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I made this

Now that Martha Stewart’s in jail... to whom should the eyes of our crafty nation turn? How about to themselves. As Greg Dahlmann reports... crafting is taking hold with younger adults... and just like the resulting sweaters and blender lamps... this trend is homemade.
(originally aired November 25, 2004)
6:28 | listen: RealAudio · mp3

It’s Wednesday night and a bar in downtown Albany New York is filling up with women in their 20s and early 30s. They’re drinking wine... trading stories... laughing... and knitting. Wait a second... knitting?

{MM: knitting in a bar} :10
“We’ve had people come in and see a few of us knitting here and a guy a few weeks ago was like ‘what, are you all expecting mothers?’ And we’re like, ‘we’re drinking (mock exasperation)... we’re drinking and knitting.’”

Melissa Mansfield is 24-years-old... she picked up knitting about a year ago while she was stuck inside with a cold . And it was fun... but she says it wasn’t long before she’d decided it’d be even better to get out and knit with some other people. So, she started asking around...

{MM: wanna knit?} :03
“Well, I wanna go knit... do you want to come knit with me?”

And people did. The group now has about 12 regular members. It’s just one of many such groups that have popped up all around the country over the last few years. The Craft Yarn Council of America reports it’s seeing surges in the number of young adult knitters... and it’s hearing about strong sales from retailers. But it isn’t just knitting that’s taken off. All sorts of crafty pursuits seem to be taking hold with 20 and 30-somethings... everything from sewing to jewelry-making to... transforming blenders into lamps. If it involves stitching, cutting, or glue-gunning... someone’s probably doing it.

But how’d such a Greatest Generation pursuit get re-energized by Gen Y? Well... there have definitely been some influential people. Bust editor Debbie Stoller has pushed knitting through her Stitch ‘n Bitch books... and, yeah, you can never totally discount Martha... but if you’re looking in one place... you’ll be disappointed. No one person decided to make this happen. It’s come together person-by-person from the bottom up.

{SB: looking to peers 1} :15
“There’s something about Martha Stewart and This Old House that appealed to our parent’s generation... where they wanted the great arbiter of the domestic realm to tell them how to roast their turkey and (laughs) bronze the bones and put them on the mantle.”

Shoshana Berger is the editor of Readymade... a monthly magazine about do-it-yourself projects made out of recycled objects.

{SB: looking to peers 2} :26
“But for us, the whole idea of having grown up with the internet, where it was this collective group and we could research anything by typing it into a search engine, meant that we felt very empowered to do things ourselves, to figure things out ourselves, and rely on other people whose voice we trusted to teach us how.”

So, a few people get into a crafty project... groove on it... they tell their friends... their friends post to a blog about it... someone across the nation reads the blog... links to it... and in what seems like no time... everybody’s onto it.

And that’s one of the defining characteristics about this resurgence in crafting: it’s totally tangled up in the web. Leah Kramer is the founder of crafster-dot-org... a crafting community site that proclaims: no tea cozies without irony.

{LK: net is huge part} :30
“If you have crafty inklings and none of your friends are into crafts or no one in your community shares your desire to do crafts, then you can go on the internet. And there’s just thousands of people sharing ideas and they’re really supportive of your ideas. It’s huge. And once you feel more comfortable with these people, you can share your ideas with your friends, knitting in public and things like that and it really spreads like a virus.”

OK, sure... that makes sense for political dissent and other subversive movements... but crafting? It’s so wholesome and low-tech.

Exactly. There are probably a handful of reasons the crafty-culture is ascendant... but its popularity first and foremost seems to be linked to its decidedly low-tech nature. Readymade’s Shoshana Berger points out that crafting... and knitting especially... is about working with your hands in a way most people just don’t anymore.

{SB: tactile desire} :20
“The most work we do with our hands is pushing a mouse around on a mouse pad. So, there’s something really... something really old-school and beautiful about just taking very simple materials or taking a cast-off of consumer culture and turning it into something new.”

And if you can do that with a bunch of other people... even better. 28-year-old Anne Miller hooked up with the Albany knitting group after stumbling across it on the web... it turned out she lived just around corner from where it usually met.

{AM: allure of group} :27
“In a culture where we move around, we sit in our cars, we sit in front of televisions, especially if you’re single, or if you live somewhere where your family is not... it’s hard to form a community or get into a community and form those bonds. So, when you have groups like this... it’s one reason why they’re so popular. Because as much as we all love knitting, it’s also a chance to interact and make friends and get out more.”

But this isn’t all sociological whole grains and green leafies. There’s also an element of fashion in play. You can go into a Gap pretty much anywhere in America and come out looking... pretty much like everyone else. And Craftster’s Leah Kramer says that’s fine for some people... but...

{LK: cool to be unique} :20
“There are a lot of people who are trying to move away from buying clothing, or purses or accessories that it looks like everyone has the same thing and bought it from the same store. So, I think it’s just becoming cool to have and make things and wear things that no one else has. That’s just sort of the fashion trend.”

The thing about trends is that they usually come to an end, though... and crafting probably won’t be any different. Already high-profile celebs like Jennifer Anniston have taken up knitting... nothing kills the hipster cred like having Rachel get hip to your hobby. And it’s probably just a matter of time before Madonna kicks kabbalah to the curb in favor of decoupage. 21-year-old Laura Boggs – another one of the Albany knitters – can already see the limits.

{LB: Britney Spears knit} :23
“My little sister’s very Britney Spears and all that. I just had a picture of her like knitting and listening to Britney Spears or something with all of her 13-year-old friends. I think that’d be neat though, it’d keep them away from drugs and all that (laughing)... I doubt it... I doubt it’d ever be that cool (more laughing)... skipping school to go knitting, yeah, I don’t think so... (laughing)”

But crafting’s fun now... and as long as it is... people are going to do it. Plus... it’s getting cold out there... and Melissa Mansfield is ready.

{MM: can’t wait sweater} :05
“It’s neat... I can’t wait for sweater season... to walk around and say ‘you see this, yeah, I made this’”

For 51%... I’m Greg Dahlmann.



a journalist


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Albany, NY


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