Move over, grandma. A new generation is taking up knitting
The next time you're sitting in Starbucks and hear a cacophony of clicking and clacking and chattering coming from the group at the table behind you, don't be alarmed. Chances are that you're encountering the latest coffee shop rage: knitting circles. That's right - grandmas are passing the needles to twenty-, thirty- and fortysomethings, who are taking up this pastime in droves.
According to the Craft Yarn Council of America, four million people began knitting this year, and there are no signs the trend is slowing. The Council's recent nationwide Knit Out drew 7,000 people in New York City alone.
Even Hollywood has discovered knitting, and chances are you'll see a favorite celebrity slipping into a handmade sweater instead of a designer dress. Oscar-winning actress Hillary Swank knits, as does Cameron Diaz. Julia Roberts recently told columnist Liz Smith that, on a movie set, "by the end of the movie there's always a knitting circle that's grown." Roberts likes the combination of the solo activity and the opportunity to socialize. "I can sit on a set between shots, chat with people and just knit away," she told Smith.
Hannah Greenberg, a television producer from Brooklyn, was a knitting newbie at this time last year, when she signed up for a class at her local yarn shop. "I was looking for something to do to get through the holidays as painlessly as possible," she recalls. Although she has childhood recollections of "being dragged to the yarn shop with my mother and sister on Saturday mornings," she never picked up a set of knitting needles until her first class.
While items like afghans are the most popular knitting projects, Greenberg's class project was a "simple and not all that attractive sweater," she says. As a plus-size woman, Greenberg was faced with the prospect of re-sizing the size 12-14 pattern to fit her ample body. With tape measure in hand, and in front of the class, Greenberg wanted to bolt, but says, "I had already blabbed to too many people about this class and project, not to mention I had just spent 200 non-refundable dollars on this funfest."
Fortunately for Greenberg, her instructor (whom she refers to as "The Saint") was up to the task of revising the pattern. Likewise, Greenberg says, "The other women in the class were amazing and so supportive."
Her experience began a process of awakening that led Greenberg to question the scarcity of plus-size knitting patterns. "I was so surprised that there was yet another area where being fat was excluding me from doing what everyone else could do, and from doing something I loved," she says.
In earnest, Greenberg began to research the resources available for plus-size knitters. Upon finding the Ample Knitters website and discussion group, she says, "I made friends with women who have been knitting for decades and yet had never made anything for themselves because no patterns were available or because yarn shop owners made them feel uncomfortable because they needed such large quantities of yarn."
In the process, Greenberg and her contacts have developed a network of resources for plus-size women, and she has become a confirmed knitter. "This little hobby has enriched my lift beyond my expectations. I feel I can make a difference in how body size is viewed (in the knitting community)."
Going one step further, Greenberg has started a knitting group for women of all sizes that meets once a month at a Starbucks in Brooklyn. "We just sit and knit and talk, and admire each other's works in progress."
And as for that class project, Greenberg says, "I finished the sweater, though one sleeve is ten inches longer than the other, and the other sleeve is sewn on inside out." Nonetheless, she says she's worn her purple masterpiece a few times, with one sleeve rolled up!
If you haven't tried it yet, why not jump on this hot trend, pick up your needles and give it a purl... er, whirl? If nothing else, knitting is a great way to meet folks. According to Greenberg, "Taking out your knitting needles in public is like waving a flag; I never fail to meet new people."
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