Is Knitting a Sign of Domesticity?

The other day as I sat knitting away while waiting for a homemade Norwegian desert to come out of the oven, Thor commented, “People who don’t know you would never guess you are so domestic.” Watching my facial expression, he immediately realized he said something wrong.

Dictionary definitions of “domestic” include: (1) any household or family chore, (2) someone who likes household life and chores, (3) tame, (4) relating to the internal affairs of a country, or (5) a product indigenous to a certain country. When Thor called me “domestic,” I immediately thought of the first three definitions – quickly bringing to mind (1) June Cleaver’s well-coiffed juggling of vacuuming, making lunches and asking Ward what goes on in the minds of boys, or (2) Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.” Either one annoys me.

A chore is a routine, generally unpleasant, and necessary task. People don’t like doing chores. The only household chores either Thor or I do is a minimum amount of cleaning (e.g., vacuuming, bathroom scrubbing, floor washing). We wash linens weekly and (our own) clothes when there are no clean ones left hanging. I iron (my clothes) when absolutely necessary. My daughter has been after me for a couple of years to hire a housekeeper, but if Thor and I are fine with it (neither of us is a pig!) …

Admittedly, I do an array of ARTS that some people think of as “domestic”- knitting, weaving, dying, crocheting, sewing, etc. But remember the definition of chore: “a routine, generally unpleasant and necessary task.” I do not think that any of those skills is a “necessary task” thus they are not “domestic” skills either. They are, simply, ART and those who do them are ARTISTS.

Today’s blog started with a comment from Thor about cooking. Is cooking a domestic chore? Well, it’s less a chore than it used to be – given the array of pre-prepared foods and frozen/canned foods, not to mention the frequency with which people eat out. Let’s go back to the definition of chore: necessary, routine and generally unpleasant. My cooking is not necessary; Thor can cook for himself perfectly well (albeit boring and minimalist). My cooking is definitely not routine; I approach cooking in a rather eclectic manner, dashing out to the corner market to buy whatever it is I’m in the mood to cook. And it’s not an unpleasant experience; as Thor can attest, I sing and dance to big band vocalists while I cook.

I apply the same rule I use for who receives my fiber creations: I cook only for close friends and family. That way I ensure I am not angry, hurt or annoyed that a dish I specially prepared is bypassed for someone else’s Fritos and canned bean dip.

I am not domestic. Knitting, crocheting, sewing, dying, spinning and weaving (and even cooking!) are not domestic chores. Following and reading blogs of many fiber artists, I am always struck by their creativity, ingenuity and willingness to experiment. I learn from them every day!

Knitting is an art, and we are all artists. 🙂

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About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
This entry was posted in Knitting, Norwegian Knitting, Norwegian Upbringing in U.S.. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Is Knitting a Sign of Domesticity?

  1. As one who is now a crone 🙂 I thank you and heartily agree! I am waiting for my grandkids to get old enough to give fiber instruction!

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  2. Great post 🙂 It’s all about perspective, right? My husband will tease me when my girlfriends are gathered around knitting by saying, “You’re a bunch of grannies” (we’re in our early 30s), and I think, “Hey! Grannies should be revered! Their wisdom and experience is beautiful! Historically, in goddess-centered cultures, the “crone” was a sacred figure!” Also, craft circles among women (be it spinning, basket weaving, or what have you) were a key means of passing down cultural traditions and knowledge—and as a modern day crafter, I am proud of being part of this tradition!

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  3. Great response to your intellectual feminist friend! Without the spinsters, folks would have wondered around nearly naked, adored with leaves and other organic material … not very good in the cold months!

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  4. Thank you for reading my blog. I’ve been enjoying working on it and, especially, getting to see what other knitters around the world are doing! Sort of like snooping but not quite! 🙂

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  5. True … but I wonder if it isn’t because knitting is still seen as a “woman’s hobby.” Think of the stereotypical equivalent for men … hunting? golfing? They’re not domestic … lawn mowing? Well, that’s probably not an art! 🙂

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  6. Good point … I never thought of it that way!

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  7. Suzy says:

    My father in law has long espoused a similar take on “patience”. It does not take patience to knit, crochet, weave or sew if you love those things. It DOES, however, take patience to, say, take the garbage out- chores require patience. We don’t want to do them, we MUST do them. I don’t have to knit. I love to knit. Therefore it requires no patience what so ever.

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  8. typegemsy says:

    What a great take on domesticity! Although knitting and other fibre arts have certainly evolved over the years, I think our idea of “domestic” remains the same. Perhaps knitting is moving out of the realm of domestic and further into the artistic. But it is hard to break from the domestic mold because so many knitters make useful products (sweater, socks, dishcloth, etc.) and often people confuse something useful in the household with being domestic.

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  9. kiwiyarns says:

    Agree! Knitting/any kind of fiber art is no longer about necessity anyway. It’s cheaper to go out and buy a store version (although it might not be as good quality).

    I’m enjoying reading your blog!

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  10. kate says:

    I am absolutely with you – of course.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with ‘domestic’ tasks (except dusting, yuk), but I do find it irritating in the extreme when people don’t take my craft – and don’t get me going on the subject of ‘craft’, because that would take years – seriously. I have one friend who immediately assumes a pitying, patronising, amused air whenever the subject comes up, as though spending some time knitting / spinning / cooking / was a waste of time, something unworthy of an intellectual feminist (someone like, of course, herself).

    After I’ve resisted the urge to bite her, I assume an equally smug expression and inform her that in my book the women’s movement – and all liberation movements, come to that – was/is about a woman’s right to decide what she wanted to do and not have decisions made for her by others (and if those ‘others’ include feminists with outdated attitudes from the early 60s, then so be it). I love spinning especially because I’m subverting the stereotype. Spinster? Yeah!

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  11. thehandmadeyou says:

    I ABSOLUTELY agree. It isn’t “domestic” in its truest sense. Look at the variety of knitters, crocheters, sewers, et c. Look at their lifestyles, their varied interests…It’s hard to break away from stereotypes, but as long as we all keep breaking those molds, we will do it sooner or later!

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  12. Ethel says:

    I am right with your minimalist take on “domestic chores”. My home looks fine and is relatively clean. My “Room” however, is almost a Hoard at times when I am deep into a long term project. I have way to many artistic endeavors to keep it ship shape even in the best of times. If I can keep the ‘hoard’ organized well enough to find what I need – that is good enough for me. Unfortunately, cooking is not one of my arts – it is a necessity. In fact when my husband retired I told him that I didn’t mind doing all the ‘domestic chores’ as I always have if I could retire from cooking and he agreed – though not willingly. I really admire those who enjoy cooking and create wonderful things to partake of.

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  13. Curls & Q says:

    Great post on semantics! 😎 I have told my family that it is not my “sewing room” it is my studio since I am an artist and create wonderful works of art in the room! 😎

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  14. How ’bout we call them ‘domestic’ (4, 5; pertaining to the internal affairs of a country…or home) ‘arts’? Are we happy with that? 😉

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  15. jenyjenny says:

    I got lots of smiling time from your post. I recently re-read Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin, a book I’d read in the 70’s, in which she describes two sides of the fascinating woman, a “domestic goddess” and a spiritual side. I think Roseann Barr took the “domestic goddess” phrase and popularized it it in a comedy routine. For awhile, “domestic goddess” became a euphemism for “housewife” and I would jokingly put that on employment applications as my current job….so how did the dessert turn out, that’s my burning question!

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  16. I agree Karen! [I find all kinds of tags wrong anyway.]

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