The skill of knitting in previous
In a November 2010 television episode of The Edwardian Farm,
viewers saw Ruth Goodman, the historian who was living as the woman of the
house for a year, sitting relaxing of an evening with her colleagues. She was knitting.
That was what an Edwardian women would certainly have been doing as would
previous generations before her - but those women would
never have knitted how Ruth Goodman was knitting.
Within a few days there was a repeat of a Miss Marple starring the
elderly Joan Hickson. She too was knitting - precisely the way all the
English women of earlier generations would have done - women who had been brought up to the skill. It was
how every women knitted when I was a child in the 1940s, and how I was brought
up to knit.
To me, Ruth Goodman's way of knitting was 'the wrong way' and Joan Hickson's
was 'the right way'. Obviously that is a matter opinion, but there is no
doubt that Joan Hickson was able to knit efficiently and effectively, mainly
without even looking,
whereas Ruth Goodman was not.
The page on speed knitting explains the difference and illustrates with photographs.
The dying skill of hand knitting
Knitting by hand was very common indeed when I was young in the 1940s and 1950s.
It was considered a skill which every housewife should possess and
every female child should therefore learn. Like many other girls of my
generation, I became very proficient indeed
at it. I could do it quickly and without mistakes - and also without looking when
the knitting was relatively plain. Consequently knitting was something to
relax with, at the end of the day, rather than a task to concentrate on.
Women spoke of actually needing to have "some knitting on the needles" - as
the saying went.
Then, sometime in the late 1950s, something happened which I remember
very clearly indeed and which upset me greatly: I had to face up to the fact that machines had arrived
which could knit faster than I could and produce a finer and more delicate product. My hard-earned and high
quality skills were no longer needed or valued. Difficult as it was to come to
terms with, the lesson has been a valuable one in the rest of my life, as I
have had to accept that certain old skills really do become redundant with progress
and that new ones have to be developed and learned. (Yes, I do accept that
hand-knitted chunky knits are still in demand, but to me they were easily
produced. My skill was for finer and more intricate work.)
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in early to mid 20th century Britain, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.