My dear friend L and I were chatting last night. It is one of the miracles of the internet that we ramble on, sometimes for hours, several times a week, completely forgetting that he lives in Australia and I in London.
L has always been an enormous encouragement with my knitting. We are both passionate about the environment and traditions that value the work of the hand. We talked long about how society's current enthusiasm for cheap, throw away clothing has led to us treating children in countries beyond our sight in the same casual manner, with them working as virtual slaves for manufacturers whose only concern os their profit margin. By way of contrast, to carefully knit a garment for a loved one and for them to use and treasure it in the way it was intended really is its own reward.
L has roots in Cornwall so, some years ago, as a gift, I made him a traditional Cornish Gansey, which he is cheerfully modelling above. I chose a stitch pattern for the yoke which was associated with a local fishing village to give him a feeling of connectedness with his roots when he wears it. Despite the fact that this garment was made the hard way, in the flat, before I knew about circular knitting or had the courage to construct it in the round as tradition would favour, I derived enormous pleasure in the knitting of it. The destruction of 3 pairs of 2.25mm needles, sore fingers, and doggedly carting it around England, Ireland, Wales and Australia in the six months that it took me to finish it do not stop me feeling that this is probably the garment I am most proud of. The main source of this pride is that L wears it virtually daily for working on his land. It protects him from wind and cold, gets absolutely filthy, occasionally gets washed and is thoroughly appreciated.
He reminded me last night how he was stopped in the street by a knitter with a keen eye who admired it. He also mentioned that he rolled his trouser leg up and showed her his hand knit sock for good measure. She declared herself suitably impressed.
Conversations like this reinforce to me why I am proud to call myself a knitter and how much it means to me to carry on my cultural traditions. It is so heart warming to have them used and respected in the manner they were designed for. The next gansey I make will be in the round complete with underarm gussets - in line with tradition it may need to be a Sunday best!