Most readers have probably seen a picture or two of me here on the blog. I have long light brown hair, it was a few inches longer, but I recently got it trimmed (thanks Shauna!!). Since my hair is so long and wild, it is usually found in everything I knit; completely knitted into the fabric of the garment. Some people try to pull the hair out of their knitting and keep it on their heads, but I have long since given up completely. Of course being the English major that I am, I couldn’t just leave it at that. I did some research and came up with a few fun facts about knitting and hair.
I’ll start with the most unpleasant one, hair shirts as penance! Mainly used in religious circles they were called a ‘cilice’; an undergarment made of very coarse cloth or animal hair. They were meant to be worn close to the skin and purposely cause irritation. Sometimes thin wire or twigs would be incorporated into said garment to increase irritation. I don’t care what your husband did, I don’t think he deserves this, put the wire down and back away slowly. There is no need to besmirch the good name of knitting!
While listening to the Knitmore Girls podcast, Gigi, mentioned something about knitting your hair into a garment was supposed to increase the positive emotions between two people. Historically, giving a lock of hair to a suitor is a sign of devotion and affection; especially before an impending separation. Superstition promotes that having a lock of someone’s hair gives you power over them, so entrusting someone with a lock of your hair is quite a sign of certainty.
To simply take the meaning behind the history, when you knit someone something you’re giving them power over you. You’re giving them something you have poured your time and energy into, not to mention some exceptional fiber. This makes me think of the adage, in composing music you reveal a piece of your soul; by knitting a garment for someone you symbolically give them a piece of your soul. As sane as that sounds, I could see how we could lose the etymology in modern times. Knitting and crochet used to be a way to cloth your family, it would keep them warm and safe from the elements. With synthetic fiber and mass-produced everything, most meaningful things have been highly commercialized. Getting married in two weeks, I can definitely see this. Many things now are about business and transactions, but little things, like getting your hair caught in your knitting, are linked back in time to a place where creating a hat or sweater significantly protected loved ones. The elements are now lower on our daily list of things to worry about, but we don’t have to lose that base principle. Wherever you are crafting, do it with pride and positive emotions!