Thursday, September 14, 2006

We're hip!

I got my recent issue of Publisher’s Weekly, the publishing industry’s Bible, and gasped at the title of the cover story: “A Knitter’s Tale: From trendy to hip. Now what?” Trendy? Hip? Did you know we were trendy and hip? This has got to be a first in my life.

Evidently knitting began to take hold about six years ago in the hobby and crafts publishing category. No one knows why but it quickly became “the new yoga”. Fashion designers and celebrities like Uma Thurman (see my blog on July 18th) and Julia Roberts took up their needles. Tracey Ullman co-authored a knitting book. Even men got into the act (3% of knitters are male) with books such as Knitting with Balls and Men Who Knit and the Dogs Who Love Them. (Now there’s a niche market.)

In 2002 13% of women ages 25-34 knitted; by 2004, that figure had more than doubled to 33%. Notice the age group being counted and courted. When you read the titles of recently released knitting books, you begin to understand the hip and trendy thing. Never Knit Your Man a Sweater: Unless You’ve Got the Ring. Naughty Needles: Sexy, Saucy Knits for the Bedroom and Beyond. DomiKNITrix: Whip Your Knitting into Shape. And of course the phenomenon that launched the whole hipster knitting trend: Stitch’n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook.

According to PW, these sorts of books feature projects such as knitted boxer shorts and a punk toilet-paper cozy with a fuchsia yarn Mohawk as well as iPod cases and cell phone covers. (What? No socks?! These young, hip knitters are really missing something.)

There is speculation that this market has “matured” since the younger demographic is famous for going on to the next fad. On the other hand, they’ve gotten better at knitting so they may want more sophisticated projects, thereby creating a demand for more books. PW wonders which trend will prove dominant and whether these new knitters will stick with their craft.

So what do you think? Is “hip” knitting just a trend or is it here to stay? Once you started knitting, were you hooked for life?

While you’re answering that, I’m going to track down the pattern for that toilet-paper cozy….


Blogger Fran Baker said...

I saw that story, too, Nancy. But no mention of THE Wendy or her wonderful book. A book, I should mention, that I'm going to use as my sock guide beginning October 1.

Now as for whether I'm hip ... well, that's another story.

9:24 AM  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

I only follow 8 knitting blogs religiously but 3 of the bloggers are men and those men are truly phenomenal knitters. (Google Franklin Habit aka The Panopticon; brooklyn tweed; and Two Sock Knitters. Prepare to drool over their work. Not to mention Franklin's wit. I swear I'm more than a little in love with Franklin.)

I got back into needlework in general (knitting in particular) in August 2003 and the owner of one of the Princeton LYSs said this whole thing really came into its own (in this area at least) immediately post-9/11. People were staying home, staying close to family and friends. They started cooking more, (wish they'd started reading more), and searching around for comforting touchstones and hobbies.

Enter knitting. You had the Celebrity Scarf books, the owners of celebrity-heavy LYSs, the inimitable Stich-n-Bitch phenom all breaking at once. We were unstoppable.

Seems to me it's taken PW a ridiculously long time to put this together. I kind of think we might be on the downside of this particular curve. I hope not but usually by the time I show up the trend has peaked. (Just in time for me to ride it straight into the ground!)

12:33 PM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

PW actually says this may be the downside of the curve; they're not sure yet.

Fran, the only books that got mentioned were the ones with "hip" titles, preferably with double entendres. I think it may have been a compliment to THE Wendy's book that it wasn't in there since I trust she doesn't have too many toilet-paper cozy patterns.

Barbara, I too wondered if the knitting craze might be related to 9/11. Knitting is very soothing to the nerves so it makes sense that folks would turn to it during and after a traumatic event.

1:04 PM  
Blogger LauraP said...

Being neither 'hip' nor 'trendy', I couldn't begin to guess where in the curve the knitting craze falls.

I'm just glad there's been such a boom of interest because that means an upsurge in cool tools, irresistable yarns, and a greater appreciation in general for the craft.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Dallas Schulze said...

I think the knitting craze is leveling off a bit and maybe it's on the downslope. Hard to say. But it's changing, that's the one thing I'm sure of.

When Barbara lured me back into knitting three years ago, the yarn stores and catalogs were full of novelty yarns of all types. They must have scalped a million Muppets to come up with all that fun fur type stuff, not to mention ribbons of all sorts and the mohair/ribbon/fun fur hybrids.

What I've seen over the last year is a lot of discounted novelty yarns and a rise in what I so snobbishly think of as 'real' knitting yarns. Plain yarns in finer gauges are suddenly everywhere. DK weight and even fingering weight yarns intended for sweaters are available in every price range and every combination of fibers, from cashmere to acrylic.

I'm also seeing a matching trend toward designs that can't be knit in a day. Sweaters with detail and fit, the kind of thing that's going to take awhile to knit but that will also be wearable for a long time.

As for the trend taking an upward jump after 9/11, I wouldn't be surprised. That wasn't when I got back into knitting but it was in a moment of high personal stess. My husband was starting his first round of radiation treatments when Barbara so kindly sent me my own 'radiation therapy' package -Kureyon and a pattern for a felted pouch. I whined that I hadn't knitted in at least fifteen years. I whined that she was going to make me felt something. I muttered that I was a dedicated quilter and already had an applique project to work on while he was getting treatments.

I cast-on without much expectation. I was curious to see how much I remembered and found it's like riding a bike. The brain may not have a clue but the hands still remember the moves. I haven't stopped knitting since and I have to say it's brought me enormous comfort through some pretty difficult times.

There's something about the tactile quality of the yarn sliding through your fingers, of all that color to dazzle the eyes and there's something soothing and magical about the rhythm of the needles.

If other people sought comfort in knitting post 9/11, I can certainly understand it.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Well, I don't usually worry about being hip, but I'm right in the middle of that "target" age group and don't anticipate stopping to knit any time soon. New fad, or no. Then again, I was knitting before it was a fad. So there.

Knitting as a hip thing may be heading out, but one thing that I think this whole trend has done is pull knitters out of their closets and into the real world. Even if the number of regular knitters decreses, I think we're still going to see the knitting supplies and good yarns outt there because so many more people have admitted to knitting or (as in my case) gotten more regular with it.

And I much prefer the "real" yarns to the novelty ones, though a good novelty yarn is certianly good once in a while. Like candy.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Barbara Bretton said...

I wrote a whole long comment and somehow blew it away. Dallas, however, said just about everything I did and better.

The days of the 3sts=1" sweater as the ultimate fast knit just might be over. (And let's face it, if you have anything over an A cup, 3 sts=1" isn't an attractive look.)

Dare I say we're heading back toward dressmaking details in knitted garments? Full-fashioned items? The gauge has definitely changed. The thought of taking my time with a project doesn't fill me with impatience the way it did three years ago. I'm willing to put in the hours (days weeks months years) to make a sweater I'll love and actually wear for a long time to come.

Of course, I'm also the same person who made a SEVEN FOOT SQUARE afghan entirely in single crochet.

And the same person who thought a SEVEN FOOT SQUARE blanket knitted entirely in garter stitch (remember the Outback Wool fiasco, Dallas??) was another great idea.

That was one helluva frog pond.

10:13 PM  

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