As promised, here are the knitting quotes from Little Women. They are taken from the Kindle edition, which also contains Good Wives in the same volume.
The first one, from the very beginning: page 4
It’s bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boy’s games and work and manners! I can’t get over my disappointment in not being a boy. And it’s worse than ever now, for I’m dying to go and fight with Papa. And I can only stay home and knit, like a poky old woman!” And Jo shook the blue army sock till the needles rattled like castanets, and her ball bounded across the room.
Knitting is used here as a way of establishing Jo’s character. Disappointing use of the knitting is for old women stereotype.
Now one about Beth (the good one) knitting socks: page 13
Beth said nothing, but wiped away her tears with the blue army sock and began to knit with all her might, losing no time in doing the duty that lay nearest her, while she resolved in her quiet little soul to be all that Father hoped to find her when the year brought round the happy coming home.
What a contrast between Beth and Jo. Is knitting with all ones might more effective, I wonder?
Jo trying to persuade Laurie to knit: page 204
“Then you may come, and I’ll teach you to knit as the Scotchmen do. There’s a demand for socks just now,” added Jo, waving hers like a big blue worsted banner as they parted at the gate.
I wonder what ‘worsted’ means in this context. Can it mean the weight of yarn, as used currently? Seems unlikely for socks, since they would be rather bulky and impractical for Army use. Maybe it is referring to the spinning method. Any ideas?
And finally a longer quote from right at the end of Good Wives: page 329
But Jo had her own eyes to take care of, and feeling that they could not be trusted, she prudently kept them on the little sock she was knitting, like a model maiden aunt. A stealthy glance now and then refreshed her like sips of fresh water after a dusty walk, for the sidelong peeps showed her several propitious omens. Mr. Bhaer’s face had lost the absent-minded expression, and looked all alive with interest in the present moment, actually young and handsome, she thought, forgetting to compare him with Laurie, as she usually did strange men, to their great detriment. Then he seemed quite inspired, though the burial customs of the ancients, to which the conversation had strayed, might not be considered an exhilarating topic. Jo quite glowed with triumph when Teddy got quenched in an argument, and thought to herself, as she watched her father’s absorbed face, “How he would enjoy having such a man as my Professor to talk with every day!” Lastly, Mr. Bhaer was dressed in a new suit of black, which made him look more like a gentleman than ever. His bushy hair had been cut and smoothly brushed, but didn’t stay in order long, for in exciting moments, he rumpled it up in the droll way he used to do, and Jo liked it rampantly erect better than flat, because she thought it gave his fine forehead a Jove-like aspect. Poor Jo, how she did glorify that plain man, as she sat knitting away so quietly, yet letting nothing escape her, not even the fact that Mr. Bhaer actually had gold sleeve-buttons in his immaculate wristbands. “Dear old fellow! He couldn’t have got himself up with more care if he’d been going a-wooing,” said Jo to herself, and then a sudden thought born of the words made her blush so dreadfully that she had to drop her ball, and go down after it to hide her face. The maneuver did not succeed as well as she expected, however, for though just in the act of setting fire to a funeral pyre, the Professor dropped his torch, metaphorically speaking, and made a dive after the little blue ball.
What a contrast in Jo’s attitude from the beginning of the book. Love the idea of knitting being used to hide inconvenient facial expressions. Similar to the trick of bending down to pick up a pen to avoid falling asleep during boring lectures.
In other news: the cardigan is still not dry. Maybe I shouldn’t have wet it quite so thoroughly.