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A feminist's guide to knitting

As third-wave feminists embrace the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethic and take their seats in knitting circles, feminist crafting has become a…

By Amy Juschka , in Blogs Suffragette City: Gender and Pop Culture , on January 29, 2008

As third-wave feminists embrace the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethic and take their seats in knitting circles, feminist crafting has become a way to honour women’s history and women’s ‘work’. And although the impetus behind the DIY ethic is commendable, the ethical position feminist crafting takes fails to reflect the reality of many women’s lives.

After years of promising myself I would learn, I finally picked up a pair of knitting needles and began my first scarf. It definitely wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing creation, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I had made something and that was a great feeling.

I applaud the self-determination and autonomy that doing-it-yourself upholds, but there does seem to be a serious disconnect with the everyday lives of many women when it comes to third-wave feminism and crafting.knitting yarn

One of the third-wave’s greatest accomplishments was its success in challenging second-wave feminism’s overemphasis on the experiences of middle-class white women. In second-wave feminism, the ground for challenging women’s oppression was to argue that the personal is the political; but that personal tended to be that of affluent white women.

Third-wave feminism challenged this middle-class white ground and proposed the necessity to think about the multiple locations of women, poor, indigenous, black, lesbian or immigrant. Keeping this in mind, one can then ask about feminist crafting and the assumptions therein. For example, knitting, in a sense, is a middle-class hobby. It, along with much crafting, is a luxury that many women cannot afford.

And while the DIY ethic provides women with a sense of self-reliance it’s also a tad self-indulgent.

Since learning to knit, I have spent over $70 on materials and upwards of 30 hours on various projects. A single mother who works two part-time jobs probably lacks the financial resources and time for this kind of hobby. Maybe when her kids are in bed and the house is clean she can finally sit down at 1 a.m. and knit a few rows.

I guess that’s something to think about the next time I take out my knitting needles while lazing around on the couch.


  • Dickens’ book, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ uses knitting rather craftily. If you are interested in philosophizing over knitting, I recommend you give the book a shot.

  • I don’t agree with all that the author of the article says. In the 1980s I was a single (divorced) mother of two, working two jobs at different schools, but still with limited income. I managed to sew most of my children’s and my clothes. The materials and patterns that I used were from thrift shops. “Re-crafting” before it became “hip”. I think it’s more about what your priorities are.

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