body
(This is a body and sleeves, knitted up on her machine by Ella Gordon, onto which I’m about to hand-knit a colourwork yoke. Hundreds of thousands of such garments were – and indeed still are – made in like manner in Shetland and elsewhere.)

Thanks so much for your comments on the previous post. As so often, you have given me pause for thought. Some of you have written privately to me that you felt my post unfairly dismissed not just the Munrospun kits, but by implication, the women who made things from them. I can only apologise, and assure you that this was not my intention. These kits undoubtedly enabled many knitters – women with multiple demands on their time, who enjoyed straightforward knitting – to create and wear a lovely hand-made colourwork item. As I said in the previous post, acts of making are always to be applauded, and there are certainly many things to applaud about the way that these kits, so often bought as gifts, lent ordinary knitters all over the world access to Shetland and Scottish yarns and designs. I also have absolutely nothing against the pieced construction of the kit, against knitting back and forth, or against plain stockinette (which really is probably my favourite kind of evening knitting). However, I do readily concede that my first thoughts about the kit were with the knitter-producer behind it, rather than the knitter-consumer to whom it was addressed.

I’ve spent the past few weeks carefully trying to think about yokes from a Shetland perspective. I have examined lots of archive material, looked at knitting, photographs of knitting, personal pattern books and commercial, printed patterns. I’ve conversed with knitters who, over the past half century have differing personal experiences of producing hand-knitted yokes for market. I’ve spoken to Shetland friends about their memories of yoke-wearing and knitting, and I have seen contemporary Shetland women, young and old, of all shapes and sizes, who are wearing Fairisle yokes again. The familiar tree and star designs, hand-knitted onto machined bodies, first so popular in the 1960s are, once more, everywhere in Shetland, and, I think, are clearly gaining fashionable ground farther afield as well. (PLEASE BEAR IN MIND: if you ever find yourself in a shop on the street in Lerwick, looking at a lovely hand-knitted item, it is always worth asking how, and how much, the knitter has been paid for their work. If you don’t get a straight answer, please don’t buy the item). Anyway, I suppose my first thought, upon opening the Munrospun kit, was of the person who knitted that yoke, of how many similar yokes they would have knit, and of the colourwork yoke itself as, by this point in the 70s, a standardised item produced for a ready market – a market of makers, or those interested in making, but an emphatically commercial market nonetheless. Looking at the kit, I also felt that it seemed to mark a definitive moment in the story of the hand-knit yoke: the height of its popularity, but also the turning point of its decline. (It is certainly the case that by the late 70s, hand-knitted yokes were beginning to be seen as old-fashioned, negatively preppy, or just staid, and that hand-knitting itself went into severe decline over the course of the decade that followed). None of this is meant in any way to dismiss the women who made themselves lovely Munrospun cardigans and jumpers, and these kits were certainly enjoyed, both in the making and in the wearing, by many, many knitters. But I do feel the analogy that some of you drew with boxed cake mixes – products that similarly became popularly available in this era – is moot: such mixes certainly offered a speedy, accessible, and in some senses, empowering alternative to baking from scratch, but no one would argue the cakes tasted better.

So that’s how my thoughts have been unravelling this morning. I want to sincerely apologise to any of you who felt affronted by the previous post, and to thank all of you for your comments, whose lively debate and multiple perspectives really make this blog what it is, and always act as a prompt to me to try to see the bigger picture.

Thankyou

57 thoughts on “knitter-producers and knitter-consumers

  1. It’s funny that you have been asking about yoked sweater stories for some time and until this post didn’t think I had any. Now I remember that as a young teen back in the ’60’s, the girls with money got Villager sweater sets from Adair Hutton department store that were heathered wool skirts with matching patterned yoke sweaters–mostly cardigans. I so wanted one of those sets, but was never able to afford it. My mother made mine–but it wasn’t a stranded yoke cardigan, alas.

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  2. All of this discussion reminds me of an article Julia Child once wrote about meeting someone who was so proud to have successfully made a quiche, using a premade crust, and premixed eggs and milk from a carton. Julia, who seemed to always be quite kind, recalled being at first shocked that someone would make a prefab quiche when it was so simple to make it from scratch, but quickly realized that the other woman had been made so happy by the making of it, and had been encouraged to expand her cooking skills because of that initial, easy success.

