Upside-down Knitting In Picturebook Illustration

School Library Journal (Betsy Bird) posted an article about knitting as depicted in picture books — so often the knitting needles are coming out the top, whereas if you’ve ever knitted in real life you’ll know that the needles come out below the hands.

This is a wonderful observation, and once you’ve noticed it you’ll see it all over the place. Artistic licence aside, which of these illustrators is a knitter, do you think?

illustration by Takeo Takei, dating from the 1920s, Japan
Beatrix Potter, Appley Dapply’s Nursery Rhymes 1917
Woman’s World Magazine cover art July 1918
Alberto Montt
Marjolein Bastin
Svjetlan Junakovic
Yusuke Yonezu
B. Twardowski, 1925
Hilda Boswell. Caption reads: “Bob-tail helps to unwind the wool for his jersey”
Governess by Louis Wain (1860-1939)
DEVINEZ L’ALPHABET (1868–colored version, 1978) Théophile Schuler
Midnight glove knitter in 1958. Al Parker,1906–1985
1937 – Needlecraft Home Arts
Mela Koehler (Austrian, 1885–1960)
‘Woman Knitting,’ (1949) Henry Moore, using his “two-way sectional line method” of drawing.
Home Arts Magazine September 1937. This student may be in trouble with her teacher, but she knows how to hold knitting needles.
Ralph Pallen Coleman knitting (1892-1968) The Home Arts Magazine March 1935. Another woman in trouble for knitting. The cultural message is clear: Women should not be trusted to drive.

OTHER INSTANCES IN WHICH REALISM IS MODIFIED

Raindrops

There are instances, however, where a realistic portrayal of nature isn’t necessarily warranted. Raindrops are actually round when falling from the sky, but in the collective imagination a raindrop is, well, ‘tear drop’ shaped. Where does the teardrop shape even come from? Probably from the leg of moisture coming off a droplet as seen when running down a surface such as a cheek.

Big Walking Legs

You don’t see this so much in modern books, but it seems children of yesteryear marched everywhere. Could all of that marching in school have carried over into real life?

Manic-Enthusiasm

I can’t find the credit for this image and it may be a pie advertisement for all I know. 1950s advertisements featuring housewives were full of it. But we haven’t really seen these facial expressions since the 1970s Ladybird books.

1956
from a Ruud Water Heater advertisement, in the October 1947 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine

SEE ALSO

Sewing, Spinning and Weaving in Art and Illustration

Lemon girl young adult novella

READ AT MY OTHER BLOG

Those who tell the stories rule the world.

Native American Proverb