Ten years ago, it was the domain of doting grandmothers who made baby blankets. Since then, however, knitting has become hip, and young women?and men?are crafting everything from iPod cozies to legwarmers. Eager for stress relief and a creative outlet, college students in particular have taken to knitting in full force, and anecdotal evidence suggests that Bowdoin students are picking up on the trend.
At a school where everyone seems overcommitted, knitting might be just another way to multi-task. Many knitters on campus said they knit while they're studying, chatting with friends, watching TV, or eating at Supersnack.
"I just like to have my hands busy. I feel like sitting is a waste of time," said Emily Cochrane '05, whose grandmother taught her to knit two years ago. Like many Bowdoin knitters, Cochrane said she knits "all the time," and that it helps her to concentrate. "I took [my knitting] to Common Hour last week, though I felt kind of embarrassed because my needles were clicking," she said.
Knitting has even found its way into the classroom. Laurel Jones '06 got permission from two of her professors, Roxanne Kurtz and Richmond Thompson, before she started knitting in their classes this semester. She's found that the extra activity doesn't distract her. "I can look up while I'm knitting because I've had a lot of practice. I stop for a row to write something down," she said.
Even guys at Bowdoin have caught onto what used to be considered "women's work." Ben Cope-Kasten '06 said people are surprised to learn that he knits on occasion, but that attitudes toward male knitters are changing. "It's weird, but I haven't had any run-ins. Cool guys either know how to knit or respect that ability," he said.
A little teasing doesn't keep Mike Hammer '06 from knitting, either. "Friends rib me for knitting sometimes, but never in a bad way," he said.
Many Bowdoin knitters picked up the hobby to keep out the Maine cold. Amy Ear '07 of Los Angeles got knitting lessons from her roommate when she arrived at Bowdoin last year. "You definitely need winter accessories, so why not make your own? I thought, coming to Maine, that knitting was an essential tool or skill that you needed to have," she said.
Making one's own knitted pieces isn't just a way to stay warm?it's also a means of being more in control as a consumer. Instead of buying mass-produced goods at a store, students can design their own hats and scarves that have a unique, handmade quality. "[Knitting is] not an outright rebellion, but it's a gesture of resistance against consumer culture. You're making something, so you don't need to buy into crap capitalism," said Cope-Kasten.
With the development of new, funky yarns, a high-quality piece is within reach of many beginning knitters. Students can stick with simple scarves, creating new designs just by selecting different kinds of yarn.
"[There are] unusually textured and colored yarns, so design isn't totally dependent on the knitters' skill. Hand-knitted scarves are a fashion accessory, and nothing could be easier," said Halcyon Blake, owner of Halcyon Yarn in Bath, where many Bowdoin students said they purchased their yarn.
Stressed students also find the steady rhythm of clicking needles soothing. "Bowdoin attracts Type-A personalities?people push themselves to the limit. [Knitting is] a good meditation in their lives," said Jess Koski '05, who admitted that her sock-making habit has "definitely been a procrastination tool" as well as a stress reliever.
Rachel Coulter '04 also uses knitting to relax, though she can barely find time to do it between six classes and swim practice. "Knitting is something that grounds you. I've found an ever-increasing need for that," she said.
With so much knitting during class, before bed, and while hanging out with roommates, there are a lot of hats, scarves and mittens to be given away. Emily Cochrane '05 said she's made so many gifts for friends that she beginning to feel like a knitting superhero.
"Picture Batwoman or Catwoman with the little spandex and tights, except instead of the cape, she's wearing a knitted poncho. I knitted all my Christmas presents and I really started to feel like Knitwoman," she said.
Spring's warmer temperatures are still far away, so Bowdoin knitters probably won't slow down any time soon.