Excerpt from the Introduction of Stitch ‘n Bitch Superstar Knitting: Go Beyond the Basics
In 1999, when I first got back into knitting, the world was a different place. In Manhattan, where I lived at the time, there were only two knitting stores that I knew of. When I took my knitting out in public, people would stare at me with the kind of curiosity usually reserved for sideshow performers. And although all the older women on my mom’s side of the family knit, I was aware of only two women in my age group who knew how to wield the needles. Desperate to learn as much about the craft as I could, I invited them, along with anyone else I could find who wanted to learn to knit, to come to a café in New York City’s East Village every Wednesday evening to stitch and, you know, bitch.
That early Stitch ‘n Bitch group was but one outlet for my knitting evangelism. As the editor in chief of BUST, the magazine for young women that I’d started in 1993 with a few friends, I had the opportunity to publish knitting patterns (including one for a knit bikini), recommend my favorite knitting magazines, and, of course, write about my Stitch ‘n Bitch group and invite any of BUST’s readers to join us. And it wasn’t just BUST that gave that early group coverage. The idea that young women were – of all things – getting into knitting was deemed newsworthy enough that we were visited by reporters from Fox News and The Early Show.
All around us, a knitting trend was beginning to take shape, as people were drawn to the craft for a variety of reasons. Eager to opt out of what they perceived to be a global corporate culture that had little regard for the people making the products they produced and even less for the environmental impact those products had, more and more folks were getting interested in making things themselves. At the same time, a new generation of feminists were reclaiming women’s traditional crafts. Rumors were even circulating that certain celebrities had taken up knitting. And it certainly didn’t hurt that much of the fashion being paraded down the runways that season consisted of simple, hand-knit sweaters and scarves.
It’s been 11 years since I picked up my needles, and I haven’t put them down since. In the intervening time, so many more people have gotten addicted to the craft that I never have a hard time finding someone to knit with anymore. Yarn stores have cropped up all over the country, from the largest cities to the smallest towns; in my Brooklyn neighborhood, there are three yarn shops within walking distance from my house, and there are scores more in Manhattan. There are currently 694 Stitch ‘n Bitch groups registered on my website, www.stitchnbitch.org, located in every one of our 50 states and across 29 countries. You can’t swing a yarn ball on the subway without hitting a knitter fervently working away on her latest project, and there are extensive online communities where hundreds of thousands of Internet-savvy knitters can display their projects and share their knowledge. People no longer look at me sideways when they see me knitting in public; sometimes they can even identify the project I’m making (“Oh, I love that shawl pattern! I made the same one a few months ago!”).
After all, with ten years and counting, knitting has made it past the “trend” stage and has graduated to becoming as much an important, and respected, part of our culture as any other skilled leisure activity, such as fishing, playing soccer, or cooking. New Stitch ‘n Bitch groups seem to be popping up every week, and the community of knitters – both online and off – becomes stronger all the time. And it seems that the longer we stick with our knitting, the more we follow in the footsteps of those who came before us. After all, these knitting techniques were developed over a long period of time by women and men as a way to keep their knitting fun and lively. In other words, this is not just your grandmother’s knitting, it’s also your great- and great-great-grandmothers’ knitting. And now it’s yours, too.
About the author: Debbie Stoller is the New York Times bestselling author of Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook, as well as Stitch ‘n Bitch Nation, Stitch ‘n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker, and Son of Stitch ‘n Bitch. She comes from a long line of Dutch knitters, has a PhD from Yale University in the psychology of women, and is the co-publisher and editor in chief of BUST magazine.The founder of the first NYC Stitch ’n Bitch group, she lives in Brooklyn with a closet full of yarn.
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