Next spring I intend to research the relationship between craft kits, women and gender, and consumer culture in the US in the twentieth century. In particular, I hope to examine knitting kits, sold with yarn and instructions, for women (presumably) who wanted to get creative with fiber arts.
Knitting is a hobby of mine that I’ve developed over the years. Unlike other knitters who were instructed in the craft by mothers, aunts, or grandmothers, I taught myself in college after reminiscing about the knitting kits I owned as a child. I admit that my mother often finished those kits for me when I became too frustrated to continue.
Looking back, the products from those kits were simple: scarves with two different colors of acrylic yarn, completed in alternating rows of knit and purl. Despite only finishing a kit once myself, creating something out of yarn stuck with me. In the past five years, I’ve completed socks, hats, and lace shawls. I must acknowledge that I live in a world where I can drive to a department store and buy a package of socks for less than $10; I knit for fun, not out of necessity like women and men from the past.
I recently purchased a vintage knitting kit manufactured by Bernat, a company that continues to produce yarn and knitting how-to books. I’m intrigued by the juxtaposition on the instruction page: the glamorous model, showing off her mohair stole with a rather playful look, and the hand crafted knitted item. Is homemade supposed to be sexy? I anticipate thinking deeply about advertising for this research project.
Over the next few weeks I will update my blog with progress on the stole. The pattern seems straightforward, but I hope to place myself in the shoes of a young woman (I’m assuming, again) who might have been unfamiliar with a pair of knitting needles. I want to try to understand how a
kit such as this one may have been received by a consumer. Are the instructions clear? How much is assumed by the author of the pattern about the consumer? Were there other items sold by Bernat at the time to assist with the completion of this kit? What were the ways that similar products were marketed? There is much to learn in this process and I’m so excited!
Join me on this adventure, won’t you?