Being Katharine Hepburn
Today marks International Craft Day, to support and celebrate artisans and craftspeople around the globe. For the occasion, we’ve republished a cherished piece from our fanzine issue 004: Fashion Craft Revolution, an examination of how we interact with craft in the age of the Anthropocene – from the effects of globalisation, to the plight of the homeworker; the crafts that are on the brink of extinction, and the ones that are alive, kicking, and actively embracing new technologies to ensure the hand-made and the artisanal remain relevant for the future.
I still remember as a six-year old, one particular cyan-coloured sweater from my childhood that my mom hand-knitted. I disliked it because it was a bit too warm for Delhi winters and the neckline was way too close to my neck. So every time my mom would make me wear it, I would cringe badly and soon take it off. After a few years, knowing it’s not being put to any good use, she unravelled it, mixed it with a wool of different colour and turned it into a new sweater which opened at the front, much to my comfort. But it was still not being worn enough. So after few years, she unravelled it again and turned it into something for herself.
I have always been my mother’s companion while knitting – sitting in the sun on a reed mat, observing the process of knitting closely and learning it in no time. While she was knitting this wool for the third time, she told me that this is the last time it can be knitted again, the next time around, the wool might lose its strength. Now when I recall this, and considering the wardrobe crisis world we live in, I find the process of hand-knitting fascinating. Firstly, it’s a completely zero-waste process. Secondly, the process itself : it’s meditative, stress-relieving and good for mindfulness. And thirdly, anything hand-knitted is a part of a circular system. In the above case, the woollen yarn actually went around the circular loop thrice and could still be used again in another form.
Why bother to hand-knit?
Knitting is a time-intensive process and living in a scenario, where knitting machines have almost imitated the look of a hand-knitted garment, one fails to realise why one should knit anymore. Only a person who knits knows the value and importance of something knitted by hand.
If one looks back down the years, people were knitting because they wanted to be self-sufficient. Due to the exponential growth of the economy, our generation don’t need to be self-sufficient. We have everything at our disposal. Understanding that hand-knitting is a skill mostly possessed by our mothers and grandmothers and that sooner or later it might be a skill of the past, I collaborated with my mother and few other women under the label ‘Unpurl’ to design and make hand-knitted products. And not just make products but encourage more and more people to take up this technique. There’s a growing interest and penchant for knitting across all age groups and professions (gender no bar!). One of my newly married male friends wants to learn knitting so that one day he can knit for his baby. Such a heart-warming thought! He knows the value of a hand-knitted piece.
Stars who knit
Did you know Meryl Streep spends much of her time on the sets knitting, and so did Katharine Hepburn? Unpurl started a Knitting Club which is an initiative to bring together all the passionate knitters (at any level!) or anybody who just wants to learn the skill, thus creating a small community of hand-knitters. It’s a great way to break away from the mundane routine and mingle with co-knitters across generations.
We want to make knitting our favourite pastime in current times and be a part of #theknittingrevolution.
Find Pragya Sharma at unpurl.com and get your copy of of Fashion Craft Revolution fanzine here.
[Banner Image – Katharine Hepburn]: http://historyknits.blogspot.com/2013/05/famous-knitters-katherine-hepburn.html