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Social knit-works

Posted on : 20 December 2016

WORDS: Alexandra Malfroy

Article first appeared RAS Times November 2011 as 'Knitting makes a comeback'.

Often associated with grannies knitting tea cosies, the craft of knitting is attracting a new burgeoning community.

Coffee shops have sprung up over Sydney and in regional towns across NSW dedicated to knitting and nattering over a cuppa. Pub meets for knitting groups have become commonplace combining jugs of beer with yarn. University clubs have been formed, including Sydney University's 'Stich and Bitch' Society, aimed at students looking for a social and creative outlet. 

And then there's graffiti knitting, also known as yarnbombing, yarn storming, kniffiti and guerilla knitting.  An international trend that sees knitted articles strewn on street lights, trees and other objects as street art.

Charisse Hodgeman, 30, from Sydney's Marrickville,  is a prime example of the new-age knitter. At ten years of age she learned the skill from her mother, but didn't become obsessed with the craft until she started University.

"I started knitting in my early twenties, mainly out of sheer vanity! I was part of a knitting group at University and we would knit in-between lectures. I liked the idea of making my own clothes and accessories, and having something to wear which was handmade instead of mass produced," she says.

But why has this age-old tradition suddenly become trendier than the latest iPhone? Charisse believes the internet has a lot to do with the increasing popularity.

"Over the last five years I've seen more and more young people taking up knitting. I think this is largely due to the presence on the internet of various resources, including online yarn stores, free pattern resources, video tutorials, and even social networking sites for knitters," she says.

Charisse may be considered young for a knitter, but she's also very talented. She has entered her craftwork into the knitted laced category in two Sydney Royal Easter Show's, and had both entries put on display. In 2010 Charisse received a Highly Commended award for a Fair Isle beret entered into the accessories category.

Merrin Marks, President of the NSW Knitters' Guild, says she has been delighted to see the craft reinvigorated and membership of the Guild steadily increase over the past few years. She believes the feeling of belonging to a community, outside the routine of daily life, appeals to many people.

"More and more people are getting out and knitting. The sense of community is very strong and it's really a very cheap way of socialising, as well as taking pleasure in doing something creative," says Merrin.

Knitting, it seems, has evolved from being a relaxing individual craft performed in the home, to an activity people are performing in groups. This concept of a 'social knitter' who prefers to pursue their craft in the company of friends, family or compatible knitting circles has taken off, with groups developing around the country that have as much emphasis on 'community' as they do on the craftwork. Online knitting circles also allow knitters to interact and share ideas and knowledge globally, creating international knitting communities.

"Knitting and crochet are the best hobbies as they are so portable and they can give one a great sense of accomplishment both on a practical level and also an artistic, creative one. Most people I know take pleasure in the creativity and the joy of personally making something for others or for oneself," Merrin says.

The only skills required to take up this craft, Merrin explains, are patience and perseverance. She suggests learning in a group or through some initial lessons to provide the perfect platform to immerse oneself in the wonderful world of knitting. Charisse Hodegman, who is now a busy working professional, says she still gets immense pleasure from knitting.

"I find the actual process of knitting incredibly relaxing.  I have a fairly hectic work life, and there's nothing better than coming home and chilling out with some knitting. I also like how knitting allows me to express my creativity and experiment with colour and texture," she said.

"I've also made some great friends through various knitting groups over the years.  Knitting is a great social activity, and brings together people from all walks of life."

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