    At the time these kits were marketed, most of us in the US had very limited access to the yarn or the patterns required to make a fair isle sweater. There weren’t a lot of LYS, yarn was sold in the corner of big city department stores, if you were lucky enough to live near one. But for those of us in small towns (and in the 50’s and 60’s, that was still the majority), often the only place to buy yarn was the five and dime, and the color choices could never have lived up to the requirements of a shetland sweater!

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  3. Hello Kate, and again, thanks for another very enjoyable and thoughtful post. Your comments reminded me of other aspects of women’s work, and how it was viewed, which I have written about today.

    Many very good wishes for your continued good health.

    Greetings
    Cathy

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  4. I just left a post here but I’d like my real name removed from it by the moderator. I don’t want my real name published because I’m a doctor and while I dislike anonymous posts I didn’t even consider that my real name would accompany the post. I assumed that I’d be asked what name I wished to use on another page after I hit the Post Comment icon.

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  5. My grandmother taught me to knit when I was nine and when I began seriously knitting as a 20 year old living in the UK as a ‘trendy young thing’ I always knitted the most complex finicky items I could find, such as a twelve colour fair-isle jumper on size 13 (UK) needles for my boyfriend. (Strangely enough, although we divorced over 20 years ago, I see his current wife wearing that jumper now!). I adored Patricia Roberts patterns in the 80’s and still have most of her books. Everything I ever knitted was done ‘back and forth’ and sewn together.
    The purpose of this rambling message is that since I started knitting again four months ago I have knitted 2 dresses/tunics, a pullover and two cardigans for me along with a cardigan each for my four adult children and although I enjoy knitting in the round, this style of knitting is so unflattering unless you are small busted and thin. Now in my fifties and ‘well-endowed’ although not particularly overweight, these ‘top down’ ‘in the round’ jumpers look hideous on me! (And when I look at photos on Ravelry they don’t look good on anyone else either). So, while I might be regarded as old-fashioned and out of date, and I can certainly appreciate the beautiful patterns that are produced by knitting yokes ‘in the round’, until someone can design a flattering style with a low neck that doesn’t draw unwarranted attention to The Girls I seems I’m stuck with all that sewing at the end, SIGH…….

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  6. Have been following your blog for some time now, and I wanted to comment today to say that your writings continue to inspire me to look beyond my needles into the fascinating culture & history of knitting on a daily basis. Please do not apologize for having an opinion, because without it all blogs would just be boring & mundane. Thank you for being unique & so passionate about the world of fiber! – Marisa, Olympia, WA, USA

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  7. No apologies necessary. Your writing is honest, and your opinions expressed fairly. I hope that you continue to express what you think.

    One thing that struck me about the yolk sweater-in-a-kit is that the manufacturer, like the cake mix manufacturer, was selling not just a sweater, but rather the idea (illusion?) of saving time.

    As anyone who has baked knows, making a cake from scratch takes but a few minutes more (and sometimes not even that) than making a cake from a box. So too, with these sweaters. In the grand scheme of things, little time was saved by having the yoke knit, as the knitter still must make the entire rest of the sweater and assemble it. And as you pointed out, the most fun and creative part was already knit by someone else.

    But to a busy woman, who wanted to have a creative outlet, the idea that she could have a handknit sweater in less time was appealing. Kind of a scam, really, since she saved minimal time and lost the opportunity to actually do any creative and fun knitting!

    It was the illusion of time saved for a busy woman that was the attraction in these kits and in cake mixes. Unfortunately, minimal time was saved, and the joy of baking and/or knitting was lost.

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    1. ‘As anyone who has baked knows, making a cake from scratch takes but a few minutes more (and sometimes not even that) than making a cake from a box’ – true, but only if you are already a practised, routine cake-baker with all your utensils ready to hand. If you’ve never done it before, and you lack confidence, collecting all the ingredients and utensils together, and getting your thoughts in the right order, and going back and checking every part of the recipe three times over as you do it, can make it take much, much longer, and occupy every part of your mind as you are doing it. Having your hand held by a ready-made kit gets you over that hump, and as you relax and get used to always having the right kind of flour in the cupboard, and a supply of dried fruit, and you know which mixing bowl you always use, you are familiar with the ‘right’ consistency that will turn into a good cake, and you can pick your cake tin off the shelf almost without looking – *then* you are ready to make a cake from scratch in the same time it takes to make a ‘kit’ one, and to enjoy the liberty of making your own choices.

      I’m beginning to see it can be much the same with knitting. A kit won’t teach design, but it will shorten the process of acquiring basic kit, some technique, confidence, and familiarity with the material.

