Sep 24 2005

Picking A Knit


What I am about to reveal here may shock you: about 4872 of the people who read this blog are knitters.

Never having knitted a stitch in the protracted span of empty decades that is my life, I am somewhat at a loss to explain the apparent connection between knitting and patriarchy-blaming. So, all you knitters, what gives?

And how fresh is that pick-a-knit joke? Haw!

Addendum: I don’t know from knitting, so I don’t know if knitters, like sitters, are also spinners, but one of my oldest and dearest pals in the world is a crackpot farmer in Kentucky who raises (among other things) weird, rare boutique sheep for their apparently fabulous wool, which she sells to discriminating connoisseurs. Just an FYI.


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  1. Katherine

    I’m a patriarchy-blamer who lurks on your blog and also knits. I think the correlation is purely coincidental: most knitters are women, and most patriarchy-blamers are women, therefore there is some overlap. Love the blog, by the way.

  2. Sara

    I don’t knit, but I think that whatever the cause, the link between knitting and patriarchy blaming may be quite old. Think Madame DuFarge.

    Fictional, you say? Are you sure about that?

  3. judy

    i am a long-time knitter and patriarchy blamer, too. i found your blog link on a knitting blog (i think it was, ‘and she knits, too’). there are a few knitting blogs with side topics of politics, etc.
    radical knitters, maybe?

  4. Mandos

    I like the fact that you like puns. I like puns too. Puns are the highest form of humour.

  5. Emma

    I can knit, but only because I had a grandmother who was a fabulous practitioner of said art. I remember at high school that one of our art classes included a video about Kaffe Fassett, a dudely and esteemed knitter. It seemed par for the bloody course that as soon as a man took up knitting it become highly esteemed, and he was lauded for his design skills and his appreciation of colour and texture.

    I always imagined that the feminist knitters were reappropriating a traditionally female art-form resigned to musty “craft” status because of its propensity to be carried out by vagina-bearers. Also, all that sitting around together knitting and chatting is quite sisterly. Like Ruth Six-Feet-Under’s knitting group.

  6. rhondda

    I always think of the woman in A Tale of Two Cities who knitted through the revolution in France.

  7. Noelle

    I think Katherine nailed it.

  8. Twisty

    Mandos Mandos Mandos. I am going to write a script that will automatically append “Mandos Mandos Mandos” whenever I reply to one of your comments.

    Anyway, I didn’t know they had puns in Canada!

  9. Twisty

    most knitters are women, and most patriarchy-blamers are women, therefore there is some overlap

    I won’t argue with your basic assertion, but there has to be more to it. By your reasoning, this blog should likewise be teeming with stewardesses, nurses, and ballerinas.

  10. Darsana

    Same as Judy, I found you through a knitter’s site–and I’m grateful for a patriachy-blaming blog to read while I knit away!

  11. Ashley

    I’m a knitter, but I read your blog primarily because I blame the patriarchy _and_ I’m a displaced Austinite–so I get both righteous rage and nostalgia at the same time. That said, I absolutely think of my knitting as a feminist activity, and I think a lot of knitters out there feel the same (see Emma’s comment)–so it’s not just that most knitters are women, it’s that many knitters are feminists.

  12. Dea

    How clever you are to notice the knitting/patriarchy-blaming connection, Twisty! I heartily agree with your observation.

    I like to think that these mutually-compatible dual pastimes enjoy a fine long tradition dating back to the prototypical weaver and patriarchy-blamer, Penelope.


  13. spiritrover

    It’s guilt that drives knitters to blame the patriarchy. How many patriarchy-blaming knitters promised the patriarchy a sweater, lo these many years ago? And how many patriarchies now can’t even freakin’ *look* at the knitting bag without being blamed for nagging about that sweater! Though the patriarchy only mentions it maybe once a decade! And how many knitters blame the patriarchy for their silent guilt about that un-knitted patriarchal sweater, as they knit with relish and skill for the not-patriarchy? Though at any time they could’ve knitted the patriarchy that sweater before he gained 40 pounds!

