Everyone is getting comfy as winter arrives on Long Island. For many, the donning of hats, scarves and sweaters is not only to keep warm but also to display their favorite hobby: knitting and crocheting.
Knitting and crochet have been around for centuries. While their exact origins remain a mystery, the earliest known example hails from tenth-century Islamic Africa. In the 1580s, technological advances enabled quicker production of woven yarn textiles. Handcrafting morphed into a leisure activity which persists to this day.
Those who have never tried it might wonder: what exactly is the attraction? Knitting and crocheting have regained popularity in recent years among all age groups, especially during the wintertime as we put on warmer layers. Cozying up on the couch with a craft project is a great way to disconnect from external stressors. Studies show that handcrafting stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, which is a natural antidepressant that also assists in cognitive function. Knitting and crocheting can both improve mental health and stave off progressive diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
For many, the crafting process signifies the long-awaited return to the fruits of one’s labor. Since the Industrial Revolution, people have felt alienated from their work. Items were produced in factories away from home. In the modern day, items are purchased with ease over a counter or with a click on a computer. Crafting by contrast allows us to feel the joy of creating something from nothing with our bare hands, and either utilize that item or share it with someone else.
If you’re interested in crafting this season, local stores across Long Island make it easy and fun to get started, or to find a community of fellow crafters. This includes Port Washington’s The Knitting Place, Roslyn’s Knit, and Infinite Yarns in Farmingdale.
Not only a cozy hobby for colder months, knitted and crocheted items are also popular gifts to make for the holidays. “Knitters like to share their craft,” says Dina Bakhash Mor, owner and founder of The Knitting Place. When asked about popular holiday products, she points to accessories, such as gloves or scarves, and sweaters. Cheryl Lavenhar, owner of Knit, adds that hats and cowls are also common creations. For those in need of inspiration – or prefer a bit more structure – knitting and crocheting kits are a great way to craft with some direction.
There are many ways to connect with fellow crafters online or in person. The Knitting Place offers a variety of zoom classes, including a free knit-along once a month for crafters to work on their unique projects and chat. Crafters can also come down to Knit, where a 10-12 person table centerpieces the store for customers to gather and create.
For those a bit timid to try knitting or crocheting, the store owners have some advice. Start with a basic, small project. It is easy to get overwhelmed by beautiful yarns. Sticking with simple is the best way to learn and grow one’s skillset before advancing to more complicated projects. At Infinite Yarns, customers can take private lessons to bolster their skills. “People are relying on Youtube, but it’s not nearly as reliable as a mentor in person,” says owner Anne Schneck.
And if you find yourself doubting or struggling, rest assured the crafting community is there with open arms. According to Lavenhar, “People who knit and crochet are very friendly and welcoming.” She says that while knitting is a great activity to do alone, personal interaction is an important thing. And even though knitting circles might sound “really old” to younger crafters, the community has been “such a finding,” for herself and others, especially in recent years following the COVID-19 pandemic. Schneck agrees. “The social aspect is really nice,” she says. “The crafting community is made up of the nicest ladies… they enjoy their craft… it’s a good hobby, its healthy… a good, friendly, feel-good hobby.”