Stories from middle America

knitting|COOP 1

Colorful skeins of yarn have slowly, seemingly effortlessly taken up residence in my home. I can’t quite pinpoint when my casual interest in knitting transformed to a full-time hobby. But I can tell you that, on likely a subconscious level, I had grown increasingly weary of digital devices and can’t-quite-touch data that seemed to dominate my hands at any given hour.

And I began referring to my home office as my craft room.

My mother-in-law taught me to knit. After observing her pass the time using a craft whose hallmark is repetition, I slowly began practicing this time honored tradition. A year later, I’m happy to have gifted a number of knitted pieces to family members and friends, proud enough of mastering the basic techniques of casting on, the knit stitch, changing colors, and casting off.

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I’m beginning to work on a new project.

The weights and textures and rainbow of colors at any craft store or website is easy on the eye. I experience a sublime sense of calm while circling my hands around a chunky wool yarn or a more sleek and thinner variety. (Yes, I’ve even rubbed the yarn on my face while shopping. It’s true!)

Inspiration for new knitted pieces – largely scarves, wraps, coasters, and small blankets – surface in a number of places. A color combination might catch my eye at the grocery store, such as the pinks and yellows of Easter candy. I tend to turn the colors around in my head the same way I might a peppermint in my mouth, until I locate the colors of yarn that mimic those same pleasing, pastel hues.

knitting | COOP

My collection of knitting needles.

Fellow knitter Courtney Zurcher, whom COOP profiled in 2012, has turned her crafts into a full-time business. This cottage industry of heartfelt and handmade has gone mainstream, thanks to websites such as Etsy. Now crafters everywhere can not only share their pieces through blogging and social media, but they can become small business owners, as well.

“The best way to distinguish yourself from other people who do what you do is to do what you do best,” Zurcher told COOP. “Do not compare yourself to companies and products. Be aware of your market but do not lose sight of why people enjoy your product.”

Although my modest Etsy shop hasn’t afforded me the luxury of knitting to pay the mortgage, it and publications such as Gathered by Mollie Makes have connected me with other knitters around the world. Some of my favorites include Julie and The KnitsOne Sheepish Girl, and the thousands of knitters whose handiwork I covet on display at Ravelry.

This granny craft movement continues to gain popularity, largely because the finished products have a vintage feel so often found in major retailers such as AnthropologieTulle, and Omaha’s own Hello Holiday.

What’s old may very well be new again. Yet age-old crafts such as knitting and even quilting (which I’m now learning thanks to my new sewing machine from – who else – my mother-in-law) are a growing trend among women far too young to be grandmothers and, yes, even young men.

knitting | COOP | heart scarf

A scarf I knitted recently.

The combination of creativity, craft, and DIY, when paired with the first-place-ribbon feel of sharing our works-in-progress and finished pieces online, has created a new generation of knitters. I imagine our hands will be busy – and not just texting and tweeting – for quite some time.

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