RSE Curious

Knitting for Money, Knitting from Home:
Work and Wellbeing in the Knitwear Sector

4pm -5pm, 4 August 2022 (Online event)

During the pandemic we saw a huge shift in the way we work, with working from home becoming commonplace across many sectors of the economy and many discussions centred around the benefits and burdens of ‘working from home’. Yet in the case of women, ‘working from home’ is not a new concept, especially in the textile sector.

Knitting has recently been linked with well-being, noting its beneficial qualities as a relaxing, destressing pastime which clears and calms the mind. While the benefits of knitting (and other craft activity) are clear, this is only one aspect in the story of home hand-knitting. Historically, from Shetland to the Borders, for many home-knitters for pay, it is not necessarily a relaxing experience. Knitting to tight deadlines can mean working long days, sometimes into the night, trying to fit knitting in with other daily activities. Here it is not an activity associated with well-being, but one which is stressful and often hard on the fingers and eyes, and for remuneration well below the skill and time given to producing a hand-knitted garment.

This Tea and Talk presents an historical perspective of the home-knitting for pay sector in Scotland. It illustrates the army of home-knitters, mostly women with few other options of earning an income, who produced expensive fashion garments for little remuneration. It examines the realities of knitting for pay, considering issues such as skill, remuneration and deadlines and offers participants the opportunity to share their experiences of ‘knitting from home’.

How to Participate

In addition to attending the event, we would like to invite you to ‘Knit a Margaret Klein’ pattern for our project which is investigating the creativity of knitwear designer Margaret Klein. There is much evidence to show that Margaret treated her home knitters well. The point of asking you to knit one of Margaret’s patterns is to provide you with an experience which is as close as possible to that of knitting homeworkers – and assist us in our research project. Full details of the original project can be found here.

Please note that our call for volunteers for the Knit a Margaret Klein pattern is currently closed, and the opportunity to participate is exclusively for attendees of the RSE Tea and Talk.

If you would like to participate, please follow the link in the RSE Eventbrite registration page.

After registering, as well as a knitting pattern, you will receive a feedback sheet with some questions to consider while you knit. These questions relate to your experience of being ‘a knitting homeworker’, albeit only for a short time. You can then consider your experiences in relation to those discussed during the talk.

Please see our Instructions to Knitters but note that we cannot supply the yarn or needles to knit the sample.

Please also read our Privacy Notice to understand how your personal data will be stored and used.

Questions to Consider

Similarly, you may prefer to consider the questions in the feedback sheet about something you are currently knitting. Although we hope you will choose to, it is not necessary to knit to participate.

However, we hope that consideration of some pre-event questions will allow you to engage more fully with the talk.

  • If you are a knitter, have you ever knitted for money/pay? Or do you know someone who has?
  • Have you ever purchased a hand-knitted garment?
  • Do you ever consider how much a knitter earns when you buy a handknit garment?
  • Did you think the cost of the garment was a fair price for you and a fair income for the business/the knitter?
  • How much would you expect to earn as a homeworking knitter?
  • How difficult do you think it would be to:
    • Fit knitting at home for pay into your other daily activities (childcare, other care responsibilities, household duties, other part-time employment)?
    • Knit to deadlines?
    • Produce numerous copies of the same garment?

We look forward to meeting you at the event.

If you would like to receive alerts for the publication of blogs and/or notifications of events, please complete this form.