How knitwear became cool again.
For some of us, knitwear evokes uncomfortable memories of itchy, misshapen cardigans in garish hues and patterns knitted by one’s nan or elderly aunt. It is a giant leap therefore to appreciate just how cool those same woollies, and all associated needlecraft, have now become.
In some ways it is just the inevitable movement of time, as that which was once au fait becomes so again, but there is also another social phenomenon which has helped propel this ancient art form to fashion’s front row: Instagram. Now boasting a breadth of needle-wielding influencers, the photo-sharing app has become the ideal place for knitters to show off their yarns. Whether cutesy crochet bikinis or gorgeous, grannyish cardigans, wool enthusiasts such as New Zealand native Nicole Leybourne (@theknitter) and California student Kara Eng (@karas.knit.eng), not only have thousands of followers (43k and 118k respectively), they also have thriving online marketplaces where they sell their highly coveted patterns across the globe.
Not surprisingly, this online trend has begun to seep into modern culture with knitwear having a few massive moments. There was Bernie Sanders’ mittens which basically became the meme of Joe Biden’s inauguration; the cream, cable knit sweater worn by Chris Evans in thriller flick Knives Out (who knew cable knit could be so sexy?); and diver Tom Daley’s magnificent Team GB cardigan which he was seen knitting poolside at the Tokyo 2020 games.
Knitting inspiration for the nation
This brings us round to the big question of why people knit. For someone like Daley, knitting seemed to not only be a way to pass time, but also a therapeutic distraction while waiting to compete at the highest level of competition in the world.
It comes as no surprise then that a huge boost in sales was seen across sewing machines, knitting kits and crochet books during various lockdowns that commenced in the spring of 2020, while many of us around the globe sat anxiously at home.
After all, if one is going to nervously twiddle their thumbs for weeks on end, one might as well acquire a beautiful scarf and beanie set at the end of it.
Knitting is community, as the plethora of online forums will attest. It is unity, and comes with free online patterns widely available to download.
There are also local knitting groups gathering in coffee shops all across the country. It is also activism, with the pink pussy hats becoming the symbol of the 2017 women’s marches.
Purling that makes perfect sense
Beyond all the cultural ephemera, however, is the fact that knitting is just good sense. With the perils of fast fashion becoming more apparent by the day – poor working conditions in factories, water-dependant crops such as cotton and the general largesse of waste necessary to manufacture thousands of low-quality logo t-shirts – making clothes yourself is an appealing antidote.
Made with care, made with time, and made with love: you can modify the pattern exactly to your size and colour preferences, save money, and nurture a real sense of pride and accomplishment at the end of it.
Who cares if your new jumper is a little wonky, or a little baggy, or took six months to make? It’s yours, and there is not another one like it in the world!