      Well done, Kate. It’s lovely to see your teaching vocation emerging so clearly, as well as your craftsmanship and design work.

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  8. Ah ha! Here we find Kate with her own “reverse kit”! It looks lovely and I can’t wait to see some sweaters and pattern. The wait is killing me! Just tell me this, can I get the book for Christmas?

    I even heard that you are uveiling some designs at Shetland Wool Week, which is very soon. Hmm..

    I did find yoke in the bag very funny. And My first reaction was the same as yours, but then I thought, it is kind of great … and I tend to look better in eye searing red/orange than in the sophisticated neutrals… and I have still not found the time to… and what size did you get anyways?

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  9. I think I am commenting on the wrong post but … I love shetland yoke cardigans and always wanted to knit one for myself I particularly love the yoke in the Jamison Hairst kit, it seems to appear everywhere as a classic yoke pattern.

    My problem is that I am a size 50ins bust and all of the patterns I have seen have a maximum size of 40ins. It would be really great to have yoke patterns that size up, particulary that one!

    I am really looking forward to your book.

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  10. Kate I read the post with your recent excitement about yoke design and construction still resonating, and understood it also from the perspective of those who had made the yokes, not the consumers. But I also can see the appeal for those who are trying to get to a stylish finished item without much time or may feel that they don’t have the skill or confidence to do the colourwork. (I also remember my mum using her knitting machine to get through colour ideas faster and to save her hands). Very thought provoking post.

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  11. Oh what an interesting discussion. I who “handmachine knitting” (knits on a knitting machine) think that the discussion is particularly interesting. I think you Kate and Ella Gordon really spread knowledge and improve understanding of all forms of knitting. Thank you!
    I also agree with you that you absolutely can ask the seller about the working conditions it has been for the person who has knitted garment.
    Excuse my english.

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  12. Very interesting discussion. Am neither offended or gleeful, just intrigued, as I am when I have discussions with my mother (war-time baby) and Granny-in-law. My mother knits, but would rather ‘stab [herself] with the needles’ than knit socks. Ditto GIL- on further investigation, it is because they both HAD to knit socks when they were young. It was not a hobby, or a joy and it did not involve lovely colours or yarn. My mum now knits shawls and hats etc, for the love of the yarn and colour, whilst GIL gave up knitting as soon as she could (probably the 60s/70s) and views knitted gifts with a certain quirk of the eyebrow, rather than happiness at being given something hand knit (no, I don’t knit for her any more). So the discussion started in these two posts for me goes beyond the knitter-producer/consumer to one of generation, of knitting/sewing as necessity vs hobby and how that might alter the knitter’s perception of the craft.

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  13. Please continue to express your honest opinions, as un-edited as possible. I may agree or disagree, but they always give me food for thought.
    Politically correct stuff that offends nobody and tries to please everybody bores me to death…

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  14. With some trepidation I offer my thoughts on this one. Born in England in 1956 I watched this world of skirt lengths and knitting kits as a youngish child. (Incidentally they were still around in the 1980s when my own children were little, the great Kaffe Fassett produced quite a few, one of which my Mum knitted for me then a young mum.). In the sixties things were changing, families were starting to move around, lots of new houses, a lot more cars on the road. The habits of wartime and 1950s Britain were changing, there was not quite so much make do and mend, but money was still very tight. I think the kits were partly a marketing device to promote further interest in Scotland and all the Scottish industries including the cottage industries. I also think that many homemakers had moved away from the crafting side of life, too busy, too tired, too far away from supporting relatives, perhaps needing to distance themselves from harder times. My Mum, now 84, a really expert knitter in the true James Norbury style, found time to knit us kids jumpers, but nearly all stocking stitch. I have seen her knit virtually everything and anything, but never Fair Isle, she would say too difficult, now we would say gosh no. She would not bother with the kits either, too constraining, as she continued in the calming stocking stitch! I hope this helps to explains the mind set of those times. Love the blog, definitely adore Bruce, keep going.

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  15. I found a partly knitted sweater in a Charity shop. It only had the front and back that the previous owner had knitted and a pre- knitted yoke. It still had a tatty label in the packet which said “Country Life” knitted in Shetland. To me it was the find of the year. I knew that some woman (or man) in Shetland had knitted that yoke, and it was beautifully knitted, and therefore very special. I then tried to find some wool so that I could finish the piece. I ran into a spinner who had bought a sweater on a visit to Scotland that had a few moth holes and she said I could pull that undone to finish the piece. But then I found that this was also a hand knitted yoked sweater from Shetland in the 1970’s. I couldn’t unpull it. It also was too precious. So now repaired it is my daughter’s favourite sweater.

