Nov 23, 2023

Four reasons to try knitting this winter

By Yasmin Jeffery

The idea that knitters are all older white ladies is an outdated stereotype.

There are young knitters, POC knitters, plus-size knitters, knitters with disability and LGBTQIA+ knitters who take pride in expressing their queer identity through their creations too. I haven't forgotten the men — of which there are also many who knit!

The idea that hand-knitting is all lumpy jumpers is far from the truth, too.

Persist beyond your first wonky gauge swatch and holey scarf and you'll see why there's a movement to think of knitting as fibre art; as a medium with limitless possibilities.

In honour of winter's official arrival, I asked four local knitters to share one reason they think everyone should try the craft this season (and beyond, obviously).

Jaime Dorfman was a dedicated crocheter for a few years until knitting "stole [her] heart" in 2020.

"When I started to go knitting-mad, I also discovered the Instagram [knitting] community and all the incredible things people were making during the pandemic," the 23-year-old knitter and pattern designer says.

"It didn't take long for me to gain a following there and not long after that, I started to dip my toes into the world of designing my own patterns and testing other peoples'.

"Testing patterns is a huge part of how the community is formed — so many of the people I'd consider my knitting friends now are people I've tested for, or who've tested for me.

"One of my very best friends in my life is someone I met through knitting Instagram.

"She only lives five minutes away from me in Melbourne, but we would never have crossed paths in real life otherwise.

"And I travelled through Europe last year by myself for a few months and met up with several people I'd talked to through Instagram — I even stayed at the house of one of them in France."

Wolf Graf started crocheting and knitting over 50 years ago at the age of four or five, when his grandmother and mother started teaching him. It didn't take him long to surpass their knitting abilities.

"I was born in Germany, where the tradition of knitting was passed from generation to generation when I was growing up. And it wasn't uncommon to see men knitting," Wolf says.

"There are still a bunch of guys out there like me who do very advanced knitting, but it's a lot more uncommon now.

Jorden's nan taught him to knit when he was in grade three, but trying crafts again at 14 felt more "empowering".

"I went into a yarn shop with my husband recently and the sales clerk was a woman in her 70s and she looked us up and down and said, 'Are you beanie or scarf guys?'. I took a triple-knitted cowl out of my bag and said, 'That's more my level'.

"She started laughing and said, 'I guess I got that one wrong'."

Wolf wishes more people — and in particular, men — would try knitting for the mental health benefits that he says come with it, even if they don't want to delve as deep into it as he has.

"I don't think I would be around anymore if I wasn't knitting," he says. "It literally saved my life after I experienced a severe bullying incident years ago by always providing me with something to concentrate on.

"When you're knitting, your mind mellows down and you forget about stressful situations in life.

"It's a great way to tune into yourself, while still remaining aware of what's going on around you. It just makes it easier to cope and it can be a huge relief."

Like so many people new-ish to knitting, Karen Huang picked up the craft during the early days of the pandemic, influenced by Hope Macaulay-esque chunky knits.

"I started because I wanted to make trendy knitwear on more of a budget but to be honest, I'm really grateful I got into knitting because it's made me appreciate clothes so much more," the 30-year-old maker says.

"I buy a lot fewer clothes now that I understand how they're made."

Karen now finds joy in appreciating the quality of the garments she knits by hand instead of any quantity of fast-fashion items she might have otherwise spent her money on.

"I'm all about supporting slow fashion now and trying to make as many things myself as I can. It's not only fulfilling — it's also better for the environment. And my wallet!" she says.

That said, yarn can be quite expensive.

"I've found that when you spend all that money and put all that energy into a piece though, you tend to want to wear it more and it will last longer than fast fashion anyway," Karen says.

Ljubica Zarić has made 13 garments using second-hand wool since she started knitting in 2020.

"Cost is definitely a factor I have to consider with knitting — I'm a student and I've got limited funds, so I'm not looking to spend $400 on yarn for every garment I make," the 20-year-old explains.

"On social media, it often feels like everyone's getting really expensive new yarn all the time.

"While I love seeing all these cool Scandinavian people with their balls and balls of fancy mohair, I can't afford that regularly."

A little less than a year ago I was spending almost all of my downtime glued to my phone.

"But often you can find vintage mohair or mohair blended with acrylic at op shops."

Ljubica has a few yarn-buying rules for herself that she keeps in place so she feels comfortable with the amount she's spending and the environmental impact of her projects.

The first is she only allows herself to buy yarn if she has the intention to use it for a specific project. From there, she thinks about whether she (or whoever she's making the garment for) will use it regularly.

She first looks for second-hand wool to bring her creations to life, hunting on Facebook Marketplace, garage sales and op shops.

When she is able to buy secondhand, she is less of a stickler for natural-only fibres as the yarn is getting a guaranteed second life instead of going to landfill anyway.

Occasionally, she finds herself lusting after a particular yarn she wants to buy new.

"If I'm really desperate for a particular new yarn, I will buy it but I try to buy locally or from a yarn store in Australia to cut down on shipping costs and environmental impact," Ljubica says.

"And of course, I keep an eye out for sales!"

Parts of these interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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