Knitters in history
Wednesday June 04th 2008, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Knit

good lox with that ideaWe’ve got a few leftovers from Saturday. Gee, I bet we could come up with some interesting recipes–lox of luck… Hang on, hang on, I think we’re getting carried away here.

If you ever want a book with all kinds of interesting tidbits, “No Idle Hands: the Social History of American Knitting” has everyday life over the centuries pulled from journals held by the Library of Congress. I used to use it as my reference to make history more interesting to the fifth graders in our school district, bringing my spinning wheel, my carders and some wool for the kids to card while I talked about the level of work they would have had to do back in Colonial times in the US: there was one town, Hatfield, Massachusetts, where the town selectmen came in and assessed each family a fine if they didn’t produce the amount of yardage of handspun, handwoven woolens that was required of them. And we’re talking many hundreds of yards in a year.

Woolen goods were the prime export of the colonies, but the Woolen Act of 1699 suddenly forbade anybody in America from transporting by horse, cart or carriage any wool or anything made of wool between plantations, much less selling it overseas: you could only legally sell what you could carry in your hands on foot from your home to your buyer. England’s enforcement powers, however, were for the most part very far away.

My favorite story is of Old Ma Rinker, whose relatives owned a tavern and whom the Brits thought were loyal to the Crown, so they’d go there to discuss strategy against General Washington over in Valley Forge. The relatives would pass the word on to Ma, she’d write it down, wrap a ball of yarn around it, go out into the sunshine and knit while her flax retted, and toss the ball of yarn to the American soldiers riding by on their horses.

Or, as my hubby puts it: how knitters saved the Revolution.

Not to mention the feet of more than a few shivering soldiers who needed warm socks in that Valley.

I’m suddenly picturing their potential bewilderment at the concept of chocolate brownies, much less whipped cream in a can.

7 Comments so far
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Did you post the picture simply because you couldn’t resist the caption? 😉

Comment by amy 06.04.08 @ 1:33 pm

Oohh another good book to add to my library. I love personal histories :-}

Comment by Diana Troldahl 06.04.08 @ 2:43 pm

In the town I grew up in there was a house on a little hill by the town pond and The British demanded that the woman of the house give them the pudding she had made for her family – she said no and threw it out the window and it rolled down the hill — ever after that house was called “Pudding Hill”

I love having history have a face instead of just being words…

Comment by rho 06.04.08 @ 8:19 pm

I bet Brian would enjoy that book as much as I would. Is it a book readily available in a library or

Comment by Danielle from SW MO 06.05.08 @ 4:51 am

I adore books like that! (Scurrying to Amazon…)

Comment by Channon 06.05.08 @ 8:00 am

It’s a great book. I hope your home is peaceful and full of happy relatives AND knitting in the next few weeks. In the meanwhile, I have to say that I suspect the colonists had encountered chocolate (although rarely) but that whipped cream in a can? Not so much. 🙂

Comment by Joanne 06.05.08 @ 8:25 am

Good Old Ma!! I loved this post! Thanks for sharing the story. Oh, how I hated dull history in school..who knew how fascinating it really is depending on how it’s told.
Thanks for the book reference. I started my Christmas list with it. 🙂

Comment by Toni Smoky-Mountains 06.06.08 @ 7:43 am

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