Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Meek's Knit-Off

A week or so ago I watched the 2010 movie Meek's Cutoff, which is the story of three couples and a small boy trying to survive a westward trek on the Oregon Trail with their uncertain guide. The movie featured a scene in which the three female characters in the movie were all sitting around knitting. I had to give actresses Michelle Williams, Zoe Kazan, and Shirley Henderson an A for effort, because I bet they all learned to knit for their roles in the movie and they didn't do badly at looking competent and relaxed. However, to an experienced knitter who knows a little about women's needlework in Victorian times, it was a less than historically accurate scene. All three women were knitting quite slowly and had bad form, and all three were knitting what looked suspiciously like a garter stitch scarf, or some other shapeless beginner project.

Most nineteenth century American women knew how to knit well. Among any three given pioneer women, at least one or two would have been highly skilled, fast knitters, and they would all have been working on more technically demanding, recognizable, practical projects: socks or stockings being most likely, or mittens, or perhaps a shawl. The pregnant character would almost certainly have been knitting something for her baby. And why are all three women working on what looks like the same project with the same yarn? It wouldn't have been hard to make up three different, more period-accurate projects and give them to the actresses to work on for the scene, or to just give them mending or other sewing to do, and I don't understand why it wasn't done, especially when this was such a realistic movie in every other way. But then Hollywood doesn't tend to depict knitting in the most convincing way, probably because relatively few actors and directors have any real knitting skills or knowledge. I wonder if there's a need for movie knitting consultants, and if so, how one could become one?

1 comment:

  1. The costume designer for this movie got the film crew to handmake all the dresses and bonnets. She wanted to get an authentic pioneer look.