    I know that the knitters of my sweaters probably got paid a pittance for their work, just like many women who do handcrafted work in Asia are treated today. But that hasn’t taken away my appreciation of their work or the care that they put into it. These yoked sweaters will be cared for and passed on down through the family till they fall to pieces.

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  16. Gosh Kate, who would have thought that a yoke could provoke so much analysis. I think it points to the delight and enthusiasm that your consistently engaging and interesting post engender. I am always cheered by a new post and in a frenzy when there’s a new pattern. As someone who started knitting as money saving necessity and now knits to indulge myself and my family I think that I probably straddle the lifeskill/ craft divide, but I am also saddened by how many of my contemparies are completely deskilled and can’t knit or sew, a bit of a Seventies black hole perhaps, so I am really delighted to see a younger generation of technique hungry knitters coming on. I only wish my daughter had the bug, I’d like to pass it on! (Reading thru I sound so old! I’m 54 but post surgery meds hot flushes mean I only every need to knit gloves and socks for myself, I haven needed a woollen jumper for years!)

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  17. Wow, your blog posts are always just so interesting, informative, and thought provoking. It’s always such a pleasure to read the posts that you write and I really appreciate that a lot of time and work must go into them. It really is thought provoking to consider both sides of that discussion although I really do agree that the yolk is the fun part and I would sorrily miss not getting to knit it. =) I love the boxed cake analogy! Probably most of all because I’m really not a terrific baker, so I use boxed cake mixes most of the time, and they truly are acceptable at best, and then most creativity I can put into them is deciding which box to grab off the shelf. Thanks for another great post. =) Also, I hope we get to see the yolk on that sweater when it is finished! =)

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  18. This very interesting dialogue reminds me of something from childhood days learning to play the piano. In one of my music books, there was a direction to the instructor as to how to approach teaching that piece – “rote” or “note. “Rote” meant we were just going to listen to it but not analyze it. “Note” meant we going to discuss the key, the chord structure, etc. When I learned to knit, and for many years afterward, I knitted by “rote.” I didn’t know anything about technique – my mother taught me, and she knew nothing either – and was drawn to it for the manual activity and the colors of the yarn. Then somewhere I stumbled upon “ssk” and suddenly I realized, hold on, there’s a lot more to this! This led me to Elizabeth Zimmerman, who was a radical thinker for sure, and now I aspire to knit more by “note” than I used to. Not that I’m very good at it! and sometimes I think I’d enjoy certain projects more if I just relaxed and took the “rote” road. If anything important actually depended upon my knitting – like whether we had socks on our feet or not – you can bet that for me it would be “rote” all the way. And if I had lived in the days before printed patterns, downloads, and whatnot, I would have gone to some woman in town who was good at socks, learned how she did it, and every sock I ever knitted would have been made exactly like that! Kate, I love your blog because you show me levels of thought and achievement in knitting that I will never reach myself. Long may you wave!

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  19. HI Kate I agree with your comment about asking how much the ladies {or maybe even men] have been paid for knitting Shetland wool items as when I went to a shop in Inverness it mentioned various ladies who had knitted the Aran cardigans jumpers hats gloves etc . but I wondered what per centage they received of the finally cost. I am now knitting my daughter in law a Aran jumper after she was impressed with them.

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  20. When I first saw the post about the Yoke in a bag, my immediate response was not a positive one. I never even knew they existed. In my narrow view, not knowing the history behind why…I felt it was cheating. Thank you for taking the time to present both sides and for welcoming different opinions. Your previous post about paying homage to those knitters that came before us…is a lingering voice in my head. Our expensive stash of yarns, knitting because we want to, not because we have to, is something I am now fully aware of. Don’t most of us knit for the creative process? If I needed to knit out of necessity, I wonder how things would change.

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  21. Kate, I love the way you see the knitters as creators. When I was in school we knitted endless numbers of Aran mittens for the ‘tourists’. When I overheard someone asking if hey had been knitted by ‘the natives’ I was offended and hurt and never knit another pair. I hope Shetland and island knitters never had to suffer that indignity so I will always ask who was paid and how much. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. It would never occur to me to ask a business person what they paid someone for the item they are offering for sale. Surely that is something that is just between the knitter and the person they are selling their item to? I would think that asking such a thing would offend them, as if I thought they were cheating the knitter and not give good value for the work done. Have you actually had people give you a straight answer to this question?

