Younger generation revives the art of knitting
By Sydney Reese
Sun Star Reporter
For some, knitting conjures an image of a grandma clicking needles, perhaps in a rocking chair creaking back and forth across the floorboards. If you’re lucky, the house smells like fresh baked cookies, but sometimes it just smells. The woman in the chair is knitting a sweater the texture of burlap and the color of canned green beans. After Christmas, that sweater will live the rest of its life in the rejected dust of her grandson’s closet.
Such impressions are outdated. The traditional hand-knit style of Scandinavian and Icelandic clothing has found a foothold in contemporary fashion. This has made knitting a popular hobby for those living urban lifestyles, as well as those in places that smell of fresh-cut grass and sheep manure.
Locally, the University of Alaska Fairbanks has a yarn craft club called Frozen Fibers. The club, composed of 10 young men and women, was founded at the beginning of spring semester 2015. Members meet at Arctic Java, in the Wood Center, on Sunday afternoons to work on their projects, share patterns and newly discovered techniques and socialize over cups of coffee. “Mostly it’s nice to just be in other people’s company while you’re doing it,” Rebekah Green, a freshman biology major, said at the Frozen Fibers gathering.
“Instead of just sitting in your dorm doing it alone.” The table at the Frozen Fibers yarn craft club is covered in skeins of yarn and everyone is working on their projects, chatting and laughing about funny things that happened over the weekend. Many of them learned to knit or crochet as children, and are now teaching their friends how to do it.
Tiana Liu, a UAF freshman and Frozen Fibers participant who goes by the nickname “T”, recently learned how to crochet and is now working on his first project. “I used to watch my mom do it when I was little,” Liu said while stitching away on a blue scarf. “Now here I am doing it.”
In a 2013 interview with GQ Australia, Ryan Gosling said that he learned how to knit on the set of “Lars and the Real Girl,” and that if he could design his perfect day, it would be spent knitting. Following suit, other men have started knitting as well. NBA player, Glen “Big Baby” Davis posted a video on his YouTube channel about taking up knitting to pass the time during the 2011 NBA lockout. According to Michael Del Vecchio’s knitting guide for men, “Knitting with Balls,” many sailors in Newfoundland, Canada have a long tradition of knitting, both to pass the time and as a tool to mend their nets.
In December 2014, Vogue magazine named wellknown Japanese designer, Ken OE, as one of their “8 Best Knitwear Designers” for his clothing line, Coohem. OE is inspired by Ivy League fashion, and Vogue described his work as “whimsical and unexpected.” Even Hagrid the hairy half-giant was said to have “sat knitting what looked like a canary-yellow circus tent,” in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
Knitting’s popularity was rekindled in Fairbanks approximately 15 years ago, according to Paula Brink-Hart, a retired school teacher and parttime employee of the local Inua Wool Shoppe. She said that’s when the yarn market went from selling primarily warm, but itchy traditional wool to an explosion of varied colors, textures and price ranges. There was furry yarn and velvety yarn, silk and alpaca, natural browns and electric blues.
According to Brink-Hart, knitting turned into a way of self-expression. Back when Brink-Hart was teaching elementary school, she would teach all her students how to knit, and before she knew it, the older students would be teaching the younger ones how to knit in their free time. “They liked it so much that, it would always be ‘Ms. Brink-Hart, can we knit now?’” Brink-Hart recalled, laughing. “‘No, honey, finish your two paragraphs first and then you can knit.’”