If you’ve ever wondered how and why knitting, canning, and quilting are ‘cool’ again, even–especially?–among urban twentysomethings, you’ll want to check it out.
My mother doesn’t knit or sew (much) and her mother didn’t either. My grandmother Charlotte was an editorial assistant in New York City in the 1960s and a self-described feminist; she owned a first-edition copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. Boiling frozen Green Giant vegetables and broiling steaks were about the extent of her domestic work, and she reveled in fashionable clothes and in knowing at least a little something about the books “everyone” was talking about. When I was in second grade, we guffawed together over an illustration of a grandmother in a picture book I’d taken home from school. The grandmother was white-haired (my grandmother dyed hers until she died) and sitting in a recliner with a cat in her lap (my grandmother was violently allergic) while knitting something from garish colors of yarn (my grandmother never picked up a needle in her life unless she’d been forced to). “You’re not that kind of grandma, are you, Grandma?” I’d asked. “No, dearie. I’m not.”
If you think it strange that the granddaughter of a 60s urban feminist and anti-domestic relishes home cooking and sewing quilts and knitting sweaters for new babies, and, yes, gardening and preserving my own foods, think again. Americans are increasingly turning toward what writer Emily Matchar, in her new book Homeward Bound, calls the “New Domesticity.” It’s marked by an almost militant commitment to all things DIY (do-it-yourself); by a resurgence in interest in handcrafts like knitting, sewing, and embroidery; concern about food safety and environmental sustainability that expresses itself in a mania for home-grown, home-preserved, from-scratch cooking; a distrust of government and corporations that leads to things like homebirth, vaccine refusal, and homeschooling; and a disillusionment and dissatisfaction with contemporary work culture that leads people to “opt out,” filling their days instead with the kinds of homesteading work I’ve described along with a demanding style of parenting known as “attachment” parenting.