If it gets chilly today, you have no reason to worry. Just pop into a nearby garments shop and you will be spoilt for choice: sweaters, bootees, scarves and shawls. Yet, this advantage means one thing, the demise of knitting and crocheting craft.
There was a time when yarns, hooks and needles were a woman’s trademark. Today, few will bet on this.
“Knitting and crocheting is no longer fashionable,” says Odette Uwamahoro, 56. “Women no longer want to bother their tender fingers with needles. It is sad we have disregarded a great art,” she says.
“It was like cooking; a part of homemaking,” she recalls. She knits sparingly for her grandchildren.
Then, mothers boasted of oodles of patterns and yarns of every hue. They seized every opportunity to knit or crochet. Knitting was to women what Face Book is to today’s youth, addictive, irresistible. Women found thrill in learning and developing new designs.
As some would put it, baby-girls were born holding the crochet hook or knitting needle. Yet, knitting today is rocket science to most young women. When The Sunday Times asked several of them about their ability to knit, most gave blank stares.
“Knitting? Oh, that’s so yesterday. Who has time for that?” poses Ms Beatrice Mbabazi. At 26, Mbabazi, an accountant, says she has never knitted. And chances are she will never learn the art. She represents the views of many young women about the craft.
But a few still religiously hold onto the hook and crochet. Joyce is one of them. “I knit and crotchet when I get time, although most of my friends don’t. I knit sweaters and bootees for my baby. It’s fun,” she says.
“It’s about passion, the strength of a woman and women should reclaim this diminishing craft,” she suggests.
For those still passionate about it, they say knitting is like a beautiful ballad, where the stitches are prose and patterns form the odes that fulfil a woman’s soul. And thus a Sunday afternoon would be perfect time for it, when there is little disturbance.
“I used to do it but I stopped. I was good at patterns and I would make sweaters and scarves. But now there is no time. In the evenings, I go to school, I get home when I’m too tired for anything,” remarks Gorethe, a librarian.
She learnt the craft from her mother. “I started with sticks, then crooked wires before my mother gave me some of her needles,” Gorethe says.
The craft was not necessarily for commerce. It had a deeper social meaning. It cultivated friendship between mothers and daughters, and gave one a sense of accomplishment. It taught girls responsibility and hard work. It inspired creativity.
Women nowadays are busy. They spend their evenings in classrooms and weekends on work assignments. Knitting is also tedious task. Besides it is much easier to walk into a shop and buy a woollen garment. All these have led to the demise of the craft.
“From the start of 1990s, mothers got busy. And ever since they are never even around to cook in the house. How do you expect anyone to knit?” Joyce poses.
“But there is something sweet when you knit for your baby. It is not the same as buying an expensive garment,” Joyce continues.
But knitting is not the only craft threatened with extinction. Most will find even replacing a button or retouching a seam tedious.
As historians say, everything has its time, and this seemingly is not the era of knitting and crocheting.