Friday, 30 October 2009

a woolly tale

I've lately become a bit obsessed with knitting, even though I really can't do it, I would love to be able to create soft beautiful baby blankets like my friend Rae, or groovy knitted cardis like my sister-in-law. I am trying though, and last night I sat for hours practising, and guess what? It was so soothing, hypnotic even, to just sit and quietly knit that I managed to sleep all night long without my ususal late-pregnancy 2-hour interval of internet/TV in the middle of the night. What a clever trick, I'm going to try it again tonight. Oh yes, Friday nights are super exciting at 38 weeks pregnant.

But why the sudden draw of the clickety-clack, apart from it's rhythmic lull? I suppose that (for now...) I am feeling more and more attracted to those traditionally feminine crafts that come to the fore with the arrival of children and domesticity. What?! But is this the same girl who wrote her thesis on Simone de Beauvoir? Are feminism and feminine traditions mutually exclusive? It depends on the context. Look at the work of feminist artists and writers like Louise Bourgeois and Virginia Woolf, in whose work knitting, sewing and weaving are recurring themes. I wouldn't dispute their feminist credentials for a minute.

There is without doubt - as the Boy pointed out last night after I showed him the 4, yes 4, darling little cardigans my Aunty Marion had knitted for our little bird - a strong tradition of knitting in the female line on my side of the family. And I suppose I have latched on to that as a kind of comfort. When I was a little girl my Nana was always knitting something or other, she always had a plastic bag stuffed full of needles and wool tucked away beside the armchair, and as she would take out her latest project there would always be a vague faggy smell emanating from the wool, but the beautiful garments she made us... I so wish I (or rather my Mum)had kept some... now that Nana no longer has the physical or cerebral capacity to knit. But somehow it feels as though, if I can do it too, I am carrying that tradition on.

Photo: Louise Bourgeois and Fillette (1968), by Robert Mapplethorpe, 1982

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