Knitters itching to get stitching

Abby Fisher

Square Records sits next to a CVS Pharmacy in Akron’s Highland Square. It was business as usual for the independent record store, as two teenage girls were sifting through used records last week.

Meanwhile, seven women ranging in age from early 20s to mid-40s gathered in a circle on the floor in the back of the store. Each was equipped with her own knitting needles and ball of yarn. It was time for their weekly Stitch ‘n Bitch meeting.

Stitch ‘n Bitch, the 2004 knitting handbook by Debbie Stoller, has spawned local knitting circles across the country. Labeled as “the bad girls’ guide to knitting,” the book has become a favorite among a new generation of knitters.

Raye Nester didn’t think twice about bringing her knitting along during a road trip. That sparked an interest with friend Juniper Sage, who used to knit when she was younger.

“I didn’t know anything about the book,” Sage said. “It energized me to start knitting again.”

About a month later, in January 2004, the two launched Akron’s Stitch ‘n Bitch chapter.

“Finding a location was the easy part,” said Sage, a co-owner of the record store. “We just decided to utilize the gallery space at the back of the store.”

Stitch ‘n Bitch has taught dozens of people how to knit since its inception, including a high school honor society last spring.

While most members focus on their own knitting projects, the group also does charity work for organizations such as Warm Up America, a foundation that collects afghan blankets and distributes them to nursing homes, homeless shelters and AIDS centers.

“We also do hats and scarves for ACCESS, the women’s shelter in Akron,” Nester said. “One of our members made a hand-sewn Alpaca hat that she donated to a charity auction and it sold for more than $325.”

Most members agreed that knitting can be a very expensive hobby. One member said it’s a common misconception that making clothes yourself can be cheaper.

Sage agrees.

“You spend the money on the experience,” she said. “But it’s a fun process.”

Member Taryn Burhanna enjoys making as much for herself as possible.

“I like telling people when they ask where I got something that I made it myself,” she said.

Shopping for clothing can be more convenient for most people.

“If you see a sweater in Banana Republic, just buy it,” Nester said. “It would cost too much time and money to knit on your own.”

“Scarves are the easiest and fastest to make,” Nester said, who was nearly completed with a scarf she had begun only a half-hour earlier.

Both Sage and Nester agree that the popularity of knitting has grown immensely in the past few years.

“There’s a greater trend in society that feminism is personified by womanly arts,” Sage said. “Anything our mothers looked down upon, I took an interest in.”

While slim during the summer, the group has seen upwards of 35 people at their meetings.

“The store was packed one night,” Nester said. “There were people up and down all the aisles. I didn’t even get a chance to talk to everyone.”

Most nights, there is an average of 12 to 15 dedicated knitters who come and give advice on each other’s projects, talk about the books they’ve read and catch up on life.

“I love it. People can knit anywhere. I’ve done it while shopping and at the movies,” Sage said.

“You don’t have to look at every stitch, it’s very relaxing,” said one knitter. “It gets you into a good place.”

Contact features reporter Abby Fisher at [email protected].