Short Version: Knitting is bigtime relaxing. It’s been proven to lower blood pressure. You see rewarding progress constantly. You can make things of a quality that you just can’t buy in stores anymore, and fer cheap (relatively). Men are now doing it, sometimes in secret, other times, like big burly Rosie Grier, he didn’t hide it. We have a yarn store who will teach you from scratch. It’s addicting. If you get into fiber arts, you’ll want to dye it, spin it, and sheep are happy when it gets sheared off. They just grow more of it.
Longer Version: Probably partly from a reaction to “Made in China,” but also likely fueled by the thankfully earth-friendly leanings that most of the world is embracing, the fiber arts have made a huge revival. For one thing, everything has gone acrylic, and an alpaca or fine wool sweater costs a lot, if you can even find one. For another, it’s been shown in stress studies that knitting, crochet and spinning lowers blood pressure. They’re contemplative, absorbing activities. And for a third, once you get into the multi-faceted world of fiber arts, there are a zillion places to go within it, and they’re all incredibly fun and rewarding. There are amazingly gorgeous yarns, more now than even just five years ago. But you can also spin your own from pre-dyed roving, or you can go all the way into “sheep-to-shawl,” meaning you buy a raw fleece, fresh off the very happy and relieved sheep who’s thrilled to lose her winter coat come Spring, take it home in a huge plastic bag and wash it, dye it, blend it and spin it. Dyeing fiber alone is a whole science of its own.
In line with this renewed interest, especially among the 20-something, 30-something and beyond, there is an amaaaaazing and free membership website, Ravelry.com. While free to join, membership is required to filter out spam (effectively, I might add), and they don’t market out your information. It’s just that Ravelry has over a million members—women, and men, from all over the world, and it’s a really homey, safe place to hang out, and not a place for spammers or trolls.
Ravelry is a huge data base of searchable projects, super helpful forums and friendly people ranging from celebrity book writers to newbies, who help one another learn techniques with great generosity. I literally learned how to knit, how to spin (both on a $29 spindle and then later on a wheel), how to take a raw fleece from a lanolin-rich mass of locks to roving, and how to scientifically dye fiber, all on Ravelry. And that included from people in the US as well as Iceland, Bulgaria, Germany, Alaska, Japan… you name it. There’s no way to describe Ravelry other than to say it’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen, online or off in terms of its size and resources, yet with a totally intimate feel. Youtube is also full of Ravelers’ tutorials and there’s not been a technique that I’ve put into their search bar in all those categories that doesn’t have videos on it. It’s a big thing.
If you’re even mildly curious, we have the best local yarn/fiber/spinning shop based on a criteria of reasonable pricing, stock choices and consistently friendly, helpful staff, especially to newbies. Not to say there aren’t others, but we picked this one by comparisons on all those levels. You can stop in, look around, see samples of things you can make, pet the yarns and rovings they have and let them know you’re totally new, and ask questions. They teach knitting, spinning, needle or wet felting and even beyond, should you later take it that far. But the whole world of fiber arts truly has something for everyone. In Derry, the Yarn and Fiber Company serves both the Merrimack Valley and Seacoast. It’s at 14 E. Broadway in Derry, NH with street parking, or their lot which is in the back of the store. Phone is 505-4432 and website is www.yarnandfiber.com.