustling markets of today. You also will meet the Swedish social reformer, Berta Borgström, who formed a knitting cooperative to help women in need and to preserve her country’s traditions. And of course, there are over 20 companion projects—from colorwork to lace—inspired by each of these amazing stories.

The Uyeasound Table Runner inspired by a late-nineteenth-century piece of knitted lace intended for sale. Photo by Joe Coca.

As I pass my own stitches leisurely from one needle to the next these days, I wonder at how different my outlook is to these admirable women and men who used their handwork skills to quietly, steadily transform their lives—and still do. I am not being paid by the stitch, I have no quota to fill, my household stability is not dependent on my knitting production. Yet, as I think how knitting is, for me, a quiet meditation in a hectic world, so it was for many of them. In it, there was the work, yes, but also hope and possibility—rich pay, indeed. And perhaps this is why what we all earn with the work of our hands endures.