Cast me off, knitters

Julie Ihle would rather spin a yarn than join a knitting circle.

First published in SMH in 2003

The biggest thing to hit Sydney these days, apart from watching The Block or swapping “great moments in car park” stories is to join a knitting circle.

It seems knitting circles have replaced share trade groups, book groups, pay TV and Christmas lunch with the relatives as the latest form of home entertainment.

A typical knitting circle might consist of between five and 10 complete strangers who sit around and knit leg warmers, cardies or weird grandma-style tea cosies in even weirder colours. It’s also a chance to chat and drink wine, which means trying to get a word in against the alpha, self-appointed leader.

There are health benefits too. Apparently by simultaneously knitting and talking you will be much better at literally casting off all the rage, anger and anxiety that are likely to develop during an average day on Sydney roads. Apparently you simply knit all your worries away.

It’s also a group activity, which all the social commentators believe is an excellent thing. (Mind you it would be interesting to know how many social commentators actually belong to a knitting circle.)//

As knitting groups are normally held at someone’s house, it’s a chance to engage in another typically Sydney activity: checking out other people’s real estate and making rude statements about their taste in water features.

But as daggy as the knitting group may seem, if DIY, celebrity chefs or Ugg boots as fashion is anything to go by, then it looks as though the knitting circle could be here to stay.

In fact, knitting groups have now become so cool that there are even ads proclaiming knitting as “the new yoga”.

However, if your knitting ability resembles something out of a Big Kev script, you can’t really expect to be let into the group. If you can’t knit, unless you ply the group with large amounts of alcohol, you’ll find yourself out of the loop.

With yoga, home renovations and slow cooking, there were always little ways that you could fudge it. But you can’t fudge knitting.

I think the social commentators should start to unravel all the misconceptions and hype about the knitting circle. It’s exclusionist, discriminating against people without talent. And it will create way too many cushion covers, ugly scarves and a new generation of knitted clowns without a home.

I think it’s time we came full circle and got back to the basics in life, like trying to program the video recorder, filling in a tax return or remembering to do the vacuuming.

Instead of adding to the to-do list, maybe we should start to enjoy ourselves in our spare time for a change. It doesn’t need to cost much. What about just gathering at someone’s house, eating their biscuits, drinking their wine, checking out their real estate and commenting on their DIY – without a tea cosy, beanie or knitted giraffe in sight?

Now that’s my kind of group.


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