In my last blog 'Starting my calming yarn journey' I referenced my Nan's courageous attempt to teach me to crochet when I was younger. Mum also tried to teach me to knit and I'm pretty sure that this wasn't overly successful either, both of them must have had the patience of saints to even give this a go. Whilst the arts of crochet or knitting were pretty elusive to me before adolescence I do have strong, fond memories of both Nan and Mum attempting to teach me.
(Kurt Ard, front cover of the Familie Journal, Denmark)
I remember sitting with them while they crocheted, knitted and did other yarn related art. I remember Mum learning to spin wool and her having a gorgeous spinning wheel in the lounge room, her friends would come over and the spinning wheel and whatever she had just spun/created would be a topic of conversation. I also remember running the unspun wool through my fingers and loving the way it felt after it had been spun into yarn.
As I got older and learnt (finally) to knit and crochet myself, I found myself thinking about how I felt growing up around these women and how their love of these crafts led to a sense of belonging for me and a sense of community amongst other women. So, I started asking questions of the women in my family to help explain why.
Yarn Community in recent history:
Nan was born in the 1930's in a time when community was very different, people knew their neighbours, families were generally less fragmented, there was less focus on instant gratification, people generally liked to help others without the thought of reward and you couldn't learn via YouTube!!!
I asked Nan how she learnt to crochet, she learnt from her Aunts (she had quite a few) and at school. Nan said that when she was growing up, it was something you just did, and women often got together talked about their family and any issues they may be having over a pot of tea whilst they knitted and/or crocheted (she hates sewing and would avoid that whatever chance she got but she loves crochet). Nan was a child during WW2 but remembers that women were encouraged to get together and knit/crochet for their men away fighting for their country thus cementing the sense of community and support for each other during a difficult and traumatic time.
(More knitting history: World War II, Judy Weightman October 9, 2012)
This continued well after the finish of WW2 and women throughout the fifties, sixties and seventies continued to support each other and provide community and connection via knitting, macramé, weaving etc. It wasn't until the late 1980's and early 1990's when these arts started to be seen as something that 'old people' do. There was a decline in the numbers of young women learning not only yarn art from the women in their families but also a decrease in the sense of community that went with this.
And then.............Social Media and the resurgence of the craft group!
Over the past 10 years or so I have seen a resurgence in crochet, knitting and other crafts that were previously seen as passé. These once celebrated then denigrated pastimes have become 'in' again. Whether this is due to the celebration of all things vintage and retro, I don't care.....I am just glad that they haven't gone the way of the woolly mammoth.
What this has meant though is that the community supporting the crafts (and consequently those doing them) has changed. Whilst there are still amazing local groups that get together, have some laughs, do some craft and provide support and community, the face to face community is now not the only community available.
Enter Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest etc. Community now consists of the virtual world as well, so many people continue to receive the support, bolstering and sense of belonging via social media. Some may argue that this is not the same as community in the sense of the 1940's, however I would argue that there is possibly a greater benefit in the virtual community. The risk of exclusion and/or judgement is minimised, gender, race, religion, identity do not preclude inclusion in the virtual world whereas they may have done in the 1940's version of community.
I recently saw a post of some work on a facebook group that I am part of. The person posting their crochet creation appeared to be concerned that it wasn't good enough but bravely put it out there for comment anyway. I was extremely glad to see that they received hundreds of comments from other group members and every one of those comments were positive, provided support and encouragement. That's not to say that all people will be kind, we all know the they aren't, but what it does show is that the sense of community around yarn continues to thrive.
My Yarn Community is family, friends, seen and unseen, laughing, supporting, caring, near and far, known and unknown.....how lucky am I?
What does your Yarn Community look like?
If you would like to let others know about your Yarn Community - please leave a link in the comments :)