Yesterday my husband took my oldest son, who is 4, to the county fair. It was quite chilly out and in the process of bundling my son up I noticed that I couldn't find his mittens from last year. I searched everywhere but there were none to be found. I improvised with a pair of those "magic" one-size-fits-all gloves that I had lying around. He wore those....barely. His hands were so tiny and the glove fingers were sticking out every which way. I told him that while he was at the fair I would knit him some mittens. I found some navy blue acrylic and started stitching. By the time he came home I had one mitten nearly finished and by bed time my son had brand new mittens!
There was something so satisfying about being able to create an item that was needed from scratch. My son needed mittens and I was able to fill that need with my skill. I don't doubt that that kind of satisfaction was easy to come by in years past when women possessed the skill and materials to fill their families needs with their handiwork. Women clothed and fed their families with their skills. Gardening, dairying, weaving, knitting, sewing, canning, preserving...these were all crucial yet common skills that women handed down to one another for countless generations. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution these skills were increasingly seen as outdated and unneeded and were gradually lost to the masses. Only a very few people kept many of the old skills from being entirely lost. How many people today know how to make their own soap? How to grow and preserve their own food? Make and mend their own clothes? Precious few. Not only have the skills been lost to many people but the entire process of making one's one things has become economically unfeasible in many cases. One can easily buy mass produced items for less than it would cost to make a similar one. Unfortunately, mass produced items often don't have the quality or appreciation that a handmade item would have. If the sweater you bought at Wal Mart wears out or tears you don't have any incentive to repair it. You throw it away and buy a new one. If the sweater you spent weeks knitting starts to show wear or you snag it, you are more inclined to want to fix it than to throw it away because it has more meaning to you than a mass produced sweater knit on a machine in China does. In making a pair of mittens for my son I felt linked to a vast sisterhood of women who throughout the ages have supplied handmade items for every need their families had. I hope my son gets much warmth and enjoyment from the mittens his mother made him.