While I am here for a brief holiday to visit family, I couldn't resist doing some research into knitting in Poland. Knitting is not just a hobby for many of us; it is an obsession.
Sadly, information on Polish knitting is very hard to find - especially for a country with such cold winters. I did find this amazing Polska folk-art inspired pattern by SpillyJane Knits though. Anyone familiar with Polish pottery knows this print is a spot on interpretation.
Still I persevered as I was particularly interested in learning more about knitting during communism. With scarce resources available, it seems to me that knitting would have been easier than buying clothing. I heard one anecdote of a mother knitting a child's sweater, and adding length to the arms as the child outgrew the former size. Rather than making a new one from scratch, adding on as necessary was more efficient in terms of both time and fibre required.
Another person I spoke with said, "My mum was also forced to knit and sew during those tough times when Poland was under communism. For her it was a duty and not a pleasure as it is for me now. I remember yarn from those times: very rough and itchy and not very colourful. I remember when I was still little and I took some yarn from my mum’s resources to also follow in her footsteps and knit, I was told off that I am wasting her precious yarn. In fact it was acrylic yarn however for my mum it was very precious as she got it as a present from England.
Even now my mum often asks me why I want to make my own clothes if I can buy them much cheaper in the shops. Also, taking into account how little people earn in Poland and how expensive yarn is, you can see why it is a posh hobby (many factories producing yarn were closed after the fall of communism and most of the yarn is now imported, which in turn makes it expensive."
Indeed, the yarn I saw in a Krakow yarn shop was exclusively British and American made. A great opportunity for Polish indie dyers to swoop in with locally made products!
A little sidenote: While knitting may not be traditionally as popular, lacemaking and crochet are going strong. Forget lace doilies and table linens. The next generation of lacemakers are using the skill to make clothing. I will leave it to you to have a look at the more risque items available...