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      1. Kathy, I honestly think that any business should have no problem about being transparent about how they treat / pay their employees, or those who provide them with services or materials. Indeed, I see such transparency as integral to any ethical / responsible business, who, whatever their size, should in my view have a publicly available policy on such matters. This is a particularly important issue in Shetland where there are some retailers who still recompense knitters notoriously badly and conduct themselves in a manner no-one could describe as ethical. I have often asked this question of small retailers in Shetland and larger retailers elsewhere – such as those I wish to purchase clothes or fabric from – and have found that there are those who are very happy to discuss such issues with their customers and others that are not – personally I find this is a simple way of dividing the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

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      2. Kate, thanks so much for taking time to chime in on my take on this issue. I understand that such transparency in business is ideal, especially in the area of handmade arts, but I still see asking a business person what they paid a contract worker would be akin to asking somebody the salary they receive in their job. I think that in here in America there would be a confidentiality argument made by the business person, saying that it is basically “none of your business what I pay my people”. I know this is the case in the relationship between the Navajo weavers and the traders who buy their beautiful rugs and resell them to tourists. No trader is going to tell you what their mark-up is, nor what they paid the weaver. It is nice to know that such an open relationship still exists between the knitter and the business that buys their product in Shetland and other portions of the U.K. Maybe such a transparent business model will spread over here someday. Thanks again for your blogpost which caused such a robust debate.

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  22. Readers who follow Kate’s blog will most likely be serious knitters – we love our craft and are constantly looking for new designs and learning new techniques. Some people may try knitting and not keep up with it as passionately as we do but enjoy making a scarf or a hat now and then. The yoke kit caters for those knitters. Yokes are difficult to knit and the kit sounds great for beginners and dabblers – a welcome way in to knitting for people who don’t have the time or don’t want to knit a yoke from scratch. To take the cake mix analogy, I baked a cake last weekend with a cake mix because it was quicker and easier than making one from scratch, plus it rose better than my previous amateur attempts. Now I could choose to put time and effort into becoming a better baker, but I chose to use a cake mix for good results and use the saved time and effort to spend on knitting! What I suppose I’m trying to say is that it’s great that people take up knitting, whatever they choose to knit, and we should encourage that and not be purist. Great blog Kate and your posts are very thought provoking. To be honest if you sold a pre-made yoke kit to help less experienced knitters complete one of your jumper designs I think it would be very popular …

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    1. Great thoughts Penny! I’m a knitting teacher, and a genuine believer in making things from scratch (whether sweaters or cakes or whatever) as a powerful way towards a better quality of life. It’s a good reminder that no one has time to become proficient in everything, and that what I might consider a shortcut, is the only way someone else is going to do a project. In the end, someone who finished one of those kits contributed to making something they wore and appreciated, which is perhaps the most important part. As long as all parties involved were compensated fairly, I think it’s fine. I also think you’re right on with your last comment, Penny, ha ha!

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  23. I think it is clear that Kate purchased the kit out of her own personal delight and curiosity. Do not her actions quite adequately demonstrate her genuine appreciation of the whole process of this kit? She was not forced to do this. She was cutely obsessed with getting one, eager to open it, explore it, and share her discoveries with us. Lucky us!

    In knitting there are so many versions of “joint efforts.” In this case, without a consumer, there would be no producer. Without the wish to partake in knitting at a novice level, there would be no experts and, well, no kits, and no yoke. I would have been just as delighted to open up such a kit, and as a very experienced knitter I would also be torn between bothering to finish it or not. Yes, I would have felt a little disappointed that all that was left to do was the stocking knit. I can also see someone else just as excited that there was only stocking knit left and no headaches to finishing it before the next cold snap and perhaps wearing it to the pictures.

