Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Week 25 Gentle Domesticity...

This week we're completing the chapter on Sharing from this year's book study, The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket.


Initially knitting alone at home, Jane eventually ventured out to sit with a group of other knitting enthusiasts at a wooden table in the cafe at Foyles Bookshop. Occasionally only a few would turn up and other times the 'squeeze' meant you needed to be rather careful if you were knitting with long needles. 

"But I am quite happy with a little compression, because it reminds me of the value of knitting groups like ours." (page 214)

A few reasons Jane loves the knitting group at Foyles are these -

* you don't need to book ahead
* you don't need to reserve a seat
* you can arrive and leave when you please
* no age limits
* you can knit whatever you fancy
* you don't have to wait to be invited
* you can be a beginner or a veteran
* new people are always welcome

As I read through the list above it made me yearn for a local group like that which could meet in a cafe like they have at Foyles. Personally I'd love a regular meet up in a relaxed cafe or tearoom environment where anyone can turn up, stay as long or as short as they like,  never feel guilty if they miss a week or a month, and can sit and enjoy any handcraft they enjoy - knitting, crochet, embroidery, hand quilting...The freedom which Jane details in her writings about Foyles really resonates in my heart. 

Do you frequent a group like the one at Foyles?

"There is something quite magical about sitting round a table with a group of chatty, engaging, sociable knitters who all seem to have an opinion on everything from cinema to opera, restaurants to cafes..." (page 215)


After her children remarked one morning that daddy was off to work and they were going to school, but Mummy would just be going to the supermarket, Jane was taken aback.

"Then I laughed and realised that it was up to me to demonstrate clearly to my offspring of both genders that there are many different ways to live your life, and that my chosen path (domesticity) was an alternative, but equally fulfilling, choice." (page 218)

"My children will not inherit titles, land, wealth or even a great wine cellar, but I do hope that they will inherit a few life-enhancing skills." (page 218)


Whenever Jane lays out blocks for a quilt it is son Tom who becomes the 'jigsaw master' and decides where each piece looks its best.

"He has developed great colour placement skills and can see patterns which are invisible to me until he points them out...In return for quilting advice we talk about rugby and BMX bikes, paper rounds and school. As we kneel on the carpet and move fabric like chess pieces, we share skills and snippets of each other's lives." (page 218)


Patiently waiting for any of her children to show a desire in knitting, Jane had to stifle whoops of joy when Phoebe decided she like to learn. After taking her daughter through the basics she bundled both of them up for a Parent & Child Knitting Weekend at the Rowan mill in Yorkshire.

"It was an amazing experience to sit for two days in a large room surrounded by young girls (and a couple of boys) and their mothers or helpers, and to see everyone knitting like pros. If anyone ever had doubts  about the value of teaching children to knit, then they should see one of these workshops in full flow...Phoebe adored the whole experience and talked excitedly about her knitting non-stop for 190 miles of the 200 mile journey home. And then she fell asleep." (page 219)


"If I had reminded Alice of the joys of knitting on a regular basis, I would have turned her off the idea. Instead I had to bide my time and hope that positive reinforcement worked. You can take a teenager to yarn but you can't make her cast on." (page 219)

Once started, Alice showed herself to be a very careful and deliberate knitter and soon Jane, Phoebe and Alice all attended the parent and child workshops at Rowan mill together.

"I have double the amount of joy in watching both my daughters work with yarn." (page 219)


"Unlike many knitters, I don't have a ball-winder or 'swift' to turn my loose skeins of yarn into neat, dumpy cylinders. But I do have a pair of hands and I enjoy the gentle, hypnotic motion of winding a ball of wool myself." (page 222)

Jane closes the chapter on Sharing with another art study, this time a painting by Harold Harvey, "Winding Wool" 1914...

