Knitting Traditions Spring 2014
Over the last five hundred years, amidst 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.
In PieceWork’s eighth edition of Knitting Traditions, we pay tribute to these determined individuals as well as an array of cottage industries and cooperatives that have turned to knitting for income. 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 nineteenth 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.
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 ll, 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 this is why what we all earn with the work of our hands endures.
For help in holding my stitches in place while editing this issue, I owe special thanks to Anita Osterhaug, editorial director; Linda Ligon, creative director; and especially to Jeane Hutchins, PieceWork editor, for her wisdom and good humor. The 1879 historic Avery House in Fort Collins, Colorado, provided an ideal backdrop for photographing the inspirational projects, and we’re grateful to Kristine Hart for her kind assistance there. Knit on!