Arts
9:29 am
Wed December 14, 2005

Wilmington Knitting Groups Bond Women Together

There are only 11 shopping days left before Christmas and Hanukkah. But for the area's knitters, those two weeks are more likely to be filled with flashing needles than ringing cash registers. Knitting is a hot hobby right now, with a surprising range of fans. WHQR's Megan Williams checked in with the crafty set, and has this report.

Wilmington, NC, December 14, 2005 – To start with, let's talk nomenclature. The knitting groups in question here are known as stitch-and... mmm, well, it rhymes with stitch... and adequately describes what often happens when you get a bunch of women together, over yarn, to talk about their lives. For the sake of the FCC, we'll try to stick to euphemisms, like the line one knitter uses with her 12-year-old granddaughter: "I'm going to stitch-and-complain, that's what I tell Katy. Stitch and complain. Because her parents are so strict about how you talk in front of the children, but she's so beyond that. She goes, oh Grammy, please."

None of the other members of the knitting group at Rebel Books have a problem with the word, either. It's what they've gathered on this Wednesday night to do: kvetch about their lives, their politics, their latest projects. "This is my third attempt," one woman says, holding up a half-finished scarf. "I'm knitting challenged."

The meeting's atmosphere is more funky than feminine... some of the women arrive with arms full of tattoos, and many of their works-in-progress sparkle with odd threads and knots. Knitters in the past might have learned to knit from a mother or aunt, but these days, women who take up the needles as adults are turning to friends, knitting store classes, and gatherings like this one. Anastasia Garris-Boswell founded the group two years ago, not knowing she was part of a national movement. She says the members are drawn to knitting for a variety of reasons.

"Some people don't want to spend that much money on a sweater, or spend that much money on clothing. Some people are tired of looking like everyone else. It's really meditative. It's kind of monotonous to a point that it's just relaxing, and therapeutic."

And right now, it's also very social. The knitters at Rebel Books come in part to meet new friends. But across town, a private stitch-and-ya-know formed to keep together women who met in a creativity seminar. Their meeting too is a raucous mixture of conversation and crafts, although tonight they've set aside their balls of yarn for ones of glass, as they laugh their way through the construction of gaudy Christmas wreaths.

"I do think women enjoy connecting with one another and sharing," says leader Kim Sincox, "and I think that's a very old tradition. Women, whether it be the old quilting bees or whatever or sewing guilds or whatever people do, I think women, that's part of our support, it's how we get through the good times and hard times in life, is doing things together and sharing and offering that love and support."

But knitting isn't just an excuse to get together. For Barbara Rowe, another group member, it provided something her daily life often doesn't.

"There's just something satisfying about doing something and seeing an end product. A lot of our lives are spent doing things where you never see the end. It's just a little piece of something the rest of the institution completes. But being able to do something from beginning to end for yourself, I think is, I dunno, it makes me feel good."

All this stitching is a godsend for the knitting industry according to Mary Lee Field, who works for Yarns of Wilmington. The store has seen its business boom in the past few years.

"I would say, 10-to-15 years ago, knitting was not very popular, it really went down for a while. But now, we're way back, even better than we were before, I think. It's just a wider range of knitters and a wider range of projects and possibilities."

Fields says she's seen Stitch-n-Mmm groups starting up throughout the area, often in new developments where women are trying to form communities. It remains to be seen if today's knitters will stay hooked on this craft in particular, or drift to some other outlet for their creativity. But at least right now, knitting fans have nothing to... well, you know.

Megan Williams, WHQR News