The Stereotypical Knitter

If I, as a 20 year old college student, happen to be caught knitting in public (which does happen quite often), people’s first reactions often are:

“You knit? You’re such a grandma.”

“So like, did your grandma teach you?”

Of course, my absolute favorite reaction is the question, “Are you knitting?” as I hold my two needles and yarn out in front of me. No, I answer, I am welding. And in answer to whether my grandma taught me, no: I’m a millennial, I watched Youtube videos to learn.

For some reason, a lot of stereotypes have developed around people who knit. However, it does make me wonder, how has the art of knitting turned into something with such a social stigma that it makes people pass judgements on you? I once wore a handmade shawl and someone (who might have been trying to compliment me, I will give her the benefit of a doubt) said, “Oh, it’s just like Little House on the Prairie!” No, I wanted to say, as I started to feel embarrassed. I am wearing a rainbow shawl that I knit mostly on a roadtrip while listening to Harry Potter. It is nothing like Little House on the Prairie.

What are those stereotypes? I asked my non-knitting friend Maggy to give me a list of what she thinks knitters are and she fired off a list immediately:

  1. They have grey hair
  2. They wear old lady clothes
  3. They have weird looking glasses
  4. They smell funny
  5. They knit a lot of sweaters
  6. They are anti social
  7. They have a lot of cats

While there are definitely knitters who might fit into all of those categories (though I don’t know where the “smells funny” part came from), and I am happy for each and every person who loves to knit, many knitters don’t fit with any of these stereotypes. To quote Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a knitting humor writer,

In reality, a knitter today is just as likely to be young, hip, male, and sitting at a “Stitch and Bitch” in a local bar. Several of today’s best knitting designers are men, and a knitter is as likely to have body piercings as homemade cookies.”

I have begun to see more and more people knitting even as I walk across my college campus. They are knitting in their dorms, on public transportation, while hanging out with friends, in class, etc. They’re not being shy about displaying their craft.

They are knitting more than the simple scarves and sweaters. They are knitting Daleks from Doctor Who, Mandrakes from Harry Potter, Medusa wigs, Viking beards, a Uterus, thongs, and more. People enjoy knitting a wide variety of things, and knitting a Viking wig should not have you stereotyped as a little old lady in a rocking chair.

Knitting is more than a hobby for elderly ladies. It is a way to keep your hands busy, to be meditative, to be productive and multitask, to help with stress and anxiety, to earn money, to make art, to simply enjoy yourself.

There are many different reasons for knitting, and so these stereotypes just don’t work.

Well, maybe one. As Stephanie Pearl McPhee also said,

Despite our diversity, the tendency to be accompanied by a cat is an oddity among knitters that cannot be explained.”

Last updated: September 23, 2016


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