"It is an unusual scene with the holder set above the winder (the winder normally the main subject in such paintings), the holder more dominant and in control. It's a beautiful snapshot of a moment in two girls' lives, perhaps a turning point when the older one is becoming secretive and the younger one still trusting and transparent." (page 222)

Shifting from art appreciation to poetry, Jane leaves us with this poem, "Winding Wool" by Robert Service (1874 - 1958)

She’d bring to me a skein of wool
And beg me to hold out my hands;
so on my pipe I cease to pull
And watch her twine the shining strands
Into a ball so snug and neat,
Perchance a pair of socks to knit
To comfort my unworthy feet,
Or pullover my girth to fit.

As to the winding I would sway,
A poem in my head would sing,
And I would watch in dreamy way
The bright yarn swiftly slendering.
The best I liked were coloured strands
I let my pensive pipe grow cool . . .
Two active and two passive hands,
So busy winding shining wool.

Alas! Two of those hands are cold,
And in these days of wrath and wrong,
I am so wearyful and old,
I wonder if I’ve lived too long.
So in my loneliness I sit
And dream of sweet domestic rule . . .
When gentle women used to knit,
And men were happy winding wool.
Well, we're close to the end of our book now, just two chapters left. Have you enjoyed our roam through the pages and thoughts within The Gentle Art of Domesticity?

* This week I'd like you to share in the comments below how our study so far of Jane Brocket's book has enriched your own view of, and attitude towards, living a gentle domestic life.

Our next reading will begin the chapter on Nature and we're studying pages 224 -239. I'll have that blog post for you on Tuesday October 15th. 

May your day be blessed, your smile brightened, your heart lightened, and God's peace be overflowing upon every moment.



Beth said...

I like the slower pace of life. Maybe it's the introvert in me that needs solitude and time to work with my hands; or maybe it's the country girl in me. There is a longing for the slower paced life that I knew as a child.
It's also brought up good memories of my grandparents and the things we did with them as children.

PennyP said...

I have loved this study and the reinforcement that there is value and beauty in domesticity. Jane's book is so full of colour and the links to art, books and poetry enrich the reader. Thank you for taking us through it Jenny.
I belong to a sewing group which meets once a month - I wish it was more often as I enjoy it so much.

Unknown said...

Wouldn’t it be lovely to go to a place like Foyles! I think our modern world is really missing out of the companionship, encouragement and training that takes place when women gather. I am heading out this evening to a quilt guild meeting. I hope it helps the longing! But I think we just listen and don’t get to work with our hands.
Donna from Texas.

Kate said...

My local library has a children's learn to knit or crochet program and an evening adult knitting and crochet drop in. It is lovely to sit with my knitting, and enjoy the company of others.

Tammy said...

Great book study. Even though I didn't buy the book I feel richly rewarded to read along on your blog posts about it. Thank you so much. It has been a eye opening discussion each time.

Farm Quilter said...

I enjoyed something similar to Foyles when I was house/pet sitting in Florida...the lovely ladies of SewWhat??!! who met weekly at the home of one member (she had a huge quilting studio), to work on quilts or anything they wanted. We would go to lunch together and come back to sew for a few more hours. The love and caring of that group will forever be the gold standard for any other group I belong to. I don't have the book, but I have been enjoying reading your take on it and the comments of your fellow readers. I hope your time away has refreshed and renewed you and Mr. E.

Susan said...

I do belong to a group like that. We meet at my house every Thursday morning! Who comes yay, and who doesn't, it's okay. I would love it to be a public place, but then my quilty friends couldn't raid my stash or thread for what they need each week. =) We talk about so many things, and share so much, it's delightful. I have enjoyed the ramble through the book, partly because we haven't hurried at all, and there's been a lot of nice contemplation about things. I don't knit, and there are few ways my life and Jane's cross each other, but it's still been an interesting journey through the intersections there are - mostly attitudes, I think.

Kay said...

Although my children occasionally said that if I had a real job then we would have more money they were very glad to come home to baking every day and home cooked food. Also knowing that if they were ill I was always there to look after them was important to me, when I was a primary school teacher we often had ill children in school because no one could be at home with them. Being a stay at home mum is a blessing for everyone.