Read No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting by Anne Macdonald Online


"Fascinating . . . What is remarkable about this book is that a history of knitting can function so well as a survey of the changes in women's rolse over time."--The New York Times Book ReviewAn historian and lifelong knitter, Anne Macdonald expertly guides readers on a revealing tour of the history of knitting in America. In No Idle Hands, Macdonald considers how the nece"Fascinating . . . What is remarkable about this book is that a history of knitting can function so well as a survey of the changes in women's rolse over time."--The New York Times Book ReviewAn historian and lifelong knitter, Anne Macdonald expertly guides readers on a revealing tour of the history of knitting in America. In No Idle Hands, Macdonald considers how the necessity--and the pleasure--of knitting has shaped women's lives.Here is the Colonial woman for whom idleness was a sin, and her Victorian counterpart, who enjoyed the pleasure of knitting while visiting with friends; the war wife eager to provide her man with warmth and comfort, and the modern woman busy creating fashionable handknits for herself and her family. Macdonald examines each phase of American history and gives us a clear and compelling look at life, then and now. And through it all, we see how knitting has played an important part in the way society has viewed women--and how women have viewed themselves.Assembled from articles in magazines, knitting brochures, newspaper clippings and other primary sources, and featuring reproductions of advertisements, illustrations, and photographs from each period, No Idle Hands capture the texture of women's domestic lives throughout history with great wit and insight."Colorful and revealing . . . vivid . . . This book will intrigue needlewomen and students of domestic history alike."--The Washington Post Book World...

Title : No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345362537
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 512 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting Reviews

  • Barb
    2019-06-15 00:50

    The insights into the motivations of US knitters through time were enough to keep me reading this book. Anne Macdonald tackles a difficult topic in a way that is both academic and engaging. For myself, a steady though not productive knitter, it sparked many reflections on the task of knitting, its trendiness, and its stigma.This book caused me to reflect on how absolutely anonymous knitted works are. A well-knit item could have been knit by any experienced knitter. There is no way for an individual to sign the work itself. Instead some sort of written tag must be found or some entry in a contest or diary. What does that say to knitters today who seek accomplishment through finishing hand knit projects to give or use? In modern society are we content with anonymous output, private admiration, and simply the joy in a project well done? It is funny to me that many people knit today to challenge the machine produced world. They want uniqueness, something that few others have. They want to prove they can knit a sweater, a bag, a scarf. This is so tied into ego that it seems completely at odds with the absolute anonymity of the task.I found it interesting that in the early chapters, there was very little documentation or complaint of poor quality knitted items. Yet, later chapters especially around WWI and WWII found that many items donated to the war effort had to be reknit. The doing of knitting became more important than the quality of the finished project. This seems to parallel the gradual replacement of knitting as something necessary with knitting as a symbol of femaleness, playing a role, doing one's duty to family and society. It was not hard for me to see in this book how the attitude that many of my friends have that knitting is old fashioned, stigmatizing woman's work came in to being.My favorite part of the book is reflected in its title -- no idle hands. The idea that busyness is part of a full, interesting, productive life. So much of modern life is striving toward leisure, not doing, relaxing, passivity that the appeal of busyness gets devalued. I enjoy knitting because it is busyness for my mind and for my hands. And this book connects me to all those other women who knit through necessity, through sadness, through joy, busy in our history.

  • Varina
    2019-06-08 06:58

    The book is a fairly interesting look at the social history of hand-knitting in America, if a bit simplistic (although this is an abridged version so it is unclear if that is a problem with the original). For instance, one thing I noticed in this book is that every few decades (or even every decade in the early 20th century) it seemed like there was this major declaration by the fashion powers that be that knitting was popular again, that suddenly there was a rush of knitting. It struck me as curious that knitting could be revived from near death seemingly every other decade, and that perhaps knitting never actually went away, but perception of it waxed and waned. I would have enjoyed a more critical examination of those sorts of things. However, this is an overview of a large subject so I won't fault it too much.However, as much as I basically liked the book, the narration was awful. The narrator felt the need to employ these peculiarly twee and breathy accents when reading letters and diaries. The letters by Southern women were the worst. Hand to God, every southern woman does not speak in a breathless fluttery voice like some particularly bad Scarlet O'Hara impression.Overall, I recommend anyone interested in the topic read the book rather than listen to it. It's a pretty good book.

  • Julie
    2019-06-14 03:43

    This book was chock full o' interesting subject matter, but was written just like every one of my undergrad and graduate papers:Statement. 12 quotes you've dug up in support of said statement. Closing sentence for paragraph (in rather formal language) that tries to be witty but doesn't usually succeed, such as, "Surely they had had enough!"Repeat 129830198490814 times. There was much discussion of wartime knitting, something near and dear to my heart. We're not knitting for the guys who are in the desert right now, but I understand that pressing urge to do anything and everything you can for the men who are fighting in foreign lands! I would recommend this book very highly as a research tool, and also for casual perusal. You may not want to read it cover-to-cover as I did -- it took forever.

