For many reasons, folks are finding fiber arts.
Online and local sources said knitting and crocheting, specifically, have been gaining popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a 2021 BBC article, “a craft that many thought peaked in the mid-20th century is booming.”
“LoveCrafts, a British company with offices in Germany, the Ukraine and the US, reports a 166% jump in orders year-on-year as people turned to sewing and knitting during lockdowns,” the article says. “Data from market research firm, Mintel, show crafting has also seen a surge in engagement in the US.”
“It’s been busier and busier,” Jeanetta Osterhoudt, owner of Sybil’s Yarn Shop, established in 1973 at 65 South Main St., Milford, said. “People over COVID picked up the skill, because you can learn anything on YouTube, but sometimes it’s easier to learn with someone right there, and maybe we can show you a trick you can’t find or didn’t know you should be looking for, so (our) classes just fill up wonderfully.”
“(Interest has risen) especially since the pandemic,” Oneonta resident and knitter Georgia Renne said. “Lemme tell you how well my (knitting) kits did during the pandemic. And crocheting has gotten huge. Everyone had time to just sit and try something new while trying not to freak out, and it was to distract themselves, so a lot of people did learn, especially with YouTube.
“I had a little chair at my booth this summer that said ‘sit and knit with me’ and I had a scarf that people would come by and … knit a couple rows and stop and talk to me and tell me how they started knitting or who taught them,” she continued. “It was really neat to hear everyone’s stories, but definitely it’s been changing since COVID and a lot of people started there.”
Renne, a self-taught knitter, said that she took up the craft while living in Ithaca roughly 16 years ago. Though it began as something to do while “freezing cold and not used to it and bored and pregnant,” Renne grew the hobby into an Etsy shop and regional craft fair business. Renne makes and sells knitted “plushies,” including mermaids, aliens, zombies and “goofy things.” She also sells patterns and kits. Find Renne’s products on Instagram @theminthomesteadknits or visit her Etsy shop, TheMintHomestead.
Ariel Turrigiano, adult programming librarian at Oneonta’s Huntington Memorial Library, said she brought the library’s yarn club back “in October or September of 2023.”
“The Huntington Memorial Library Yarn Club is like a gathering place that meets twice a month for anyone who likes to partake in fiber arts,” she said. “It’s a good way for people to get out of the house, socialize with crafters with a similar interest and share knowledge. Before COVID, there was a yarn club going on … but we brought it back because I noticed that the community didn’t really have a lot of knitting or crochet meetup groups. As a crocheter myself, I was wondering why that was … in a city that does have a generally large population and is full of crafters, so I set up the club for people in Oneonta and surrounding areas to be able to socialize with fellow crafters.
“It is definitely something I’ve noticed, being part of the community, that is on the uptick,” Turrigiano continued. “A lot of people adopted it during COVID times because you could get stuff shipped or go to Walmart to get basic supplies and there are so many online tutorials to learn for free. So, it’s an easy hobby to get into.”
The library group, Turrigiano said, is open to all ability levels and, at the time of the interview, included “six to eight” members. For more information on the group, find “Huntington Memorial Library” on Facebook or visit the “adult programs” section of hmloneonta.org.
With such a spike, sources said, the demographics of knitters and crocheters are changing.
“According to (the 2021) Arts and Crafts Consumer Market Reports, younger consumers were driving sales of yarn,” the BBC article says.
“The big trend is many younger people, I’ve noticed,” Renne said. “So, it’s really cool to see the younger people, and a lot of men. Tons of men are knitting.”
“We have two things: classes where we’re learning a very specific thing, whether that’s beginner knitting or beginner crochet or ‘how to make your first hat,’ but we also have a large group of knitters and crocheters that come in on Thursday and everyone just works on whatever they’re working on,” Osterhoudt said. “Classes are limited to five to eight people because we want everyone to have room … but the group is very organic and about 15 people.
“The group is a lot of people that are either retired or semi-retired or people that have a more open schedule,” she continued. “And we focus a lot here on wearables, so it’s people that like their own clothes or want something very tailored to them. As far as classes go, we’ve had people from 15, 16 or younger up to 90, so it all kind of depends on what classes are offered and what they want to learn. My draw is generally Binghamton to Albany to Utica.”
Find “Sybil’s Yarn Shop” on Facebook or visit sybilsyarnshop.com for class schedules and more information.
The BBC piece, too, says, “Demand has come from male customers as well as women.”
Beyond younger and male knitters, sources said, sustainability-minded consumers are also driving trends.
A 2023 euronews.com article says: “As the climate crisis rages on and fast fashion brands are increasingly being attacked for their role in harming the planet, knitting is getting ever more popular.”
“I think, certainly with younger people, slow fashion is a very important thing,” Osterhoudt said. “Fast fashion is disposable clothes (that) are not well made or made out of lasting materials, and there’s a real sensitivity to that. Right now, crochet, and specifically granny square crochet, is so hot; it’s kind of crazily hot. I owe it to the popularity of reels and TikToks, where people can see it and they go, ‘Oh, I think I can do that,’ and then they can, and it grows from there. Or they’ll say, ‘Wow, you made that? I want to learn how to do that.’”
Sources said fiber crafts unwind more than just yarn.
“It’s stress release,” Renne said. “I use cotton and hot pink and bright green, and I just have fun with it. I don’t do well making normal things; I’ll make a scarf, but it’s a sushi scarf, so when it rolls up, it’s a California roll, but I enjoy it.
“It’s a legal addiction,” she continued. “It’s something if I’m in the car, I’m doing it; if I’m sitting at home watching a movie, I can knit without looking. I just like creating stuff and being creative and I like colors, so it’s always fun to just have something in my hands and say, ‘Oh, an hour ago this was just a ball of string.’ It’s a feeling of accomplishment.”
“It’s just addictive,” Osterhoudt echoed. “You want to keep doing it, and it’s meditative. There’s a lot of relaxation — and sometimes frustration — that comes with knitting and crocheting. When you’re just knitting along, your brain is working on other things — especially during stressful times — but you’re concentrating on the stitches and your brain is working on the problem and you’re not thinking about it, and all of a sudden, you come to this Zen moment and you’ve figured everything out. That’s what knitting does for me.”
“I crocheted on and off between eight to 10 years previously, then the past few years, just started getting more into it,” Turrigiano, 29, said. “It’s great as a hobby and great for mental health and creating things. It’s great, because it keeps your mind occupied and your hands occupied until you get into this weird subspace in your head where you can do something else but still be crocheting or knitting, which is fun.”
And knitting stitches together a sense of community.
“I love people, and I’ve always been a stay-at-home-mom, so my main thing when I go out is talking to adults,” Renne said. “So that’s one of the (benefits of knitting), the interaction, socially.”
“I’ve talked to all these people and the women in my group and other knitters and crocheters and the ones I follow online, I find them to be wonderfully progressive and accepting people,” Osterhoudt said. “We’re all weirdos and we all want to find our group of weirdos. Knitters and crocheters are my group of weirdos. And within every culture, there’s little subcultures — this person loves colorwork or this person loves big, fat yarn — and you get to know these people and see what they’re doing and, because you have this shorthand because it’s something you love, too, it makes you closer and closer. What keeps me going is the community that knitting and crocheting has built. It’s amazing the friendships I have watched develop from knitting and crocheting. It’s a whole lot more than just making fabrics.”
For many reasons, folks are finding fiber arts.