Fashion Bytes — Knitting as a ‘life skill’?

By the time this is published, I will be on my way back from Phoenix, having just attended The National Needlearts Association Winter Trade show with the yarn dye studio I work with. Having thus had knitting and yarn on my mind quite a lot recently, I was pleasantly reminded of an LA Times article about men learning to knit ‘behind bars’.

The article focuses on a rather successful program at a low-security, pre-release facility in Maryland where these soon-to-be former convicts are literally queuing up to learn how to knit. And the program seems to be doing the men more good than simply teaching them how to make their own scarves: the warden for the facility reports that the violence rates in the men who have taken the course and continue to knit are lower; and that the inmates will behave better in order to qualify for the class.

The program’s founder and instructor, Lynn Zwerling, believes it is because through knitting the men are learning ‘ …skills vital to human existence — setting goals, completing a project, giving to somebody else’.

Tove has previously written about charity knitting, and various projects that exist and the good they do. And a Fashion Byte about a Brooklynite who sews her own clothes led to some insightful, informative comments discussing the importance of learning to sew, knit, weave, spin, etc., and correcting my own statement within the Byte that learning to break a three-dimensional garment down into a two-dimensional pattern was an unsually difficult task. Clearly learning to make things has more benefit than simply getting you a scarf or a sweater. In our increasingly consumer-driven society, there seems to be an increased spotlight on those who make rather than buy their clothes.

What are your thoughts on the program? Do you think it is doing the men involved good in the long term, or is it simply something to do while they are incarcerated? Do you believe learning to make something, whether it is knitting, or another creative endeavor, has larger benefits than simply ‘vocational’? What are your thoughts about the increase in attention to do-it-yourself movements? Do people miss being able to make things themselves? What have we lost by distancing the ‘average’ consumer so far from the construction of the items they are buying?

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