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Feminists reclaim the art of knitting

Are knitting and feminism mutually exclusive? Some
self-proclaimed feminists believe so and actively tell other women
that knitting subjugates them.

Imagine my surprise as a transfer student to Mills when I found
out that a knitting club existed on campus.

Even as I knitted in class my first week here, I was asked if I
considered myself to be a feminist and how knitting related to it.
I reflected inward and then sought the opinions of other

I utilized the Knitlist, a forum of 5,439 knitters worldwide and
addressed the question of the interrelatedness of knitting and
feminism. There were two general types of responses.

Articulated by Mills Alum Gretchen Helms, “The path of feminism
is thus: no whining, just do it! Feminism is about empowering
yourself,” which essentially states that feminism is not related to
knitting at all.

The polar opposite of this opinion was stated by Christinae
Ulrich-Oetjen, “…I think knitting makes me more of a

Several of the responses I received were from women who did not
necessarily consider themselves “feminists,” because of the
negative connotations of the word.

An example is being a “man-hater” as well as losing all ties
with femininity, whether it is done through social behavior or

In any case, the popular definition of feminism was choice and
the ability to achieve any goal you desire without the burden of
gender roles.

The resounding popularity of knitting as the “new yoga” among
the college age crowd implies that there is some sort of social and
therapeutic benefit.

Many of the responses to my query said that knitting calms
nerves, and a medical study showed that knitting can actually lower
one’s blood pressure.

Others link it to their learning style, claiming that they
actually retain more in learning environments because they are not

The social aspect of knitting is yet another draw to the
activity. In a world where very little human contact is required,
people still crave company.

Among the many functions of knitting circles is the networking
that occurs within groups, since the members come from all walks of
life, schools of thought, and levels of education.

Knitting in public makes individuals more approachable, even if
they want to ignore the world around them and just concentrate on
their project.

I have had so many strangers stop me to ask me questions about
my knitting: at the doctor’s office, grocery store, athletics
store, or waiting to pick up my brother from school.

It’s also not uncommon to hear knitting circles treated as
therapy groups; some even call their meetings “Stitch ‘n Bitch.”
These meetings are utilized in a manner in which the members have a
sense of relief and camaraderie after they have unloaded their
frustrations with a group of understanding friends.

Others praise the activity because it makes even “wasted” time
productive. No matter how poorly a meeting goes, a knitter can look
at what she has done and say, “At least I got some knitting