Every time a friend sees me knitting or crocheting for the first time, I get the same reaction. The men laugh and wonder what happened to their rather tough-talking in-your-face feminist friend. The women raise their eyebrows and explain how completely uninteresting they find the whole thing. “Knitting/crocheting is for old biddies” seems to be the unanimous view. It annoys me how defensive I get about this, and it saddens me a little how many otherwise bright and feminist young women seem to have this reaction.

I see that one common response to this way of thinking is to try to make the crafts themselves seem more sexy. “Not your grandmother’s knitting” and the Stitch n’ bitch books are examples that come to mind. I understand that impulse, although those books seem to me to be protesting too much. And why do we need sexual innuendo on every page of a learn-to-crochet book? Call me a prude (you won’t be the only one), but I cringed every time the excellent instructions in the Happy Hooker book were interrupted by double, or, even worse, single entendres.

And I find this especially troubling from a feminist perspective. Knitting and crocheting are, for most women today, a completely voluntary undertaking. We do it because we like keeping our hands busy, for a creative outlet, for the joy of giving away something lovingly handmade. What’s wrong with that, exactly? I don’t become less intelligent or less ambitious by knitting and crocheting, but my feminist friends still seem to find it embarrassing that I enjoy something so old-fashioned and ‘feminine’. And that’s the core of the problem: Knitting and crochet seem to be so unpopular BECAUSE they are perceived as women’s activities. How can anyone proclaiming to be feminist not see that this is part of the age-old problem that anything women do is perceived to be lesser, not as good or important as what men do?

The stitch n’ bitch books solve the problem in a time-honoured fashion: Make it sexy. As long as something women do is connected to sex, it’s somehow okay. This makes me tired. Very, very tired. I’m not a happy hooker. I crochet. I don’t stitch and bitch. I knit.