Within the last several years, the time
honored craft of knitting and the creation of often beautiful and
wearable clothing items of art, has once again been revived. Knitting
today, has yet once more attained heightened popularity and interest.
Yet once more, one can find many craft shops in numerous shopping
centers and beyond, where knitting club groups regularly congregate
for instruction and conviviality, perhaps meeting and garnering
new friendships, while working on a project. These are also the
locales where a head spinning variety of knitting yarns and supplies
may be purchased. Cost of yarns and other supplies, such as knitting
needles of diverse types, shapes and sizes , may be modestly priced,
or reaching perhaps to the most exotic and costliest of yarn materials:
wools, acrylics and synthetics, mohair, angora, alpaca, vicuna,
llama, silk, and so forth. It all depends on the whim or desire,
expertise... In addition to the financial ability of the crafter,
whose wish is to create items of beauty, perhaps for oneself, for
gifting, or even for creating useful articles to beautify home decor.
Many persons learn the craft of knitting, some maybe even from the
hands of their mothers, and learn for many purposes and reasons:
perhaps for relaxation, or for the sole pleasure of creating beautifully
hand made items, lovingly and painstakingly worked, to be presented
as gifts for family and/or friends. There are those who might even
take up knitting to disrupt an undesirable habit, such as smoking,
nail biting, etc. Many people who knit, report that they experience
self satisfaction and enjoyment in the creation of something beautiful,
and perhaps even lasting and unique, that hopefully might one day
become a cherished "family heirloom."...and yet, others
claim that concentrating the mind on a knitting project, focusing
and following correct stitch patterns, gives them a respite from
everyday worries, cares or problems which fall into everyone's life,
from time to time. The anticipation of completing a project is also
quite exciting, at best! Additionally, some people say that "giving
their hands something to keep busy with," makes good use of
idle time, and may even at times perhaps prevent or successfully
avoid a nerve wrackingly, embarrassing, or a painfully awkward situation!
There are people who enjoy knitting layette items for newborn infants,
and especially and typically sweaters, caps and the like, for small
and maybe not-so-small children and grandchildren! Most people believe
that giving (and receiving) a gift with a "home made"
character, gives it a special appeal and a lasting appreciation,
notwithstanding a timeless recollection!
Perhaps a knitted article, no longer worn, or even one frequently
well worn, evokes and recalls kind thoughts of friends and family
yet alive, but foremost, may also trigger memories of loved ones
long passed, and who the original crafters of the items. At times,
knitted articles can often also be reminders of age old times and
events, both happy and sad, but long gone in one's past and life
history. Needless to say, the successful culmination and completion
of a knitting project begun, even gives a boost to one's determination,
one's ego, self satisfaction, and sense of pride and achievement!
......Knitting was always stereotypically associated wholly or at
least by and large in part, believed as a craft of women, especially
older "Mother Hubbard" types,or effeminate men, as said
in "old wives tales." Today, however, that myth has been
finally shattered. There are now high school groups, clubs and organizations,
consisting of both sexes, who participate and enjoy knitting and
other hand made crafts. There are currently public and private community
service school group projects conducted, involving the knitting
of sweaters, blankets, afghans, scarves, socks and gloves, to help
and give some warmth and comfort to the chronic homeless; also made
are cozy and warm articles for our brave and loyal United States
military service people and troops in war torn lands overseas; frequently
completed are even knitted caps and garments for newborn or prematurely
fragile infants who must remain in hospital; cancer victims, the
old and infirm,... and the list could endlessly go on!
Good will projects performed by individuals, especially young people,
gives a sense of community pride and unity, compassion and sympathy
for others less fortunate, than personal circumstances might dictate,
even in our present weak economy, focusing especially on kindness
On occasion, there are even knitting "competitions" today,
held for prizes/ awards, or simply for the sole sake of charity.
Sponsorship of a supposed "probable winner" for speed
and accuracy in the completion of identical useful projects, also
raise funds for donation to various charitable causes.
Not surprisingly, there are now, contemporarily, many men, even
professional athletes, such as well known football players and other
sportsmen, who entertain and truly enjoy crafting in their leisure
time: crafts such as knitting, crocheting, and other diverse needlework!
So now, with an explanation of the functions of the craft of knitting,
I will reach back into the 1940's, when I was a toddler child growing
up and living in Newark.....
