When British diver Tom Daley, an Olympic gold-medallist, was spotted knitting at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo last year, it started conversations on an activity that was previously associated with an older generation of women. Daley’s—who mentioned that learning to knit helped him keep sane throughout the process—influence served to normalise knitting for every gender and age. In fact, it has introduced the activity to a wider audience.
The pandemic-induced lockdown made way for an influx of small businesses and blogs—including those connected with crafts like knitting and crocheting—on social media. The question remains: What is it about knitting that makes people, irrespective of age group and gender, gravitate towards it? We speak to two young knitters from Delhi about what made them practise knitting, and what they love about the craft.
Passed through generations
Anab Naiyer (32), a PhD student at Jamia Millia Islamia, comes from a family where everyone knits. In fact, she has been knitting since she was around nine years old. Naiyer shares, “I come from a small town. There was not much to do; there was no TV or Internet. My mother and grandmother taught me the craft so that I could kill time.”
“Last year, during the lockdown, I was stuck at home and there was nothing to do. Classes were held online. So, I picked up some knitting needles and yarn, and then never stopped,” shares Md Aamir Khan, who started knitting in 2020. The 21-year-old master’s student at JNU Delhi developed an interest in the craft by watching his mother knit.
Breaking The barriers
Naiyer has launched a small business ‘Oony by Anab’ through Instagram, where she sells knitted and crocheted products crafted by her. “Initially, I used to only knit for family and friends. Knitting professionally is new to me,” she says, adding that monetising the craft is the result of a dying skill that is rarely passed down to younger generations.
Khan, however, feels that knitting communities with youngsters have always existed. “My mother used to knit when she was 18,” he shares, adding that he has found a large community of young knitters through Instagram. “I think it is only after you start doing it that you find others.”
Indulging in knitting despite being a man is often met with shock by people, shares Khan. “Knitting is still a gendered craft in people’s minds. When you do it as a boy, it is shocking to people. I do not find it offensive at all. It is funny.” He mentions that receiving support from his family has given him the confidence to pursue this craft. “None of my siblings took it up, and my mother would say ‘this craft will die with me in this family’. When I started knitting, she was very happy.”
Relaxing your mind
Knitting is a creative, productive pastime with endless possibilities, mentions Naiyer. Adding that it is a self-care activity that is important to her, she explains, “Knitting is something I do to spend time with myself. It is a stress-buster. It allows you to collect your thoughts and sit with something for a long period of time.”
Expressing similar views on the therapeutic qualities of knitting, Khan adds that he appreciates the fact that his labour gives him tangible results, which he can share with others in his life. He says, “When the world is falling apart around you and you start knitting, for that moment at least, the world will be kinder to you and you will not think about your problems. Afterwards, you will have something in your hands that you can feel proud of. That is something I really like. It allows you to have something unique.”
Forging a community
Forced social isolation due to COVID-19 encouraged people to look for activities that would help them bond with peers virtually. Does knitting, often labelled a solitary activity, qualify as one to be
enjoyed doing in a group? Of course, share both knitters.
“Although I do sit alone when I am knitting, it can also connect me with others who knit and those who are interested in it. It used to be done in groups in the past—our mothers and grandmothers would sit together to knit. It used to be a hobby that built solidarity among people who would knit together,” shares Naiyer.
Khan, too, finds that the activity brings him closer to other people. “I have found so many people on Instagram to share my projects with. I have even been on a video call with a friend and we have knitted together for two hours. If you have muscle memory, you can just knit and talk,” he concludes.