You see it everywhere – on a park bench in the sun, on the bus on a rainy afternoon, in trendy cafés in Stockholm and New York. People from all sorts of backgrounds sitting silently, engrossed in knitting projects of varying complexity.
So how did knitting go from being a granny pastime to a hobby for stressed-out cosmopolitans?
We asked two knitting experts what they think.
Emy-Ann Ländin is the president of Sticka, Sveriges Stickförening, the national organization for people dedicated to knitting. It started in 2004 and now has around 1,100 members who are everything from beginners to more experienced knitters.
Why do you think knitting has become so popular?
Because it’s a way of spending time together. In the old days, you had “syjunta” at someone’s house, nowadays you meet in the city or at the library and bring your knitting or sewing project. Knitting is great for stressed-out people, and a way to get some peace.
When did you get into knitting?
I was only five years old when I started. Back then it was mostly to knit things I needed, like sweaters or socks and other warm things for the winter.
What is it that you like the most about it?
I knit because it’s relaxing and peaceful. But it’s also challenging, and gives you a great opportunity to meet new people with similar interests.
Describe the typical knitter 2013?
There are all sorts of knitters these days. All ages and types of people are represented.
Check Sticka’s website to see the calendar with what’s going on around the country!
Anna Wilkinson is the author of Lättstickat – Finstickat (“Learn to Knit, Love to Knit” is the English title), published by Massolit Förlag September 13th.
It’s a collection of 20 projects that gradually become more difficult and introduce many different knitting techniques. Two of her own favourites from the book are a college-style cardigan and a tweed stitch cape – these things might be a bit difficult for the beginner, but she aims to explain them in a way even a knitting novice can master.
Anna thinks there are several reasons why knitting has become so popular recently.
“The actual technique is such a contrast to how we live nowadays – we’re always rushing around and are always so busy. Knitting is such a lovely, slow and repetitive technique that it’s being used as a way to relax at the end of the day.”
She also thinks it’s a real luxury to be able to buy nice yarn and make something exactly the way you want it.
“We have the freedom to tweak patterns and change colours and can really make a garment completely unique and truly our own. It’s becoming more and more difficult to be able to buy good quality knitwear on the high street – fashion moves so quickly and clothes are being made so cheaply and don’t really last that long. Hand knitting something from start to finish is a real journey, so the final product is a treasure – something that is utterly priceless.
What do you like most about it?
I really love the freedom knitting gives me to make whatever I put my mind to. I also really like how accessible it is to everyone. It really is a very simple, basic technique that only requires very, very simple, basic tools. All you need are two sticks and a continuous thread and you can create something.
Describe the typical knitter in 2013?
I think knitters are incredibly varied now so it’s very difficult to say. We all have our preferred techniques and certain yarns we like to knit with more than others. I think, however, that generally knitting is seen as a hobby – something that people sit down to while watching TV and winding down after a day at work, so I think most of the time a simple and quick-to-knit pattern is preferred. At the same time though, because yarn is expensive and therefore knitting is a treat, it can be a real luxury for someone to find a pattern they adore and spend the money on some lovely yarn and really take the time enjoying creating something really special.
Why did you choose to make a book with retro patterns?
The patterns within the book are all my own designs and are all pieces that I want to own and wear myself. I really want to design and make garments that can work within someone’s wardrobe and fit in with their own personal style – knitted pieces that are timeless and flattering. When I design I am often attracted to bright, bold and interesting colours, something which is reflected in my work. Generally I am attracted to neat and simple garment shapes and often I take inspiration from vintage garments because they often have nice little design details that you just wouldn’t find on garments nowadays.
What do you think of the future of knitting?
I think the future of knitting is going to be exciting! There are so many people doing very different and exciting things with the technique. It’s a wonderful skill to learn and use.
The attitude towards knitting has changed a great deal over time. It used to be something that we had to do to make clothes on a budget – it was something that everyone did.
However, now as we have access to cheap clothes there isn’t necessarily a need for hand-knitting – but it’s really wonderful and inspiring to know that there are so many people all over the world that are choosing to learn and practice the skill, making some really amazing and individual things and keep it alive.