    I bet it’s a LOT.

  14. SF Knitter

    I just happen to knit, but my calling is patriarchy-blaming. I was doing it in the womb.

    I believe that knitters are an unusually perceptive, intelligent, and creative group, unafraid of either the pursuit of their own interests or the poor opinion of others.

  15. Lauren

    It’s the DIY punk rock bitchery.

  16. Mandos

    Yes they have puns in Canada. I have loosed many infestations of them on the country, actually. I had pun control officers nagging me every week. I never paid the fine. The very fine fine.

    But I am not in Canada, anyway. I am Canadian, but I am not in Canada! How can a Canadian not be in Canada! It is a paradox!

    And now you have reminded me of my blog. I am not posting, because I am too guilty to post. I am too guilty to post, because I have not posted to it. Whatever shall I do?

  17. Karen B.

    Twisty Twisty Twisty:

    It was a Canadian knit blogger (“and she knits too”) who turned me on to your blog through a number of references over the past few months.

    Yes, I am a knitter, crocheter, designer and blogger. I also enjoy your rapier wit and carefully-crafted badinage.

    Keep ’em honest, Twisty.

  18. miz_geek

    I think it’s the knitting needles. C’mon, which other female hobbies involve sharp implements that are begging to be used to impale the patriarchy? The knitters just feel drawn to someone who’s so good with knives and fire.

    Sadly, I don’t do either. I can whack the patriarchy with a frisbee, though.

  19. Twisty

    I must say, this has been quite the eye-opener. I never would have guessed that there existed at large a rogue gang of iconoclastic feminist yarn jockeys. You guys are great! I envision my next rumble in a dark alley:

    Me: I’d drop those unflattering epithets if I were you.

    Wanker Gang Leader: Oh yeah? What’re ya gonna do, blame me to death?

    Me: You see those guys? [gestures]

    [Cut to 4872 women who have until now been obscured in shadow. They put down their skeins and stand up one by one, brandishing needles. Slowly, silently, menacingly, they begin to advance.]

    Wanker: No–no–it can’t be–they’re not–I mean, it’s just a legend–

    Me: Oh, it’s no legend. They’re…[dum-dum DAH-dum!]…the Knitters. And they’re pissed.

    [Exit Wanker, pursued by Knitters]

  20. pyramus

    It’s not just the knitting needles, though; a woman’s stereotypical “Kinder, Kuche, Kirche” life surrounds her with weapons: diaper pins, boning knives and frying pans, crucifixes….

    I am a knitter, and also Canadian, and also dudely (nice word), and I would like to mention that patriarchy-blaming knitters will enjoy Ruth Rendell’s short story “A Needle for the Devil”, in which a woman whose husband forcibly disapproves of her love of knitting gives him his comeuppance in a most knitterly, anti-patriarchal manner indeed.

  21. Mandos

    I’d not make that Mme Defarge comparisons, though. I don’t think that Dickens intended to flatter her. In fact, she was part of the patriarchy-waiting-in-the-wings is what he wanted to point out. The knitters started out as revolutionaries and ended up cheerleaders to brutality.

  22. dr. b.

    I knit and blame the patriarchy, but I originally found you through Feministe (if I remember correctly). As a matter of fact I think she came to my office and made me come here. :-)

  23. Lauren

    I sure did, Dr. B. But first we had to do a google search because I had lost my wazoo.

  24. Stephannie

    got here thru ‘and she knits too’…used to live in Austin as well. I do a lot more than knit!

  25. Leslie - knitting therapist

    4873 and counting…
    I found you through “And She Knits, Too” as well. I enjoy Stephie just as much for her political/academic content as her knitting content.
    Since I work exclusively with women who are changing their substance use, I find that the knitting keeps me calm and centred, while the patriarchy-blaming keeps me sharp, angry and on my toes.
    Love the blog.

