- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

DAYTON, Ohio Their yarns didn't look like yarn, their knitting tools were sometimes circular contraptions that looked more like medical instruments, and what they were making was a far cry from old-fashioned hand-knitted items.
Knitting may have been frowned on as "anti-feminist" in the past, but it has come out of the closet for "born-again knitters," a term coined by Chicknits.com, one of many knitting Web sites.
These knitters share their talents with celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and even Russell Crowe, who has been caught red-handed and is displayed proudly on the Chicknits' Web site. Knitting also is catching on with high school and college students all over the country.
This particular group comes from far and wide to meet every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Books & Co. in Kettering, Ohio.
Anyone is welcome, and the knitters are thrilled to share their trade, which to them is truly a labor of love.
Amidst the hubbub, shared books, compliments, instructions, beautiful yarns and works in progress, they are really knitting … and knitting … and knitting.
The energy of the group is contagious.
"The best way to come into this is talent-free not opinionated," said Barbara Richardson, president of the Dayton Knitting Guild.
Toby Raymond, who has been "volunteered" to become group coordinator, said its members knit for a variety of reasons and include present and former knitting instructors and knitting-store owners.
"It's not your grandmas knitting anymore," said Rochelle Goldstein, "although since I've become a grandma, I've made baby blankets as well as fashion afghans, hats, bags and purses."
Just knitting the items is not the goal in many cases. The look is all in the finishing. Miss Goldstein showed off one of her fashion tote bags, which after being knitted went through the process of being washed and pummeled, which she describes as being agitated and shocked. The end result is a hand-knit bag with the appearance of felt.
The group agreed that fashion scarves are the hottest accessories this year. Nancy Lee Newman modeled her creations made of eyelash yarn, made of thin, wispy filaments that look like eyelashes.
Scarves also were being created of chenille, ribbons and yarn spun from animal hair obtained from brushing dogs, cats and bunnies. The yarn colors range from the palest pastels to bold and bright; textures vary from the softest cashmere to nubby raw-silk blends.
Miss Raymond's current project, a sweater made of a vivid periwinkle-blue yarn, was intricate-looking, although she said it used just two stitches.
"I have literally gone home and ripped out everything I have done because it wasn't right. Once I ripped out 75 hours' worth of work. But the rule of thumb is, any mistake that I have to do over more than two times automatically becomes pattern."
The head-nodding around the room told me this was pretty much gospel. The knitters' made-up rules and jokes sometimes become knitting language.
For example, "frogging," a term for ripping out, actually came from "rip it, rip it, rip it" get it? The term is actually used in written patterns.
"Knitting directions are like figuring out a code," said Mel Lipton, who belongs to a knitting group of two himself and his wife, Judy.
"I saw Judy knitting, and I just knew I could do it," he said, "so she taught me how."
Mr. Lipton said he likes to knit items he can't find in stores, using good yarns and patterns. "I knitted one sweater and then saw it on Newberry Street in Boston for $1,700," he said, adding that the sweater cost him about $240 to make.
He said he typically runs early in the morning and knits at night, usually after he plays around with the computer.
"The nice thing is that you can put it down and pick it up two weeks later. I feel productive if I knit while watching a game on TV," he said.
It seems that many of the knitters turn their talents to philanthropy. Judy Lipton uses her leftover yarn to make blankets for the homeless and various shelters. The Dayton Knitting Guild and the Thursday Books&Co; group make hats for premature babies at various hospitals and lap robes for veterans.
"I love to spread our addiction," said Cay Dietz, owner of the Yarn Basket in Beavercreek, Ohio. "Knitting is very user-friendly. You can start with a simple scarf and feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment while you are creating and especially when it's finished. No mistakes are permanent. We can correct anything."
Miss Dietz said yarn runs the gamut from acrylics to natural fibers. "With increased popularity in yarn, we've seen a broader spectrum of nice products," she said.
A skein of wool yarn, which Miss Dietz said is the most popular, can be purchased for less than $6. A skein is the unit of measure for yarn, which usually is packaged that way. Patterns call for a certain number of skeins. Miss Dietz said acrylic or acrylic-wool blends are the most economic and easiest for beginners to use.
In the past few years, all kinds of new knitting needles have made an appearance, Miss Dietz said.
"They are not just metal needles anymore, but wood, bamboo and even needles made of materials such as casein, a milk product, which is endorsed for arthritic fingers," she said. "As you work, the needles get warm and help fingers get limber."

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