It seems that as long as there have been those who are avid knitters, there have been non-knitters who complain about it. One of my exes complained that it made him feel as though "he must not be very important" when I knitted while we watched TV rather than cuddling with him. Sorry, darling. Here's hoping your current partner has two left thumbs. Another pointed out that it was "not cost-efficient" for me to knit when I could earn the money to buy the item in much less time. He also kept quoting Anthony Robbins at me. I'm sure he's still out there somewhere making facile and condescending observations to some woman who, happily, isn't me.
The Hampshire Advertiser & Salisbury Guardian published the poem below on Saturday, December 11, 1847, only a few decades after knitting had become commonplace among English women of all classes. The poet, though he felt he "must speak out his mind", did so anonymously. He was, after all, criticizing an armed camp. I can't help wondering if he got the kind of wife he wanted, one who never did needlework for pleasure but instead was happy to only attend to the necessary sewing and mending and "every duty prize". Because if he did find such a woman, I bet she either developed an addiction to laudanum or decamped with the chimney sweep within a few years.
The Knitting Mania
I really must — it is no use — I must speak out my mind
And wonder how the ladies can delight in knitting find;
Such pointed, pricking, sharp-edged tools, such rolling balls of thread,
Such puzzling over bewildering rules with such bewilder’d head.
My mother and my sisters four are clever in this way,
They knit at morning, noon and night; they knit, in fact, all day;
Their little bags, their pointed pins, are in their fingers ever;
In short, I really do believe, they’ve got the knitting fever.
And, after all, what good results, come from such industry?
It is not comforters, or socks, they ever knit for me;
But pence-jugs, purses, smoking-caps, while over chair and screen
Are knitted clothes of every kind, and newest patterns seen.
We’ve mats for every standing thing, we’ve covers for each dish;
We’ve knitted cloths for bread and cheese, for fruit, and flesh, and fish;
Our rich dessert dish is fill’d up with bobbins starch’d and clean,
We wipe our mouths in d’Oyleys of every pattern seen.
How many a scratch and prick I get! I could not count them all!
How many a time about my feet I get the tangled ball.
And often have I borne away a handsome square of knitting
Which clung unto my buttons from the chair where I’ve been sitting.
Alas! Alas! each stitch of work I now must pay for doing
My sisters they will knit for me, but cannot think of sewing.
No buttons can I get put on; no gloves can I get mended,
All little comforts of my home are now left unattended.
I might get married, certainly — but I’ll not think of this —
I know how much a knitting wife can marr domestic bliss;
There are such things as knitted caps, and robes, and trimmings too,
And many other pretty things the ladies now can do.
No — I shall wait until I find a wife as wives should be —
Who for all taste of fancy work of every kind is free;
One who will gladly make, and mend, and every duty prize,
Which may increase her loveliness in a fond husband’s eyes.