Occupied and productive

This beautiful painting is of a young woman knitting. She is a peasant woman, working in fine yarn of four needles. She might be making a sleeve for a garment, or maybe she is knitting a stocking. The yarn twists around her fingers, so indicating the ease of this occupation, and her dexterity. On one of her fingers there is a fine gold ring. Pay attention to her face and cap – how lovely she is, and what care she has taken in dressing. In the picture no one observes her, this is how she has dressed for herself.

As her hands are occupied, so is her mind. Her thoughts are elsewhere, her attention far away. The seascape in the background, which includes tiny boats, further suggests this. She might be located on this cliff top knitting, but in her imagination she can be anywhere that she wishes. What is in her mind, what is it that she thinks about? What is being knit by her imagination?

This painting, ‘Tricoteuse’, (1871) by William Bouguereau, was painted in southern Brittany. In France the term ‘tricoteuse’ (knitting woman) has a long association, good and bad, with women who seem passive and occupied, but are actually imagining subversion or revolution.


She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31:24-26

God of truth and beauty,
Poet of the Word,
May we be creators
by the Spirit stirred.
Open to your presence
In our joy and strife
Vessels of the holy
Coursing through our life.

Ruth Dick, 1992