  • Kirsten
    2019-06-13 05:46

    I love this kind of social history, and this did not disappoint. It's gotten me seeing knitting everywhere (even in the historical drama we were watching last night!), and thinking about knitting a bunch. I like the anecdotal nature, and seeing the way that knitting fits into historical events. Unfortunately, this was written 25 years ago, before the current resurgence in popularity, so it ends on a bit of a down note (she seems to be pleading, "But it will get popular again!" and it has. It would be interesting to read more about those swings in popularity as well.). Probably mostly of interest to knitters, but people interested in women's history or domestic history may like it too.

  • Emily
    2019-05-29 07:01

    Super interesting book. I listened to it the abridged version which was a bit of a bummer. Apparently other editions include pictures of women knitting and excerpts from magazines and newspapers with pattern information (although no full patterns).Based on journal entries and other historical documents, this is the story of knitting in America from the colonial period up to the 1980s. It really grounds the act of knitting in the history of the time, including the politics, fashion trends, wars, and the expanding rights of women. I want to make some golf socks!

  • Cindy
    2019-06-21 05:03

    Think of this book in three parts. The first third is the social history of knitting. Very interesting particularly if you are a knitter. (Not sure why a non-knitter would even pick up this book.). The second third is filled with anecdotes from knitters across the nation, about their personal experiences with knitting. Somewhat interesting, but not riveting. The last third is notes and references for the preceding chapters. Not interesting.

  • Mary Heather
    2019-06-01 03:39

    I love nonfiction history - particularly women's history - and this is a dense, fascinating read if you are interested in the social aspects of knitting in America. It actually made me proud to be a knitter and a textile crafter - in a world that no longer "needs" handmade fibers, but once very much did, it was eye-opening to read about how knitting has been a truly revolutionary act.

  • Greta
    2019-06-03 03:47

    As a knitter and feminist, this book was a fascinating history of Women in America as viewed through the lens of Knitting. I was constantly telling other people about what I had found reading this book. It looses steam a bit somewhat towards the end, but a wonderful if dense read!

  • Vanessa
    2019-06-11 01:59

    I was a little disappointed that the book only goes up to the 1980s. I would love to read an updated version that includes the most recent revival of knitting among hip 20 somethings.

  • Sam
    2019-06-19 08:05

    I was disappointed to find this book pretty boring. I made it about three chapters in, and it was all basically "women knit a lot: here are some primary sources saying they knit a lot." I guess I was expecting more commentary or analysis, but it just wasn't there.

  • Laura
    2019-05-29 05:02

    Reads like a textbook - but much more interesting than anything I've had to read for school!Lots of wonderful insight to this beloved craft. Great photos!

  • Sheryl Small
    2019-06-20 06:52

    An excellent history of Knitting in America. This is a book I love to read and read again.

  • Writergrrrl29
    2019-06-10 05:00

    History and Knitting MeetAn in depth and very well researched history on American knitting. As an avid knitter and part-time historian, this was a fun, interesting book. Don't skip the chapter notes, as there are many more sources listed there!

  • Sharon
    2019-05-31 08:00

    "No Idle Hands" is not a book for the casual reader. This is a serious, scholarly work on a rather narrow topic - the social history of knitting in America. If you are interested in knitting and its place in the cultural development of the U.S., or if you want to understand American society through the lens of this particular craft, then this is the book for you.Anne Macdonald's book is densely packed with minutiae that you will find nowhere else. She has scoured the written historical record and cites many primary sources, including diary entries, letters, inventory lists, meeting minutes, pattern books, and even official government documents. If you want to know what the Founding Mothers had to say about knitting, this is the place to look! It's also the place to find out about the Argyles crazes of the 1930s and 1950s, understand why knitters of different eras practiced their craft, and comprehend the connection between women knitting for Civil War soldiers and the development of the Women's Rights movement.You will not find knitting patterns in this book, nor will you find a great many illustrations although the latter chapters do include some photos. The text can occasionally become monotonous due to the author's tendency to provide very complete lists. Her thoroughness is commendable, but makes for heavy reading. What she excels at, however, is elucidating how knitting has served more than the simple purpose of providing clothing. Knitting, by both women and men, has had a tangible impact on America's social and economic development. It has even, on occasion, been a driving force in giving women greater freedom and expanding their roles in society. For those interested in knitting and social history, this book is an excellent source of interesting facts and observations.

