Monday, October 31, 2011

Starting My First Sweater, a Reflection on Knitting as a Hobby

In the recent revival of Upstairs Downstairs, there is a significant plot point which revolves around hand-winding a hank of white wool. I won't mention the details because it would spoil too much, but I will say that I caught on to the mystery more quickly than my husband because as a knitter, the inclusion of an earlier scene involving the wool left an impression on me that was lost on him. My point in bringing this up is that in the movie, the wool yarn was something that was lovingly wound and cared for, not just a means to an end. This part of the series took place around 1936. The Regency Period, on the other hand, took place from around 1790-1820. A lot changed between these times, and a lot has changed from then to now.

In the early 1800s, hand knitting was done out of necessity, either by homemakers trying to be sure their family was warmly dressed (machine knitting was still relatively new), or as a relatively low-skill and low-wage trade for the working class. Was it a hobby as well? Perhaps—I can’t say for sure since I wasn’t there. The general impression I get, though, is that before the industrial revolution and the wide-spread use of knitting machines, hand knitting was something you did out of necessity, not for fun.

Fast forward to 2011, when a brand new machine knit sweater costs about $20-$40 at a department store. Those who know I am a knitter often see me wearing one of these, and ask “did you make that?”, to which I admit that I buy sweaters just like everyone else. I’ve been knitting only a few years, and have yet to tackle an entire sweater.

However, I've decided to follow the current knit-a-long for the Knitmore Girls, where I will tackle my FIRST hand-knit sweater. It’s the Rocky Coast Cardigan from Coastal Knits. I received the pattern in the mail on Friday, and hope to go buy the yarn this weekend. I could not be more excited. And contrary to the other comments I often receive about how knitting things for yourself will save money, this sweater will cost me a great deal more than just buying one in the store. The book with the pattern in it is $27.25 after shipping. The yarn I’m hoping to get (a mid-grade wool) is approximately $55. To top that off, the time spent making the sweater will be considerably more than just hopping in the car and picking up something at the store. Believe me: I don’t knit to save money. This is my hobby.

Is anyone else doing this knit-a-long?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Obligatory First Post

Every blog has to start somewhere. I've hemmed and hawed over what my perfect first post would be for months. Should I do a book review? A description of something I just finished knitting? An interview with an author? A funny story? What would be a good introduction to what I want to do on this blog?

In time, I decided I would just start with the litany of sentence fragments above and be done with it (many apologies to my husband, who makes his living editing such nonsense). As the name of this blog implies, I hope to write primarily about two things I love in life: knitting, and literature/movies set in the Regency period.

A few things you should know about me before we get started:
1) Jane Austen is my favorite Regency period author, but I am not at all opposed to modern day Austen knock-offs, or even fan fiction. More on that in a later post.
2) I started knitting a few summers ago on a whim, but didn't get really infatuated with it until I found out about Ravelry. Now I'm totally hooked!

Stay tuned for an upcoming review of Jane Austen Knits, published by Interweave Press. Appropriate, isn't it? I thought so, too.