    I am only an American, but have always been eager to explore cultural roots in knitting all over the globe and especially of Scotland. I have been very influenced by, and delighted by, the writings of Alice Starmore and others who describe the old hand knitting industry of the Shetlands that predates the era of this kit. I came away from that history deeply impressed by the practicality of the old methods and the knitter’s mind. Practicality influenced every aspect of creativity. I’m not sure we’d even have stranded color work were it not that it makes warmer and more wind resistant the same amount of wool knit singly without floats. This beautiful art form of knitting evolved to keep people warm and to “provide goods” in the form of food and cloth in trade. We cannot do this art form justice if we forget it’s practical purpose, which has evolved but continues even to this day. Kate herself has kits and writes her blog to “provide goods for her table” to paraphrase Alice Starmore. And we, the consumer, soak it up with joy from whatever level of experience we find ourselves. Who is to say that a hundred years from now, some curiously obsessed knitter won’t by scouring the auctions to see if they might find some un-knit Kate Davies kit, or one of our own, and commenting on the “old-fashioned” colors of wool.

    If Kate didn’t bother to give her honest opinions and impressions, I wouldn’t bother to read her blog. Thank you, Kate, for sharing.

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    1. Very well said! I too am ‘only an American’ but a love for knitting and wool knows no boundary of country or state. It is a universal language we all share…

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  24. Being offended always depends of your point of view, some people will be offended by a woman topless at the beach and it will be seen as natural in some other part of this world, you can’t please everyone.
    I started knitting ages ago because I was having skin problems with all the chemicals used in the garment industry, I’m processing my fleece to the final project it saved my skin and my sanity and for me the result is priceless… no store could sell me the same garment with the assurance that I could wear it safely.
    Keep on making your great designs and keep the world knitting.

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  25. Likewise I really enjoy your blog and reading all the comments, it’s always fascinates me how many of us have different viewpoints but are united by our love of knitting. I did comment about the kit, and how they were enjoyed by people, but I do now wonder how much the women who knitted the yokes were paid – I suspect one would have to knit a large number of yokes to make a living.
    As for cakes mixes, mom was a great one for using these, but I am lucky to be a natural baker – so perhaps in the end wether baking or knitting it’s part inclination and part a skill we are lucky to have. I look forward to carrying on improving my knitting skills – and to your new books of yokes.

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  26. WOW, I didn’t comment on your last post due to SICK/surgery dog but certainly took no offence. Thought it was quite a find actually! I also like Dixie Meyers comment today.
    Knit on!! in whatever way strikes your fancy :)

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  27. I love your blog which is amazingly informative about many things. I like your opinions expressed as you feel them. You are a kind person.

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  28. I think this is all so interesting – mainly in regards to how knitting has changed (and of course knitters and their motivations).

    I get the impression, from talking to my grandmother and people of her generation, that both knitting and sewing were practical skills mid-century, and that often making clothing was the only way to have access to certain things; certainly to garments of a certain quality. (Whereas the changes brought about by fast fashion means that making a garment is often much more expensive than buying one.) I can see how, if your goal were to have a fashionable Fair Isle sweater, a kit could be a fast track, making something affordable (because you put in part of the labour) while also accessible to you if you didn’t have the knitting skills/time to make all of it from scratch.

    I think those of us, like myself, who have taken up knitting since the 90s are possibly more likely to view it as a craft in which we feel a craftsperson’s and artist’s pride. I would never want to knit something from a kit like that simply because part of the point of knitting, for me, is to say I did it myself. It’s partly for the enjoyment of the hobby, but also because I desire an end result that is unique, the direct result of my own labours, with each aspect the result of careful decisions about fibre, colour and the like. Because, of course, that’s the big thing that marks out a handmade item now, when it will likely be more expensive to produce than a ready-made garment. Saving money isn’t the main motivation; having a handcrafted thing of beauty is a primary goal. That seems a very different view of the craft, and its goals and motivations, than that held by those of my grandmother’s generation.

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  29. About 35 years ago, my mom traveled to the UK, and brought me back a kit like this, replete with fabric to make a matching skirt. Me, being a knitter, never made the sweater. But I could see the appeal. Somebody also made that kind of kit for cashmere sweaters and skirts. It was very much of its time.
    The look of yoked sweaters seems to be coming back. Here in the States, the “preppy” look (and not inexpensive either) is back again. I bet yoked sweaters of the Munro type will be in stores again. http://www.vineyardvines.com/womens-sweaters/fair-isle-sweater/2E0289.html?start=18&cgid=Womens-Sweaters&dwvar_2E0289_color=961

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  30. I, too, am rather shocked that you feel compelled to apologize. I thought the piece was straightforward and honest, with the discussion that ensued lively and respectful. As someone who grew up in the 70s, my initial reaction to the kit was negative, because it reminded me of the ideas my mother held about a woman’s ideal being to present the image of an accomplished homemaker and to look polished and pretty while doing it (not me at all). My view of the kit softened somewhat as I read the comments and gained some additional perspective from them. That said, I would hope that at this point in time we would be able to speak openly and critically about all aspects of crafting activity and its intersection with women’s lives – then and now. Incidentally, I still prefer back and forth knitting and probably always will. :)

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  31. Cake mixes were definitely an improvement on MY mothers cakes! As for her cables, they were like Medusa, wild and snaky. Do I overcompensate in these areas? Why, yes, I believe I do!