  • Tonileg
    2019-05-26 02:51

    I like to vary my reading with so random topics as well as not so random.I love knitting, it is a my go to relaxation and concentration exercise when the world starts to get me down. Everyone should try it because it is useful too, I mean everyone needs socks, hats and sweaters (well, maybe not the sweaters in the humid tropics). So when this book popped up in my recommended reading, I decided to give it a try and it is a bit dry yet still satisfying with its glimpses of other women finding nirvana in needles and yarn through out the ages in America, suddenly I feel like part of a long traditional line of humanity and no longer alone knitting a pair of socks on my couch.This was a fun read and my only regret is to not have it on audio because I would have loved to 'read' this while knitting up my holiday gifts in the evening.I'm slowly devouring this as I fall asleep at night and it gets my thoughts going about how handmade crafts are getting a resurgence in the midst of the computer age where most people passively consume internet technology as well as films/TV/music without any creation or innovation (except those made by a tiny proportion of our society). There is so little true rebellion, creativity and diversity that people don't even know what those words mean any more.This book gives me hope because humans have such a rich past that we can always fall back and learn from which includes the rare personal confection of lovely knitted gift.

  • Wendy
    2019-06-12 02:46

    This was pretty good, and while academic, an easy, quick read (that is, when I read it--I couldn't read more than a chapter or so at a time, before I got tired of reading the word "knitting"). The chapters about the Civil War and WWI are particularly good. But after 1960, it gets pretty dull and unfocused; I wonder if the author lost steam or interest?I would have liked to see more examination of why knitting went in and out of fashion, rather than just noting that it did; more conclusions drawn, in general. It's funny to note that people made the same comments about knitting decade after decade, especially that every time knitting became popular again, someone calls it the "almost-lost art of knitting" or something of the sort.The book was written in 1988, and definitely no one foresaw the current knitting craze--the author seems to be depending on the aging baby boomers to bring it back, once they're done raising their children, and notes that fewer people have grandmothers around to teach them. She doesn't seem to think it likely that young people will become avid knitters. It's also kind of funny to read about the techniques and yarns that people thought were really hard to work with, in the 1980s (looking back on previous knitting trends)--most people don't even blink at size 0 needles.

  • Marsha
    2019-06-06 03:00

    First, I both ordered and borrowed this audio from my local library. I thought it would be a great idea to knit, and listen to the history of knitting, and indeed it was a good idea. The library got it in Playaway, which is a dedicated mp3 player. Unfortunately, it is buggy, and I had many problems keeping it playing and getting back to the point that I stopped listening. This kind of put a kink in the enjoyment. This is a historical book, and while the author makes every effort to make it interesting, sometimes it lags in the details. I found it especially interesting to learn about knitting in wartime, and felt rather inspired by the stories of women knitting garments and delivering them behind enemy lines to soldiers in the Revolutionary War. I realize, through these stories, that my association with war is quite different; throughout much of history, war meant giving up many things, and requiring ingenuity to make what one needed. I was also very interested in the history of men and their relationship to knitting. All in all, I am glad I took the time with it...feel far more informed about a craft I really enjoy.

  • Caitlin
    2019-06-07 07:02

    So I didn't quite manage to finish this one, not through any fault of the book but rather because my local library doesn't have it. I checked it out while visiting family over the holidays and simply ran out of time. I didn't enjoy it enough to check it out again next time I'm there, but I would have finished it if I'd had the opportunity.This was less of a social commentary and more of a history than I was expecting. It was a little dry in places, talking about the knitting bees that supported various American wars and the role of knitting economically. There was less information about knitting fads, how knitting patterns were passed around, how/whether knitting played a role in fashion, etc. I suspect as the book progress to more modern times there would have been more of this, but anecdotes about knitting during wartime were a little excessive and repetitive, which made me less enthusiastic about chugging through to the end in hopes of something with a little more human interest.

  • Patti
    2019-06-07 02:54

    I know this book would bore most people, but I took my time and really enjoyed it. It was fascinating to see the social history of knitting and to understand how we came to be where we are today. I love to knit and have knitted from the 1960s as a small child, again in my college years in the late 1970s, some of my career years in the 1980s, and now to my more leisurely middle age years in the 2000s...just as she states - every generation produces another crop of knitters with their own reasons to knit. While it was a necessity in the beginning of America through the World War II, now we are going back to "slow fashion" and knitting is once again popular. I learned a lot so I give this book five stars. It even made me start knitting my one inch daily just like the children of yesteryear!

  • Nicole
    2019-06-06 02:43

    Understand that I'm not far enough into reading on this subject to speak to the quality of Macdonald's research, but she certainly makes a lot of compelling arguments and writes an excellent narrative about the shape of knitting in American history. The section about the Great Depression is particularly interesting. It's a good read for historians and knitters alike.(At the end): I really loved this book--wish it had been published more recently, or updated to include the way that knitting has just exploded over the last decade or so. We're not up to the Great Depression level of knitting, but 1.5 million people on Ravelry is quite telling! Highly recommended for people who want to know the social history of knitting.