Where I lived, just a short block away, on Belmont Avenue, there
was a weekly or bi-weekly womens' knitting circle. The women met
for instruction and also camaraderie, of course. Back in those times,
it was indeed primarily women in the knitting group, but on rare
occasion, a male or two might have been present, perhaps a person
who was handicapped/disabled in some way, and unable to work. In
those days, it was custom, as everyone knows, for men to work and
be family providers, and mothers, if they could, took charge of
the children and household by remaining home. So the group met in
"Irene's Knitting Shop."
Irene's shop was on the first floor of a three family home, of which
Irene and her family owned. I recall she had several grown, probably
teenaged sons, (whose names I cannot recall), since this was circa
1947 or 1948, and so I was a mere three or four years old at the
time. However...I do recall Irene and her shop, and her knitting
I recall Irene's physical appearance as that of a very pretty lady
of Italian-American extraction, with long, flowing and gorgeous
jet black hair, each side of which was rolled up "'40's style",
and the hair in back of her head remained hanging free. Ladies of
a certain age on Old Newark, will most probably recall or recognize
the then very popular hairstyle that it was! I recall she was very
kind, fairly tall, (everyone is tall in the eyes of a three or four
year old!), with large, very expressive eyes and facial features.
I do recall what a master of her craft she was, and the many, many
cubicles completing lining the walls with yarns for sale, of every
color and shade imaginable of the spectrum and beyond!
My late mother was very devoted to knitting, and always turned to
Irene for advice, usually demonstrating the "completed homework"
Irene had "assigned" for that week's lesson. Irene was
very exacting; the women chatted but Irene told them to focus largely
on their work during the session, I recall my mother becoming agitated
having to rip out a week's worth of stitch work, because Irene only
strove to teach for perfection, and not meeting her satisfaction,
she insisted for "work" to be redone, for she had the
reputation for mastery and perfection. After all, her teaching skills
were her reputation and business! It was always most frustrating
for much of the women to have to sometimes even start from scratch,
redo work on on a project, sometimes more than twice! A lot of the
women threw down their work at times in anger, insisting they had
done the correct stitching, without mistakes, but Irene could not
be swayed. Eventually, however, everyone calmed down and work resumed,
at least for that day and lesson! Happily, as I recall it, most
women completed their chosen project, despite often high emotions,
with perhaps a few "cuss words" thrown in at times...(luckily,
I was too young to remember THOSE, some which of were probably not
As I write this memory, I am looking at a sepia colored photograph
of myself, circa 1947 again. I am staring straight into the camera,
and wearing one of mother's many sweater creations, along with a
little hat. Sleeve length was usually the bane of my mother, and
I recall many sleeves being too long, mother probably figuring I
would grow into the sweater, and have it for a while, after her
long, hard efforts for it to be made. I am certain mother must have
endured many negative commentaries from Irene, with regard to sleeves!
I actually recall the sweater being emerald green, with brown edge
bottom wool trimming, also on the sleeves edges, which were, of
course, way too long, folded and rolled up on my tiny arms. I am
also wearing a matching "Mickey Mouse" eared little hat
in the same shade of green...and I do not look so very happy, as
the sweater probably was extremely very bulky, uncomfortable, and
more than likely "itchy," as well! I am not wearing a
winter jacket in this photograph, just the sweater set, so I will
assume the season was mid autumn, on a fairly colder day. I am wearing
"leggings" as well, a clothing item no longer in vogue
for children, since those many, many years past...and probably,
they also gave me somewhat discomfort, with the little straps which
attached to the bottoms of a child's shoes.
Ironically, to this very day, my favorite color is emerald green,
and my favorite hobby...can you guess?...is knitting! I often "wonder"
if this is by "heredity" (!) as well, and correlating
that vivid and lovely shade of green of that little sweater set,
to my present day color preferences? ...Hmm-m, I wonder, I just
Today, as I reminisce, that little green sweater set and many others
that mother lovingly made for me, are all long since gone,... as
is my beloved mother. However, I STILL have that one "famous"
little photo, which recalls those days back then.... and mother,
too, of course. Although as a small child, like many other children,
I could not appreciate the many efforts and sacrifices mother made
for me in those days so very long ago, I can look back at the passage
of time, with fondness and smiles, (despite the discomfort of that
little sweater set!), and in cherished memory of mother.....and
Irene's Belmont Avenue Knitting Shop!
I think I will go now to finish the sweater I am making for my granddaughter...but
I STILL cannot get the sleeves done correctly!!