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Idle Hands: A Social History of Knitting
Anne L. MacDonald
5 sheep (excellent)
Idle Hands” is available in our Guild Library as well as
the St. Louis County Library or Amazon.com.
Please do not let the sub-title, "a Social History
of Knitting" dissuade you from reading this delightful
book. The author, Anne L. MacDonald, is an enthusiastic
knitter as well as a highly educated historian. In her introduction,
the author gives you a sample of the tenor of the book when
in acknowledging her five children and six grandchildren,
she says, “Grandmother will shortly return to her knitting”.
This book was published in 1988 - well before the current
knitting craze started.
better subtitle for this book would be, "a Social History
of American Knitting" because it begins with knitting
in Colonial America. The title “No Idle Hands” derives from
the Puritan ethic of that sentiment. Using such diverse
sources as magazines, newspapers, brochures, letters and
diaries from libraries as well as personal collections,
the author traces knitting from the colonial period to the
modern era . She discusses at some length knitting in ordinary
homes and its effects on daily life. One quote has a Colonial
child writing in her diary that she had to knit an inch
at her stocking before going out to play.
for the troops is a concept that dates to the Revolutionary
War. Did you know that Martha Washington and her cadre of
officer wives' who joined their husbands at winter camp
knit socks and underwear for the troops? Knitting through
all the wars is related right up to Eleanor Roosevelt's
“Knit for Defense” in World War II.
while traveling may have originated with our frontier sisters
who wrote in letters and diaries about knitting while traveling
(sometimes on foot) and trading yarn and patterns with others
when in wagon train camps at night.
male gender and knitting was not ignored in this book either.
Several pages were devoted to what men have said about knitting
through the years and goes on to illustrate the many times
and examples in which gentlemen have knit. Ogden Nash added
his opinion in saying “show me a man who talks to himself
and I'll show you a man who's wife knits”.
chapter discusses the influences of the modern knitting
gurus, Mary Walker Phillips, Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara
Walker. Hollywood was not ignored either with tales of movie
stars of the past who helped popularized knitting.
Henry Herbert, wife of President Herbert Hoover, sums up
all our feelings about knitting. When she noticed a friend
ripping something out, she said, “Don't rip it out. You
and I are too busy to rip. Make the same mistake in the
next row and make a pattern of it”. I heartily recommend
this entertaining and informative book.
this book from Amazon.com
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