Knitting isn’t just your granny’s hobby anymore.
The centuries-old craft has turned mainstream in recent years, with knitting clubs and gatherings, an influx of trendy yarns – and even calendars, blogs and chat rooms dedicated to the pastime.
“It’s huge,” said Ricky Ryan, who owns Bouclé’s … Yarn in downtown Coeur d’Alene. “We have such a fast-paced world with computers and technology. The need is there to give of ourselves. It’s like cooking from scratch.”
Across the country, more than 53 million women know how to knit or crochet, representing a 51 percent increase over the last decade, according to a 2004 survey by the Craft Yarn Council of America, based in Gastonia, N.C.
Since 2002, the number of women ages 25 to 34 who knit increased 150 percent, to 6.5 million, according to the Craft Yarn Council.
Mavis Fischer, who teaches knitting and crocheting at Michaels in Coeur d’Alene, said she has noticed heightened interest in the last few years, especially as young women – and even men – have started crafting their own fashionable scarves and hats.
“Somebody came to school with a fancy beanie, and they come in here” to learn how to replicate it, Fischer said.
Fischer taught herself to knit as a child, and she’s been hooked since. She’s even found herself knitting in her car at a stoplight – so she now keeps her needles in the back seat.
“It was getting ridiculous,” she said.
Local knitters and instructors say they’re drawn to the craft because of the need to socialize, create and relax.
On a recent Thursday evening, about a dozen women gathered at Bouclé’s … Yarn for a Knotty Girls Night Out, a weekly get-together of knitters of all age ranges and skill levels. They huddled around a table in the cozy store, sipping glasses of wine, munching cookies, gabbing and clicking their needles.
The Knotty Girls wore some of their creations and showed off their projects. One woman displayed an alligator-shaped scarf, complete with a bumpy knitted back and curved head.
“They just come and pour their hearts out,” said Ryan, who organizes the group. “We’re close-knit. I know it’s a pun, but it’s true. This is where the word comes from.”
Ryan opened Bouclé’s … Yarn in the spring of 2006, offering patterns, accessories and exotic fibers and blends with a European, modern flair.
The store put out its own calendar this year, with models and local knitters displaying creations ranging from scarves to bikinis. She’s getting requests for the calendar from all over the country, Ryan said.
Knitting can be thrifty or a splurge. An average skein of natural-fiber yarn, such as wool or cashmere, costs between $5 and $30 at Bouclé’s, Ryan said. A hat or scarf may cost as little as $5 or $10, but a sweater or blanket could cost hundreds.
Juaquetta Holcomb, a Knotty Girls regular, said she has always been fascinated with fibers and fabrics. She spins her own yarn and owns a business in Newman Lake called Garden Party Fibers.
“You used to quilt for a blanket. Now you quilt for an art. It’s the same with knitting,” Holcomb said. “You don’t knit a pair of mittens because you need them.”
Pam Hertenstein of Coeur d’Alene has been knitting for the past three years. She has crocheted for most of her life, but her knot of knitting friends convinced her to learn.
“It keeps my hands busy while I watch TV,” she said.
Hertenstein used to work in a high-stress job, where a group of women decided to get together at lunch to unwind and knit together.
“It was relaxing. It was productive,” she said. “It actually made us remember to eat lunch.”
Gwendolyn Pratt of Coeur d’Alene learned to knit a year ago, and she’s been churning out scarves and purses since then. She’s felting purses for her niece and sister this year.
Felting, a popular technique, involves soaking a knitted creation in hot water or tossing it in the dryer to shrink and tighten the fabric.
Pratt hasn’t kept any of her creations, instead choosing to gift the handmade items to friends and family.
“I love to make gifts for Christmas every year,” she said at a Knotty Girls gathering. “I love artistic endeavors … and it’s just a creative outlet.”
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