  26. Capt. Trollypants

    I think it is because sometimes the patriarchy needs more than blame, maybe a sharp poke, or at least to be tangled in yarn like a wayward puppy or kitten. How can it know better? It is the patriarchy and a feigned “who me?” is one of its strong points.

  27. TimT

    There’s an Ancient Grecian myth about the women of a city pecking an invading army to death with knitting needles.

    Perhaps you Americans should lobby the government for the Right To Bear Needles to be enshrined in the constitution, or something.

  28. Katy

    Also found you through “And She Knits Too” and “At My Knit’s End.” There seems to be a group of feminist knitting blogs. Guess we knitters just like to be subversive.

  29. Meribeth

    OK, I’m a knitter, feminist…

    I’m a feminist because I got sick an tired of hearing I could not become a doctor, fireman, scientist because I was a girrrriill. Pissed me off..50 years ago. Still pissed.

    I’m a knitter because it’s nice to create something pretty, cute, warm, elegant. I like the symbology too. I know women are the stronger sex…we take care of the children, cope with the patriarchy, care for the sick and mourn the dead. We are the fiber that can hold a family together and create a civilized life. But to many times us women are our own worst enemy.

    I am not sure how I found your blog. Either from Kits End or from a “librul” blog.

    Rock on! (Did that date me???)

  30. fayrene

    I also found you through And She Knits Too. Debbie Stoller makes a strong case for knitting as a feminist act in her first Stitch and Bitch book, which validated my own instincts when I was first learning to knit. The patriarchy does enough to devalue those skills that women have traditionally mastered, I want to do my part to keep the “womanly arts” alive and treasured.

    Next is getting my grandmother to teach me how she makes her amazing jelly from wild Texas grapes…

  31. Amanda Marcotte

    I am a non-knitting patriarchy-blamer. However, I do garden and have cats. Make of that what you will. My personal feeling is mundane but lovely hobbies keep patriarchy-blamers from blowing a gasket.

  32. Amanda Marcotte

    Or maybe feminists are just gleeful about parading around our hobbies because we know in the past we were told to just shut up and perform them whilst listening to the men blather on about theirs.

  33. Megan Good

    I knit because I’m a geek, and if I’m not constantly doing something with my hands then I’ll find something to do. This has recently included shredding entire rolls of paper towels, dismantling a class room computer (during a lecture on feminism and childcare advice), and destroying a small tree. I suspect that my patriarchy blaming may stem from similar destructive tendencies.

  34. annmarie

    *By your reasoning, this blog should likewise be teeming with stewardesses, nurses, and ballerinas.

    Okay, I give. Are you saying that they should be here (according to the basic assumption) because these are traditional roles for women in our society? Or are you saying they should be here because these are three occupations that have a lot of down time and consequently tend to have a somewhat higher proportion of needleworkers?

    Works for me either way, actually.

  35. Anonymous

    Chalk up one more for the knitters! I came here through Amanda (mousewords, then Pandagon), but I’ve knitted for ages. I am however, only a novice patriarchy blamer. I can report with confidence that our local knit-group is about 80+% patriachy blamers, most of them much more advanced than myself. Also about 1/3 spinners (I do that too).

    Thanks for the link to your friend – I actually live near there – yeah! More supplies!

    I would say that due to the association with other patriachy-blaming knitters, I am probably further along that path than I would be if I did not knit.

  36. Tapetum

    Chalk up one more for the knitters! I came here through Amanda (mousewords, then Pandagon), but I’ve knitted for ages. I am however, only a novice patriarchy blamer. I can report with confidence that our local knit-group is about 80+% patriachy blamers, most of them much more advanced than myself. Also about 1/3 spinners (I do that too).

    Thanks for the link to your friend – I actually live near there – yeah! More supplies!

    I would say that due to the association with other patriachy-blaming knitters, I am probably further along that path than I would be if I did not knit.

  37. emjaybee

    I need a t-shirt that says “Can’t Knit for Shit”.

