Last week I was invited to check out the yarn and knitting kits from the company We Are Knitters, and I responded with high enthusiasm like I was invited to a hot club opening or to try out new booze. I used to enjoy knitting very much, but hadn’t touched it in a few years, and it felt like time to take it up again.
I wasn’t familiar with the company, having relegated my knitting stuff to a very fancy but untouched basket. But now I’m back with a vengeance, after a pep talk from We Are Knitters’ co-founder Alberto Bravo and inspiration from their sweet offerings.
As s.e. wrote a couple of years ago, Hipster Knitters have a whole community of their own. We Are Knitters may be a product of that movement, but they definitely respect the history of knitting as they focus on the knitters of today, as opposed to just co-opting something that’s been around forever and thinking you’ve reinvented the wheel because you made an iPad cover instead of a scarf.
If you’re knitting an iPad cover, rock on with your bad self! I just think the same rocking on applies to those of us making scarves as well. And hats, and sweaters, and baby blankets, and grownup blankets, and…I get frustrated when I see certain Hipster Knitters going out of their way to decry the inherent granniness of knitting. I choose to embrace it. Knitting is cool because I think it’s cool to make something with your own hands; to learn the techniques and to be able to choose your own patterns, designs, and colors. Having a vision and seeing it through by creating something is super-cool; there’s no need to perform coolness beyond that. My spinster-ish tendencies are fine with me, thankyouverymuch.
I’ve sewn since I was a little girl, making doll clothes and then eventually Pia clothes when my body grew to sizes that were not always readily available in stores. I had never taken up a needle to knit or crochet, though, but I found myself succumbing to curiosity during the knitting renaissance of the early aughts. Gwyneth Paltrow and other ladies of celebrity “came out” as knitters and suddenly it was the hot, Hollywood thing to do. The proclamation of things that pre-date all of us as the Hot New Trend happens every few years, but that particular wave of knitting fever hit me hard.
I was mostly acting in television and videos at the time, and the combination of wanting to be seen doing the Cool Hollywood Thing and the loads of downtime on any set meant that there were rows of us busting out yarn and comparing needles in trailers. The thing is; I didn’t care about the optics -- I really liked it. A bandwagon moment might have brought me to knitting, but genuine enjoyment kept me there. I bought one book, Knitting Pretty, and taught myself the basics, stumbling through my mishaps until the stitches felt more natural, and eventually my knitting bag went with me almost everywhere.
I knitted everyone’s Christmas and holiday gifts for a while, and I made myself a collection of winter accessories. Admittedly, I was so pleased to get sort of good at the basics that I didn’t do too much exploration into advanced stitches, but I made great scarves, ponchos, and snood/hood/cowl thingies. I can add flair and design flourishes, but I always stuck to items that were rectangular in origin or composed of quadrilateral shapes that have been combined. I can handle variations in shape, but I’m fine not knitting elaborate or fancy patterns.
I knitted a chunky chenille blanket that actually covered my bed, so when my first niece was born, I decided that naturally I would knit her the Baby Blanket To End All Baby Blankets. This was the beginning of the end of my knitting years. As opposed to my adult chenille, I made the mistake of getting a delicate, extremely thin yarn for her because it felt delicate and precious like she did at birth, which is all well and good for my Auntie Emotions, but also a real rookie mistake. I had been knitting for a while at this point, but with no instruction my feelings got the better of me and I embarked upon this project using both impossibly thin yarn and needles. It really should have felt wrong when I was casting on what felt like a zillion stitches, but I was distracted by the fresh baby in my life.
I wasn’t able to knit continuously of course, but knitting in my spare time had yielded me barely anything in about a month. A few more months went by, and I had a decent chunk, but this was to be The Blanketest Blanket Ever Of Them All and I had to keep going. Six months in, it felt like a terrible obligation, and at the nine month mark I hated yarn, knitting, blankets, and I gotta tell you I was starting to side-eye the baby herself for putting me through this. I had desperate talks with myself to just give it up -- my niece will never even know -- but I would know. And having invested so much time, I kept going. On her first birthday, I was finally able to present her with the blanket, which was both way too big for a baby’s needs and had soured me completely on knitting. And I’m pretty sure she peed on it.
All the bitterness of Blanket Hell dissipated at the We Are Knitters party. I love their kits that come with everything you need to complete an item. Upon seeing the promise of “All the happiness in a kit,” I was tempted to inquire as to whether peace of mind and a fulfilling life await me in there, but the eco-friendly brown paper bag packaging is so adorable that it even suppressed my pedantic and sarcastic impulses. When I was knitting regularly, I rarely used patterns, so I’d often have to guesstimate how much yarn to use for a project, and frequently got it wrong. It’s no fun rushing back to the store or searching for a particular dye lot number. We Are Knitters knows this.
They wanted to focus on patterns and kits, but weren’t satisfied with yarn wholesalers who Alberto told me “had masses of black, grey, and white,” but offered far fewer vibrant colors for their taste, so they became their own suppliers, offering 100% wool, pima cotton, and fabric yarns in a bunch of really strong colors “to be able to make the products that we as customers love.”
Alberto and co-founder Pepita Marin were visiting New York from their native Madrid five years ago when they “saw girls knitting at restaurants and in the subway, looked into it, and saw it was a trend.” He told me that they had an interest in knitting, but Madrid’s climate didn’t support it in a traditional way so it was not as commonplace an activity as in places with cooler climates overall. He said they loved seeing people of all ages knitting, and wanted to make it accessible and offer patterns that feel contemporary and innovative while honoring the simple traditions of knitting. They initially traveled to Germany and France with the company, and now it’s accessible to us in the US as well.
There are crochet offerings also, though I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’ve heard that among people who do both, many regard knitting to be more difficult, and it may depend on which you try first, but right now I’m inspired by my We Are Knitters kit and excited to make my Manhattan Cape! It’s an “Easy Level” project and I feel no shame in saying so. It’s been a while.
When I told Alberto about the Year Of The Blanket, he just shook his head woefully. He leaned in and said in his swoonworthy Spanish accent, “With the super thick wool you will knit faster. It encourages you to keep going. Many people give up when they don't see progress. Thick wool and thick needles give you results. It's really easy to give up. Keep going. You will drop a stitch. It happens. Keep going.”
I felt all sorts of inspiration welling up. I had learned the lesson of the thick wool through my earlier error, but this reassurance felt so good. Look out knitting world; I’m back.