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Guest Blog – The Social Side of Knitting

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(Picture graciously donated by KnittingLindsay from Ravelry.com)

Much has been made out of the social side of knitting. Guardian type publications over the last couple of years. And now it’s got so popular it’s even popping up in the Daily Mail (who said they were always the last to know?). I don’t know how it happened, it sort of sprang out of nowhere but I think it’s got a lot to do with younger knitters (I’m talking up to forty years old or so).

The first time I remember seeing knitting as mainstream in my lifetime was when people started wearing fun fur scarves – can you remember them? This sort of thing:

They were all over everywhere one winter, maybe about seven years ago and you’d get little kits including three balls of fun fur and the needles in Poundland shops and the like and they were a nightmare to knit and you only ever see them now on grannies. I made a few, for my sins, but never really wore them.

I guess a few of the people that picked up these sorts of kits were bitten by the bug and started knitting ‘for real’. And I guess the more people that knit the more yarn and patterns and inspiration is available and then the more people that knit. Then more shops start opening, at the higher end selling exciting yarns from Germany and Peru and the lower end selling affordable stuff for students and normal people. Then more people knit. And so it goes on.

I’ll put it out there that ravelry.com has had a HUGE impact on knitting and crochet. It’s the best site ever to be created. Ever. They call it social networking for knitters and crocheters but it’s more than that; it’s a database of patterns, yarn, knowledge, people, shops, techniques. Bloody everything. And it’s all laid out so that even an idiot (like me) can use it. It’s clean and tidy, smooth and it just works (isn’t it a relief when something just. Works. It happens so little). It’s run by a husband and wife duo from America who are expecting their first child (who’s guessing how much knitted stuff they’ll receive?!). Casey, the man, is the code monkey and Jess, the lady, is the knitter. You can speak to them both, and suggest things and test things and give ideas and hints if you know computer stuff, or you can just sit back, relax and coast along on the hard work that people have put into the site. Honestly, even if you’re not a knitter, check it out – it’s astounding.

One of the truly great things about ravelry is the exposure it gives to up and coming designers. Anybody can post a pattern up there for free or for sale. Once somebody decides to work with that pattern, they download the file usually in the form of a pdf and get going. The idea is that as you’re working you post photos and notes about what you’re doing and link that to the original pattern. So often in knitting, you don’t use the original yarn called for or you do more or less decreases or you lengthen the sleeve or you rework a baby patten into an adult one (I’ll put my hand up for that, and to a plus size adult too, glutton for punishment much?!). If everybody gives input like this then as somebody is looking for a pattern they can see all of their options. It’s particularly good for less confident knitters because you see what can be done with a little thought and if the enterer has shown all of their working out (like a good little examinee) ideas can be copied. Fabulous!

This process creates designers as people gain knowledge and experience and then designers pay back to the site by selling patterns through there. It’s also cheap, mere pennies per transaction which is a small price to pay for having a website dedicated to a sidelined section of the community (i.e. crafters). Also, now we’re supporting not just two adults but a baby, and everybody knows how much knitters like babies.

I think younger people are naturally more social. I say this because they’ve generally got more time with no kids to raise or full time stressful jobs on the whole, and they have more disposable income, no mortgages and kids to provide for and lots of student loans. So it makes sense that younger knitters go out and about to knit. I guess it’s also an American idea, sewing bees never seem to go out of fashion there, and the advent of the Stitch and Bitch book series meant that knitting was once again young, cool, funky and social. I guess young people are more susceptible to American culture – even knitters! This brings me to my beloved knitting club – Knit in Notts.

Set up four years or so ago by the lovely Steph, we meet every Tuesday at Lee Rosies from six ’till eight (and you’ll often find us boozing at the Broadway afterwards too…). It’s just a group of people getting together to knit, crochet, spin, drink tea and eat cake. It’s free and everybody’s welcome! And it’s so nice to socialise without boozing (at least until eight o’clock…). It’s not often you get that opportunity when you’re in your twenties and thirties.

Knitting club has helped me so much. I started going as a bit of a wreck nearly three years ago. I’d had my heart broken, was in a pretty bad job, stressing about uni, lonely, tired and just no good really. It must have been pretty sad to see. Somehow, after months of checking and re-checking the facebook group, I gathered enough courage to go for the first time. I was a bit put off by the fact that there was no space upstairs (too many knitters) so I went downstairs but it was a lucky thing really, I met an American called Kate with silly pink hair who brought me out of myself. Not that she tried to, she’s too busy thinking about geeky stuff, but she helped me somehow. Anyway – not too soppy – I can remember exactly what I was knitting that night (the sleeve of a purple, basket-weave would-be-sailor cardi that never got the sailor collar stitched on) and what I was thinking. I was quiet all the time, tried to be helpful, tried to sound knowledgeable and when I left I felt euphoric. Odd really, a knitting club creating a sensation of euphoria but it was a massive step for little old depressed me to have got out of the house and done something productive after months of moping.

I kept going anyway, not surprising really as I’d felt at home near enough straight away and after a while I made friends. Real friends. The first real friends I’d made since school which is quite a thing! It’s hard to make friends when you’re not forced into the same room with 29 people the same age as you for seven hours every day. I guess that’s why knitting is so special to me, or at least explains the beginning of the obsession.

I’ve never thought to ask what brought other people to the club. I wonder if, like me, they didn’t really know until they got there. But if you haven’t tried to before, go and be creative around other creative people, it’s really quite something. I firmly believe being around other creative people boosts confidence and creativity like nothing else – I mean, blimey, we made created a shop between us!

Also, I forgot to mention that the ‘world’ photograph from last blog post was Amy Fisher’s – if you want to get in contact with her just drop us an e-mail (knit at knitnottingham dot co dot uk) and we’ll get it to her!

Love Eleanor.