iKnit – And So Should You
By Carmine Rau
Hand knitting is a time consuming and sometimes frustrating endeavor. One
would think that the relative low cost, staggering selection of colors and
convenience of store-bought sweaters would have long sent hand knitting to
its grave; but for many of us the process of creation is a source of pleasure
as great as the end product. It starts with a visit to the yarn store and
the selection of yarns from every hue and texture. Then you find a suitable
pattern and needles. Finally, the process ends with the joyful hours spent
sharing your finds and projects with fellow knitters.
Clearly it is cool to knit! I recently saw a “knit kit” for
sale in the teen clothing catalog, Delia’s (don’t ask – it
came with the apartment) where you could knit your own “skinny tie,” leg
warmers or scarf. It would appear knitters are having enough fun to carry
the craft into the next millennium.
It was in the spirit of shared community among knitters that Alpha Delap,
a manager at the iSchool’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction,
started the iKnit group in spring 2003. After starting at the iSchool in
August 2002, news got around the school that she was a knitter and soon
she found “that people began to seek me out to show me a project they
were working on, ask me questions, or just to express their own excitement
re: knitting as a practice. When I mentioned the possibility of starting
a group, more than twenty individuals were very enthusiastic.”
Alpha’s original idea at founding the group was “to create
a group environment for students, staff and faculty of the Information School
that could be respite, a place of sanctuary and a celebration of a particular
form of craftsmanship – a social gathering that existed away from
the demands and anxiety surrounding the intellectual work we do.” It
is an idea that appears to be working. First year MLIS student Blythe Summers’ experience
sums up the perspective of many of her knitting peers: “I came to
iKnit because I wanted to meet and hang out with other iSchool people in
a relaxed setting. I'm a beginning knitter and it's inspiring to hear the
experienced knitters talk about yarn and stitches and patterns. Knitting
is a good way to wind down especially with our busy schedules and I am already
looking forward to the next meeting.”
So perhaps by now you are excited. You are ready to grab some yarn and knit yourself a skinny tie or some legwarmers or perhaps begin with a scarf for the cold days ahead. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even held a knitting needle before. Join your fellow iSchool knitters at the iKnit listserv or meet up with us at our next gathering on November 18th at Solstice Café (4116 University Ave) at 4:30 pm. For now, the group meets once monthly but Alpha hopes to see the group meet more often and perhaps work on projects to benefit people in need perhaps in the form communal work on blankets for shelters.
There is certainly the potential to put this craft to service. Knitting groups have long used their addiction to the craft for the benefit of others. Among other projects, knitters have knit hats to donate to newborns at hospitals, penguin sweaters to warm penguins washed after oil spills, warm clothing for the homeless and scarves for people in the armed forces and the Merchant Marine.
Still not sure whether or not to join iKnit? Consider that the holidays are drawing near. Bundle someone you love in a hand-knit gift. Everyone loves hand-knit gifts. Knitting is love incarnate.
And iSchool men, do not be afraid to take up the pointy sticks. The tradition of men in knitting is vast; stretching from the knit guilds of medieval Europe to the fishermen of Scandinavia and northern Britain to today’s famous knitters Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably. Should you need any further convincing, check out the book The Manly Art of Knitting by Dave Fougner where you will be instructed on such “manly” skills as how to make oversize needles out of cast off pool cues to knit yer hound a blanket.
In the meanwhile, fellow iSchoolers, to pass the time until the next gathering of iKnit I leave you with a couple local yarn shops to check out. The staff there will be more than happy to help you select materials for your first scarf or skinny tie.
The Weaving Works on Brooklyn in the U district has a wonderful selection of yarn, needles, books and accessories and, besides knitting, offers classes in spinning, weaving, dying and basketry.
Acorn Street Shop on 55th behind U Village also has floor to ceiling yarn in its cozy interior. They also offer classes in knitting and spinning.
Hilltop Yarn is not a store I’ve visited personally (yet) but I’ve only heard good things from fellow knitters. This shop is converted from a craftsman mansion and they also offer classes and host various events.