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  32. Just for balance, I’d like to say I wasn’t offended by your previous post. I found it fascinating, as I had no idea these kits exist, but as those who were offended prompted such an interesting post today, I guess everybody wins!

    I am, however, mortally offended that you’d dismiss cake mixes so easily!

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  33. I’m sure my comments about how weird it seems contributed heavily to the debate…. I know when I knit a yoked jumper it is always a flat out race to get to the yoke. How many inches of stockingette can you do in an evening before you have to force yourself to go to bed?

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    1. now, if you could get a machine knitted and shaped in the round with circular sleeves, so no endless stockingette, no seams, no dpns or magic loop, I would soon drown in a mountain of jumpers.

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  34. Wow! It never ceases to amaze me how some look with a magnifying glass for something to be offended about. Your articles about a crucial period in women’s history and how life changed in so many ways for women who lived in the time showed no negative judgement at all. I’m so sorry you felt compelled to make this public apology. It is so important that all of women’s history be told, over and over again, loudly. Those who would silence any part of it deserve no apology. Thanks for a terrific blog.

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  35. Oh, Kate! I can not believe that any one, especially a knitter, would ever think you would be unkind about anything at all! Your incredibly generous spirit towards all of us, and the enlightenment and education you so wonderfully provide with every written word, has lifted the entire knitting world, and the textile world, up to a new and wonderful level. I have learned a graduate-level course from you! I am always deeply touched by the history lessons you provide! I feel proud to be a knitter because of your words! Thank you for sharing every single sentence with us, Kate!

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    1. I agree completely
      I love reading Kate’s blog for her interesting ideas, her views on knitting and it’s history
      keep up the good work Kate!

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    2. I agree with you Dixie. Every post is a joy be it about knitting or a special place or a sweet dog! We are blessed to have Kate share with us.

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  36. I agree, if I were to knit a yoke sweater, I would like to knit the yoke and body in the round. It is sad to hear that personal opinions are marked offensive or the like. No one should have to apologize for seeing things different.

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  37. I am laughing because that boxed cake mix, much as my time constrained Mother loved it, wasn’t a patch on her scratch cakes. One of which was her apple cake that nobody thought to get the recipe for before she died, and so far has proved un-reproduceable. She was a much better sewer than knitter, reverse being true for me.

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  38. I bought a 70s knitted polo neck ribbed jersey via Clothkits tantalisingly sold with ‘you can possibly smell the peat fire where these items were knitted by Shetlanders in their own homes’, alas no colourwork yokes.
    The overwhelming thing that surprises me about Ravelry and discovering what people knit is the diversity of items. Learning to knit in the 70s, it was viewed as a hobby that delivered a utilitarian item. I knitted jerseys because that is what one knitted. The nearest I would have got to amigirumi would have be an Alan Dart little person and I never had that longing, and my mother, who oversaw the knitting, would never have permitted such an irrelevant item.
    It is a commonly held view on Ravelry that knitting a challenge and knitting excellence, be it fabulous yarn, or fabulous pattern, are quaities to aspire to, and one can often find a fellow knitter who likes the same things, be they half a world away. I find it delightful. The widening of possibilities is great.

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  39. I agree with Linda. I also was not offended, but it has made me think about the difference between knitters now and then. I went through a phase of learning to sew recently, made quite a few clothes but have sort of lost the will right now. My sister, around 12 years older than I am, said that she had made most of her clothes when younger but had gone off it when could she could afford not to sew them herself.
    Maybe the same goes with knitting, to most of us now it is a lovely hobby and often to knit an item will cost more than buying something machine made. We do it for the pleasure to be had in the making, not because we have to.

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  40. I always enjoy reading your blog Kate, it is interesting, informative and fun. Personally, I did not get offended by yesterday’s post, but I want to say how graciously you accept criticism and offer apologies. Thank you!

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