Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Knitting in China

That's a more cheerful picture, surely, than another orange Wallaby one.

My granddaughter Rachel lives in Beijing. Not to be confused with her aunt, my daughter Rachel, who lives in London. I haven't done very well at starting the next two generations on a knitting career, but I did teach Rachel when her family was here in Scotland in the summer, and she took to it with enthusiasm.

When they left, the knitting was left behind by mistake and a number of other things deliberately, in a last-minute panic about whether the luggage was overweight. I was pretty slow about bestirring myself to pack things up and mail them on, and the post offices involved were then remarkably slow about actually making the delivery. But they finally arrived yesterday, and Rachel has been reunited with her knitting -- happily, it would appear.

The Chinese are knitters, so Rachel's nanny ought to be able to keep the flame alight.

I have high hopes for Rachel and her younger sister Kirsty -- there is a book to be written about knitting in China, and maybe they could do it. Rachel speaks pretty good Mandarin, and Kirsty (now four) was brought up with it as her first language.

We were there for a very happy fortnight in April of last year. I saw lots of people knitting, and bought some yarn. The most interesting sighting was on the day when we drove out into the country to visit the Wall. Our son enjoys seeking out bits of it other than the famous spot where Queens and Presidents are photographed. In one village, with substantial remains marked with a "national monument" plaque, a youth told James that we were the first foreigners who had ever come there.

In that same village, we saw a group of women sitting by the roadside, knitting. We asked if we could take a photograph but they didn't like the idea -- shyness, I think, rather than hostility. I wish I had gone home that evening and made careful notes of what I had seen. One of them, I remember, was knitting an all-in-one small (but not baby-sized) garment in dense grey wool. She was using long sharp-looking double-pointed needles, some of which had been left behind holding stitches while she worked on one of the limbs.

Well, I want Rachel and Kirsty in 20 or 30 years' time to go out into the countryside and find out about Chinese peasant knitting. And yarn -- we weren't far from Beijing, but I doubt very much if those women ever went there to visit an LYS.

Maybe, of course, there is such a book -- they are the Middle Kingdom, after all; we're the periphery. In that case, Rachel and Kirsty can translate it.

I brought a couple of Chinese knitting magazines back, provided by a kind friend, but they were a disapointment -- western-style patterns throughout.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:05 AM

    Hi Jean
    There is a book that was published when China was just opening back up again (late 70's or early 80's) with the creative and original title "Knitting in China" It is a lovely but now outdated book. It tells how it is very popular to knit for children in China. At the time the book was published, knitting supplies were not that easy to come by. Inexpensive wools and synthetics were available at "the People's Department stores" and handwritten knitting stitch patterns were posted on the wall and people would copy them down. Patterns for garments were not common. Knitters would sometimes unravel garments and remake them to be thrifty or in order to obtain a new supply of yarn. I recall that there were many charming pictures of toddlers in various sweaters and vests and descriptions of popular stitch patterns and garment styles. One of the most popular stitch patterns is one that is in one of the BWalker treasuries as "tilting ladders"...a lacy sort of pattern. So maybe it is time to revisit "Knitting in China" as I believe there have been some changes since more capitalistic ways have been introduced. you remember me? It is Janis whose daughter Marina is about to celebrate her one year birthday soon!