    But I still blame the patriarchy, though not for my total ineptness at arts and crafts. My mom could sew her own clothes, but I gave up after a hideous apron-related mishap in Home Ec. Our only cat is my husband’s, who hates me and everyone but him, and I can’t garden either.

    I do make a really good pound cake, though. And aspire to own some chickens, someday, I’m not sure why. That’s the extent of my traditional feminine skill set.

  38. norbizness

    I’m all for knitting, so long as I never have to participate in the activity or wear anything made by a knitter. Although I do like The Knitters, the X/Dave Alvin side project.

  39. Lauren

    We really should leave the feminist/cat owner connection alone.

  40. alphabitch

    My grandmother taught me to knit. She also taught me some rudimentary proto-patriarchy blaming skills as we knit — and shared her recollections of the patriarchy-blaming movements of the early part of the 20th century. She and her three sisters had been raised by their single mother and two genuine spinster aunts (all three of whom were excellent knitters as well). The absent father had been thrown out of the house for being a drunken gambler and a sinner of one kind or another – nobody will admit to knowing any of the details. Their teenage son went with him, not surprisingly. While she taught me to knit, my grandmother told me all about being taken to suffrage rallies with signs taped to the baby carriage her younger sister was in. And they were all heavily involved in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which of course played a large part in some big-ass proto-patriarchy blaming. My cousins who didn’t learn how to knit had to read about that shit in books.

    It wasn’t til many years later that I joined my first revolutionary knitting group which met twice a month to plot the overthrow of the patriarchy and mostly to have a potluck. And knit. There were at least three or four dudes in the group, two of whom were excellent knitters and all of whom were very competent patriarchy blamers. Funny how we never talked about the connection between knitting and patriarchy-smashing.

  41. jc.

    The thought of thousands of Twisty readers armed with knitting needles caused my patriarchal testicles to re-ascend.

  42. Steph

    Twisty, I love the image of 4873 Knitters with their sharpened needles. Now that would be Taking Back the Night.

    I was blaming patriarchy before I started to knit. But I found knitting was something that kept me from going beserk in the many activist meetings I sat in where we had to endlessly debate our goals and actions. The part of me that wanted to throttle someone was busy with sticks and string. And I got a nice sweater at the end.

    I think the missing connection is Knit-bloggers, or chicks with sticks who hang on the internet that is the important connection. They’re young, tech-savvy, like to write and read good writing, most are political and liberal and they also happen to enjoy a challenging but sumptuous craft.

    I started my blog as a knitting thing, but I find myself using it more and more to blame patriarchy. I don’t want to be a Mme. Dufarge.

  43. Amanda

    Yeah, I got here through “and she knits” too. But I have to agree that most knitters who read blogs are (in my experience) fairly progressive and liberal. Probably we’re attuned to the political parts of knit blogs and we get filtered here.

    glad I found you – thanks steph!!

  44. d.e.i.x.i.s.

    I know a lot of liberal lesbians who knit, while I myself do not.

    My sister crochets, does that count?

  45. WookieMonster

    Waha! I both knit and crochett (I also know several other useless crafting techniques such as tatting), and have been blaming the patriarchy since I was a kid watching He-man and She-ra and getting all pissed that He-man was always popping up to “help” poor helpless She-ra, while He-man never needed any help from She-ra (you just knew it was cause he was too much of a jerk to accept help from a girl).

  46. liza

    I too am a patriarchy-blaming knitter. I knit because I love making something out of sticks and string, because I think women must keep hold of things that are traditionally called “womanly arts,” (whatever that means), and because we must also retake and remake those arts. This summer one of my biggest knitting disappointments was that the most newsworthy knitters (e.g. http://www.iberkshires.com/story.php?story_id=17649) were men. Why was that? Is it that women don’t knit with excavators and telephone poles? Or is that if we do, our stories are not told?

  47. Ron O.

    Token dude knitter here. I have 5 sisters and come from a crafty family. With so many kids, we had to be. I’m learning to knit because I like to keep busy and I like live in cold climate. I’m just a beginning knitter, still learning my stiches. Though I’m pretty good at patriarchy-blaming for a guy.