  • Megan
    2019-06-17 03:55

    This book is really interesting for somebody who hasn't had intensive study in history. There isn't really any history book out there that has a history of American knitting. They went from knitting on the frontier to knitting with Elizabeth Zimmerman and Barbara Walker.I think reading about the social times of knitting in older times rather than more modern times because we know how things happen know. We don't really know what it would be like in Victorian times or during the westward expansion. If anything, it makes me want to try to re-create some older knitting projects for my modern self.

  • Louise Silk
    2019-06-01 05:01

    I was disappointed with this book. It seemed so limited in scope. I wish that the author had a more feminist point of view, what she does is not very critical of time and situation- more a simple reporting of a limited look at the time periods. She reports on knitting trends- how women used knitting during war times as a means to contribute to war efforts, from the American Revolution to the Korean War- without any examination of the underlying social principles. She writes a little about the industrialization of knitting, particularly of knitting as one means women could earn some money, but again too superficial for my tastes.

  • Feistymonkey
    2019-06-06 02:53

    I really liked this book, but it had some flaws. For example she would start off multiple decades/chapters with the idea that knitting, after losing favor, was back with a vengeance, but failed to point out the lulls. She also threw around the term "Antis" with regard to Suffrage without ever explaining what it meant (you could guess, but the way she used it made it seem like this was a term which warranted some explanation). And for most of the book she overlooked anyone with less than a middle class income without ever justifying the omission. But it had some great anecdotes, and was a nice general history.

  • Lindoula
    2019-06-23 02:54

    Not as good as I expected it to be, especially considered all the rave reviews I've heard from fellow knitters. I didn't feel like the author took all the historical information and transformed it into a story. Instead, it's just strings of anecdotes and quotes strung together with little if any unifying context. Also, devoting only 2 or 3 pages to machine knitting really underestimates how big machine knitting got in the 60s to early 90s. It may not be the favorite topic of snotty hand-only knitters, but to exclude it so completely from a history of knitting is really strange. Machine knitting is part of the history of knitting, whether or not some hand knitters want to admit it.

  • Knitpurlgurl
    2019-06-02 02:03

    This is a fascinating look at the entire history of knitting in the United States of America - from the colonial days to the pioneer days to the Victorian era to the first WW to the roaring 20s to WWII and to present day, Anne Macdonald, covers it all. She recounts knitting as a way to keep hands and minds busy, as well as for necessity, eventually for fashion, and finally for hobby. Unfortunately, I listened to this book on abridged audiobook (as it's only available abridged on audiobook). I think I'd like to read a hard copy so that I can read the entire book.

  • Jane
    2019-06-10 06:53

    As a historian, there is much at fault with the methodology used. (It's pre mid-80's reflexive turn). However, as with most histories of needlework/knitting that I have read, she links this occupation with femininity, and goes to some length to 'prove' this. I am not in dispute with this thesis - I just found it odd that she completely ignores the feminist movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. This of course left room for other social historians and scientists to fill in the gaps. The history she links with wartime and patriotism is also interesting.

  • Marilyn
    2019-06-02 02:39

    Very thoroughly researched. I LOVE HISTORY. I hate the way history is taught in most schools. We go from one war to the next to the next to the next. Who started the war, when, where, why? Where/when was each battle fought? Who won? Where/when was the treaty signed? Seriously? The truth is that there were things happening IN BETWEEN THE WARS. There were people living there lives, surviving. So, I was struck by how this book talks about knitting during the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812, and the Civil War (both North and South), and WWI, and WWII. Seriously?

  • Leslie
    2019-06-11 07:57

    This is my bed table book. While not a page turner it's quite readable and interesting. Being mainly a fiction reader I took a bit of a risk ($2.00 at the used book stall) but am pretty happy I did. It's nice to see how the industry in the US matured and how US knitters became a community. True, it was never as much of a community as it is now thanks to Ravelry, but it was a community. And it makes me proud to wield my sticks and string.

  • Janet
    2019-05-31 05:04

    Nice audiobook about knitting, I learned lots. I can't imagine what people went through: knitting in covered wagons through hardships, knitting for servicemen during wars, servicemen knitting during their recoveries, unraveling garments to reuse the yarn when the children grew. Feeling lucky that I can just go to an amazing yarn store and pick out yarn and needles, including circular needles made with plastic and smooth joints! Quick listen at 4 cds.

  • Stephanie
    2019-06-20 23:43

    I've listened to this as an audio book twice and really enjoy it. The narrator is engaging and does different voices in a non-goofy way. If you are a knitter and enjoy history this might be right up your alley. When I'm in a knitting slump this really make me want to get back to it and I find the history of knitting appreciation really interesting especially during the war years. From necessity to hobby, the traditions are pretty great.