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The Lost Art of Homemade and DIY

About four years and 50 balls of yarn ago, I decided to take up a pastime that is more age controversial than grandmothers on Facebook. Sure the grandmothers “like” tens of posts each time they log in, post private messages on walls and remind everyone how you were nearly three before you were potty trained. But I didn’t join a billion-dollar website that is talked about more frequently than the internet itself. My move was far more outdated; I taught myself to knit.

For most, I suspect this ancient art form has been passed down from generation to generation. Sitting around the day’s only form of heat – the fire – women of all ages would share knitting patterns and tips. It was a way to pass the time while being productive. And while I hoped for similar results (perhaps a scarf or hat while killing a few hours), I had no bonnet-wearing family members to teach me their hard-learned secrets.

At the time, I was a sophomore in college and working late nights, usually until 2 or 3 a.m. I copy edited the university newspaper and checking for mistakes meant you were one of the last people to see the text. I’d show up around 7 p.m., and, five hours later, get the bulk of my work. Homework proved unproductive with the constant yelling and entertainment seeking – chairs were ridden down halls, homemade darts were thrown, and clay animals were baked in the 20-year-old microwave. It was all I could do to get my work done each night. But, in the midst of office equipment games, I decided I would learn to knit. During waves of silence, I would sit in a corner and watch YouTube videos of helpful women with accents and fast hands. For weeks I watched their tips on stitches and techniques, until I had made an entire scarf.

Over the years, my newsroom knitting talents expanded, and so did my products. I learned new patterns, fashioned what resembled socks, and knitted an entire bed-sized blanket. I may not have been swarming near a fire with my next of kin, but I passed countless hours and had more to show for it than a half-burned dinosaur.

Double Time

With knitting, DIY had taken on a whole new meaning. It wasn’t near as unglamorous as fixing your own leaky toilet and, unlike plumbing, I actually enjoyed doing it. I could make handmade (and therefore thoughtful) gifts, make accessories to match any outfit, and eventually, my family members began asking for their own knitting lessons. It became clear that I had taught myself more than just a way to kill boring nights at work. And, once I got promoted to actual daytime hours, knitting became a great conversation starter. (“Are those considered weapons?” and “Aren’t you just tying knots?”)

Not everyone is a knitter (in both the figurative and literal meanings); others fix vacuum cleaners or wire car stereos. But rather than paying exorbitant prices for someone else to take care of it, they do it themselves. For whatever reason – time constraints, lack of knowhow, etc., – people often outsource projects before attempting to tackle it alone. However, it’s usually the idea of DIY that is more stressful than the task itself. So the next time you need a pretty new scarf, or find that your toilet needs replacing, consider doing it yourself … you may even enjoy it.

You can read more from Bethaney Wallace on her blog.

feature image via flickr.

  • Astrid Lund

    I LOVE TO KNIT! I’m terrible at it though, but thank you for writing about this, it’s a great way to pass the time and fun to make your own stuff! :)

  • Kelsey Stamper

    I learned the basics of knitting when I was 8, and up until a couple months ago, all I could knit was a scarf. Then I decided to knit a scarf with a hood, so I needed to watch YouTube videos too on how to increase and decrease.
    Then I got bamboo needles, stitch markers, stitch counters…the whole deal. And I knitted a cabled pair of fingerless gloves for my boyfriend. Next I’m going to knit socks.
    I don’t think knitting is for old people. It just fell out of favor with young women somewhere around the 60’s.

  • Noelle Christina Gharzai

    I don’t know how to knit but I’ve been teaching myself to see over the last few months. I’ve only produce one skirt that’s actually wearable in public, but it feels really good to be able to say, “oh this? Yeah, I made it.”

  • Bea Ramirez-Olivera

    “lost art”? not lost at all! have you been looking around? people loove DIY+handmade+knitting! you just have to look in the right places.. there are many of us!

    • Alison Mclean

      I agree that its not a lost art! The book “Stitch n Bitch” has the history of knitting falling in and out of popular culture. I think its been back for a while though- look at and etsy!

  • Kelsey Jones

    I love knitting too! It’s so relaxing. Weirdly, I get the urge to do it in the summer, even though it’s normally known as a “winter” activity.

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