  48. Sara

    Sorry; I know I already commented here, but I just remembered something else you and the knitting blamers might enjoy:


    I know it’s old news, but it’s still pretty great. Oh, and here’s the crochet pattern:


    Happy needling!

  49. tattycat

    I knit so I won’t kill people. And because I refuse to pay godawful sums of money for clothes in my size that I could make myself.

  50. Celia

    I also came by way of And She Knits Too. Don’t be so shocked at your knitting followers, Twisty. Feminists come in all ages, shapes, and sizes and have a wide variety of pursuits. Knitting just calms me down after a hard day of patriarchy blaming. Otherwise I would be a raging bitch that no one could abide.

  51. octopod

    I sew because no-one makes costume items for cheap enough, and because (as Megan Good comments above) it provides a useful fidget, and otherwise I end up generating large quantities of very small paper shreds and dismantling furniture. Hurrah, twitchy feminists…

  52. MK Carroll

    My mother remembers it this way: I demanded to be taught to knit and crochet. She does not remember teaching me how to sew or cook, but I managed to figure it out and was sporting my own hand-sewn berry-juice tie-dyed handbag when I stunned my grandmother by successfully and nonchalantly preparing and baking a lemon meringue pie at the age of 7. By that time, I had also been sent to the office at school for hitting a boy with my metal lunchbox and had kicked the future highschool star quarterback in the shin and made him cry because he cut in front of me for the pencil sharpener. Teachers and school officials, suckered by my cute little face and enormous tears, didn’t take punitive action but did recommend that I find a better way to deal with boys. The boy that I hit with my lunchbox? He wouldn’t leave me alone, I hit him, he has not bothered me since. I’m all for peaceful dispute resolution, but sometimes you just have to smack the jerk upside the head with Strawberry Shortcake print steel.

    I have found that my abundant domestic skills make it all the more frustrating for men who do not comprehend why I will not pander to their egos. I can do all this and still not need them?!? How?!? Quite the headache inducer for the chauvinists.

    I tried pandering to the male ego for a while, won’t bore you with all the joy that brought me: suffice to say, my goal for the past several years has been to let that 7-year old inner child of mine shine.

  53. Elise

    I just found your blog and I dearly love it. One of the benefits of knitting is thatit allows a meditative frame of mind without intrusions (Shhh! I’m counting!) You can really figure things out

  54. Libby

    I learned to knit and spin to suppliment my own survival skills should society as we know it crumble. Think about it: if it all cracked in two and we were left out in the wilderness with our birthday suits and our brains – I know for certain that I can provide myself with clothing, food and shelter. I’d venture to guess a great portion of America wouldn’t function 12 hours sans TV. I think it is that same independent spirit and self-sufficiency in knitting women that draws them to your site.

  55. Daphne

    You already know I’m one of those 4800-odd folks.

    Knitting is very very popular right now, and I think that’s why the argument that “why aren’t ballerinas reading, too?” argument is bunk. Most knitters are women (currently) and most patriarchy-blamin’ feminists are women. Most women can’t become ballerinas in their 30’s though most can learn to knit.

    There are plenty of conservative knitters online these days, if the comments on Kirsten’s blog (At Knit’s End) are any indication.

    Still I think the question may be: does the internet allow us to rejoin as feminists in a way we can’t in the real world because we can’t stand each other in the real world? You know, sisterhood and getting along nice and being extroverted all the damn time?

  1. At My Knits End

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    Twisty asks in Picking a Knit: What is the connection between knitting and blaming the patriarchy? Conservative knitters need not answer. And dudes! What are you still doing reading this blog?—…

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    Meme-ity meme meme

    Dru nailed me with this one, so I have obliged to do it, by the rules of the blogosphere. Seven things I plan to do before I die: 1. Own my own home outright 2. Get laid again 3. Score…

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