Love of Knitting Spans All Generations
Apr 30, 2015 02:42PM
By Shelly Tower Rushe
Qunita shawl by Amy Maceyko
When you think of knitting, you might think of a little old lady in a rocking chair, or the itchy wool sweater your Aunt Ethel made you when you were 8 years old. But it’s a brave new knitting world out there, and you might be surprised to see who is wielding needles nowadays.
Amy Maceyko is one example. An accidental knitter, mom of two, and an architect by day, she fell into knitting when she joined a craft group as a cross-stitcher. Her focus soon switched to the sweater patterns that the other members were working on, and as soon as her cross stitch project was finished, she got to work. “I knitted obsessively and worked to learn the skills that I needed to make a sweater as quickly as I could,” she said.
Soon knitting sweaters progressed to a new level. Maceyko began changing up patterns, improvising her own ideas. She had never written any of her modifications or new ideas down, but then an opportunity popped up. “On a whim, I answered a submission call for a book series specifically looking for new designers,” she explained. “I submitted three designs and they took all three!”
She then started self-publishing her designs online through sites like Ravelry.com (a kind of Facebook for knitters) and Patternfish.com (knit, crochet and weaving patterns). She continues to design and teach classes locally.
In 2010, Lisa Krack had a fortuitous experience of her own. She wanted to open her own shop, but wasn’t comfortable taking out a small business loan—all she had was experience working in a yarn shop and a clever name in mind. Around the same time, Krack’s husband’s Aunt Sue passed away. His aunt had been a quilter and had owned her own shop, and in a discussion about the shop, Krack’s husband offhandedly asked Lisa how much she would need to open a yarn store. The number she gave was—unbeknownst to her—the exact inheritance that Aunt Sue had left.
Krack first opened Darn Yarn Needles & Thread in Butler, which specialized in American-made products with some special fair-trade, eco-friendly imports. When she outgrew the space in Butler, she moved to Harmony and quickly became part of the community. She is currently planning the first Fiber Arts Festival and Market, which will be held on June 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The festival will be part of Harmony SpringFest, a free, family-friendly festival which will also include a plant sale, kids’ activities, knitting demonstrations, and sales specials at other Harmony shops.
The festival will include approximately 15 vendors, including Pittsburgh-based Wren & Rita, Hipstrings, Feistywoman Designs, and Ross Farm Fibers; Butler-based Berry Patch Creations and Dork Designs by Erin; and out-of-state vendors including Unplanned Peacock, Amelia & Wiggles and Knit Buffalo. Products will include everything from natural and hand-dyed yarns to finished objects such as quilts and crocheted stuffed animals. Krack hopes the festival will expose the general public to fiber. “It’s more than just something that grandma does!” she laughed.
The date also happens to coincide with World Wide Knit in Public Day, which was started in 2005 as a way to bring knitters together to share their work and socialize. It has since turned into another opportunity for knitters to show the world that they are a diverse, creative and vibrant community.
So why has knitting become such an important part of current culture? It’s certainly not a necessary life skill, nor is it inexpensive—a good quality, hand-knit sweater can easily cost a knitter hundreds of dollars in supplies, and countless hours to make. Krack sees the DIY movement as part of the reason that so many people have taken an interest. “More people are interested in getting ‘back to the land,’ so to speak. There’s also nostalgia in learning what grandparents or parents have done,” she said.
Maceyko sees the resurgence of knitting, and all things handmade, as a natural byproduct of our environment. “I think some of it is about having an escape from work, computers, screens and all of those things that are not hands-on in the same way that making something is,” she explained. “But I think the other part is that hobbies have been fueled by technology. Do you like building kit cars? Or baking pies? Or painting urban landscapes? No matter what you like making, you can go on the Internet and find other people who like to do the same thing.”
At the end of the day, Maceyko’s reason for knitting echoes what many knitters experience. She stated, “The color, the control of the end product, the process, the look on my kids' faces when I make something for them...really, what don't I love about knitting?”