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Feature story: knitting

Tony Norland peeks down at his dark brown, wooly sweater. He has a slightly embarrassed look on his face.

“How ironic that I’m wearing this today,? he says. “I knitted it myself.?

He set out to make the sweater last fall. He had done many small projects like scarves, socks and mittens before, and felt that he wanted a challenge.

“This is what came out of it,? he says. “It doesn’t fit me very well, and it’s kind of sloppy, but I think that’s what a first homemade sweater should look like, so I still wear it and love it in all it’s dorkiness.?

Norland, who is graduating in a few days, is not the only student at UMD that is knitting. In fact, it seems to become more and more popular among young people. Every Tuesday night about 10-15 people meet to knit together in the student club that go by the name the UMD Knit Wits.

“Knitting is definitely becoming more popular,? says David Baillargeon, one of the members. “Mostly among guys actually, a lot of my friends back home are knitting.?

There are probably a much larger number of UMD students that knit, but that do not attend the club meetings. Tony Norland is one of them.

“I kind of try to hide my knitting,? he says and laughs. “I get teased for it a lot. A lot of people just think it’s weird or goofy. I guess it’s not the guy thing to do.?

His family, and most of his friends know about his secret hobby. His family thinks that it’s great, but his friends never miss an opportunity to make fun of his knitting.

“If we’re out at the bars, and I’d meet a girl or something, the first thing out of their mouth will be like do you know he knits, what do you think about that.?

For Norland, knitting has nothing to do with trendiness, but he does believe that it is becoming more of a trendy thing for young people to do.

“I would imagine that a lot of young guys are doing it to,? he says.

Also Maria Haberman, who is a sophomore and studies marketing and communication, thinks that it is more popular than ever among young people to knit.

“Oh, big time,? she says. “I think it’s by different groups that it’s becoming more popular, like the people that are into snowboarding. They make hats and stuff like that.?

Haberman learned how to knit a few Christmases ago.

“My grandma taught me,? she says.

She has made about a dozen scarves, and she would like to learn how to knit gloves, hats and socks as well.

“Gosh, it takes like two hours when you get used to it,? she says. “To finish a scarf, it’s no big deal, you know.?

For Norland it all started when he was a little boy. His mother taught him how to knit, but he never really picked it up and did it, so eventually he forgot how to. Then, three or four years ago, his girlfriend at the time wanted to learn how to knit, and they took a couple of classes together.

“I’m crafty and artsy enough to think that hey, that would be fun,? he says. “And I fell in love with it.?

What he likes about knitting is the functional things that come from it.

“I really like the idea that you can make a hat if you want, you know, and when you’re done you have it to give away as a gift to somebody or for yourself,? he says. “It’s really appealing to me.?

To give something away that you have made by yourself is a special feeling, according to Norland.

“I make these lambs, it’s like a stuffed animal,? he says. “I gave one of them to my cousin who had just had a baby, and she was just so blown away by first of all that I gave her this thing, and secondly that I had made it especially for her daughter. That’s really cool.?

Haberman too thinks that it is nice to be able to give away something that you have made especially for someone.

“Scarves are really cheap gifts,? she says. “You can buy a ball of yarn for like five bucks and it’s only gonna take a few hours, and they’re gonna love it, you know, cause you made it. It’s awesome.?

She also uses knitting as a way to relax, and she knits while watching TV.

“Once you pass the frustrating point, you can knit while you’re watching a movie,? she says. “When it’s over you’re also done with a scarf, it’s instant gratification.?

She takes out the scarf she is currently working on from her knitting bag.

“You come from the inside of the loop, and go through it, and then you take your string, and loop around from the back,? she says. “Then you’re gonna pull the loop that you just made with that string, through the original circle, and then pull it off.?

She slowly does the moves with her needles while she is talking, gently sweeping the grey wool yarn between her fingers. Then she speeds up, and starts knitting impossibly fast, with a well-practiced hand.

“You get used to it, and it goes really, really fast,? she says. “It’s easy.?