Camaraderie. Charity. Creativity.
All are themes that come up when Oklahomans talk about how they can get attached to balls of yarn and shiny sets of needles.
And there’s another common denominator.
“I started knitting because I have some anxiety, and that repetition helps calm me down,” says Katy Blair, 30, who lives in Tulsa and is the librarian at Bixby Middle School. “I kind of think of it as productive fidgeting.”
Lori Hall, owner of Get Stitchin’ in Tulsa, says there’s a lot of stress relief going on inside her store, where customers gather to socialize, learn from one another and make garments and other items to give away.
“People come in to de-stress,” says Hall, who learned to knit after she bought the store. “They’ve worked a long, hard day. Any of the fiber arts are good for de-stressing. They help you focus and become creative and leave your daily worries behind.”
Abigail Hanisch, a 22-year-old University of Oklahoma student from Tulsa who lives in Norman, says knitting is therapeutic and offers a tangible reward.
“I like that it’s calming, and it’s productive,” says Hanisch, who was 7 when her older sister taught her some knitting basics. “It relaxes me, and I’ve made something at the end of it.”
Hall says the bulk of her customers are in their 40s and 50s, but many young people have taken up handwork, such as knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching, weaving, tatting and spinning.
“Knitting helps kids stop and be in the moment,” says Hall, who offers lessons in her store. “It helps their brains because they focus. Eight years old is a good age to start learning.”
Blair says she started knitting as an OU sophomore at the Wesley Foundation, where seniors taught the skill to underclassmen. About half her fellow knitters were male students.
Hanisch says she is always working on a new skill and wants to get better at making sweaters.
“It was difficult at first,” she says. “My first few projects were just throwaways. For a few years I would just make scarves. I was about 14 when I started getting serious about it.”
Kate Sanders, 25, of Oklahoma City, says she loves the “creative expression” afforded by knitting.
“And I love that it’s social,” she says. “My best friend taught me how to knit, and then I taught another friend. I love the joy of sharing.”
Sanders says knitting has turned out to be “a really soothing and fun activity. Everyone should try to find a creative outlet.”
Hall holds monthly charity nights at her store, and people come to knit or crochet hats for homeless people and make wash cloths and dish towels for those getting on their feet and moving into apartments. Get Stitchin’ also does a purple cap campaign for shaken-baby awareness.
Blair likes to make stuffed animals for the children of her college friends, but tends to put her knitting away when her 2-year-old son enters the room.
“He likes to grab the yarn and run with it,” she says.