Friday, 15 April 2016

Members of Parliament who knit

come in all shapes, sizes and occupations. 
Yesterday Kate Davies had a fascinating story on her blog about a male MP who lived in Scotland in the early part of last century. She showed an ancient photograph of him wearing a "hap". (One of those traditional Shetland shawls with a lacy, waving border.) He has it tied loosely around his neck, rather like a scarf.
He apparently knitted his own socks while waiting for divisions in parliament. It seems like a good use of time.
I know other MPs and former MPs who can knit - two of them are males. They keep their skills pretty quiet but have been sent in my direction for advice and assistance with patterns. Both men knit socks and pullovers, scarves and beanies. They say knitting is a relaxation. They tend to do it in hotel rooms at night after a hard day of negotiating a deal. 
      "By then I don't want to read anything - not even the latest crime yarn," one of them told me, "A few rounds of knitting and I am ready for sleep."
Our Guild also has a former Senator of the Federal Parliament in Canberra as the Patron and she knits. Her own knitting is excellent - as are most things she does. She is intelligent and able and approaches her craft with a desire to "know". It gets results. She comes to meetings and has recently exhorted the members to do more learning. That can only be a good thing.
And that is where I suppose I start to worry. As a kitten I can remember knitting being taught at school - in year five. It was one of those rare occasions (perhaps the only occasion) where I could honestly tell the teacher that I could already do the physical activity she was about to teach. Fortunately, having observed that I really did know what to do, she allowed me to get on in my own way while she taught the rest.
I later taught a group of year six students - both boys and girls - to knit. I told them at the start that it was not a compulsory activity. I would provide another activity for those who did not want to learn to knit. I did this because there were some rather "macho" boys in the class and I didn't want them to feel that they were putting themselves at risk of being bullied or teased by other students. I did explain that men had once been apprenticed as knitters. Every single one of them decided to try - and every child eventually finished a simple football beanie for themselves. It took a term of craft lessons but they rated it pretty highly. Some of them went on to knit other things. Years later I met one of them in the city. He tugged his pullover and said, "Made it myself - thanks to you." It is one of those small thrills of teaching to hear and see something like that.
But now, they don't seem to teach anyone to knit at school - unless a volunteer goes in at lunch time. There are very few volunteers, especially with stringent (and quite expensive) police checks to apply for. Schools don't think it is important enough to pay for that sort of thing.
And most teachers I know can't knit. They think children don't want to learn because it is "slow" and "you don't get results quickly" or "it's too difficult" and "children don't have the patience for that sort of thing now".
I wonder where the next generation of knitters will come from. Could those MPs make it a compulsory subject in school?


jeanfromcornwall said...

Back then (1950's) we knitted at school, boys and girls alike, - half an hour at the end of the day, while Miss read a story.
Jump forward to the late 1990's and my daughter found herslf giving up her screen-printing preparations to cast on a whole batch of beany hats for another class. These poor kids had designed colourwork hats, without having the slightest idea of how knitting or intarsia worked. And they knew the knit sitch, but not how to cast on.
No new knitters to be made there!

catdownunder said...

the beanies we made were garter stitch Jean. They had stripes - always encouraging for a new knitter. Casting on was an issue but most of them managed it - and casting off was a matter of celebration!