Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Why Bother? The second installment in my February cheer posts
I've been knitting dish cloths and socks lately. When so many perfectly good socks and dish cloths can be had for little money, the legitimate question is, why bother?
It's not like I'm Caroline Ingalls, or even my own grandmother, who lived through the depression and, although she didn't knit socks, she rinsed and dried paper towels and carefully darned the holes in my grandfather's store-bought when his toes and heels began to poke through. Ma Ingalls not only had to knit socks, if they wanted woolen socks through the long prairie winters (and of course, sensibly, they did), but she also had to stitch up their bed sheets from long strips of muslin. By hand. They didn't even have that new-fangled invention, the foot-treadle sewing machine, until Laura was 16. Of course, she also had to butcher the hog and milk the cow and weave their straw sun hats, make dresses and bloomers and haul water and keep a fire going if they wanted bread and warmth and and and. It was only after all this work was done that the girls could spend time on their leisure arts: crocheting yards of lace to trim their petticoats.
So why all this time and effort spent learning and doing the more humble of the needle arts, in a world where they're no longer needed?
I like to think there might be a practical reason. Of course, I suppose, it's a good skill to have in the Apocalypse that might come our way. To the Apocalypse, Sarge brings his incredibly encyclopedic survival skills that he learned in the Army and in his life experience. He can find us food and create shelter, deal with munitions, do mapping and orientation. And I, representing Womanfolk, can knit us warm socks.
But seriously, I've become a woman on a mission to save, in my own small way, these "useless" skills. I worry that my daughter will be such a product of our noisy, technology-driven world that she will miss the quiet moments, the slow moments. And I worry that I will too, although I grew up in a decade that was decidedly more slow-paced. I really believe that if I continue to knit socks and dishcloths, it'll be a small victory in the fight against the confusing hubbub of modernity.
For the same reason that I believe in running a household where we're not always multi-tasking, not always getting to the next thing, not racing to appointments for no reason but to busy ourselves, constantly bombarded with media, so I believe passionately in the act of turning a heel in a pointlessly hand-knit sock.
There's sweet respite in yarn and needles, the colors and textures and possibilities. I feel calmer, I feel more connected to my grandmother, who, 30 years ago, patiently taught me to crochet, and even to the history that flows from the long-gone women of generations and generations past, in this country and universally. I like my MacBook, but I need my knitting.
I think I'll start referring to myself as Steampunk Housewife...