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NO IDLE HANDS: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne L. Macdonald

NO IDLE HANDS: The Social History of American Knitting


Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1988
ISBN: 0345362535
Publisher: Ballantine

An engaging chronicle covering knitting and knitters from the Pilgrim mothers to the businessmen--and women--of the 1980's. Former academic and current knitting entrepreneur Macdonald is enamored of her subject, and she charts generations of those busy hands with great relish and zeal. But her detailed research is better than her overall historical analysis as she makes no attempt to prove that knitting affected any significant historical change. Macdonald does show adequately how social and political changes were reflected in this one kind of domestic work, and along the way supplies marvelous anecdotes and illustrations. In the colonial period, Mary Rowlandson knit for her Indian captors and earned food in exchange for shirts and socks. Every war, from the Revolutionary to the Korean, has marked a resurgence of knitting for men at the front, resulting in such startling mass events as the 1918 Central Park Knitting Bee. Once it was no longer a household necessity, knitting went in and out of fashion as the roles and images of women changed. It was both a tool of emancipation--women knitters during war learned how to organize on a large scale--and a reassuring sight to men that those women were still like their traditional grandmothers. The rise of women's sports--the unfeminine activities of tennis, golf, and cycling--was balanced by the very feminine craze of knitting athletic sweaters and socks. During the 20th century, changing patterns in consumerism and marketing enabled many knitters to become professionals by giving adult education classes, running shops, and writing knitting columns in newspapers. Lightweight but entertaining, targeted more for the knitter than the historian.