“Gotta Knit,” is on the second floor of a walk up on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. I heard about it from my girlfriend when she waltzed in the door one day and said, “I’m back from my knitting lesson,” all breezy and matter of fact.
“Your what?” I said.
She told me about “Gotta Knit!” and all the women who are getting into knitting. She said the store’s classes are booked up months in advance.
What followed was a period of time when she was constantly knitting, even during social events, and then one day I came over to her place to find that she had developed an enthusiasm for Needlepoint.
There she was, hard at work on a needlepoint pattern, surrounded by books on the subject. “Needlepoint Now,” was one of the Titles. Another was “Rosie Greer’s Needle Point.” Rosie Greer is a gigantic man who was a famous football player in the seventies. The book featured many photographs of the of the football star, head bowed and hard at work or brimming with boyish (girlish?) pride as he holds up his recent creation.
The needlepoint books all had that fuzzy, early seventies feel.
“Don’t you think you’re a little out of your mind?” I asked. “Knitting lessons, needlepointing in public… it seems strange.”
“Needlepoint patterns are the second most downloaded thing on the internet,” she responded matter of factly.
I refrained from inquiring about the first most downloaded thing. I had this weird flash of millions of men surfing porn sites while millions of women surfed sites dedicated to knitting, needlepoint, cooking, all the things that were once referred to as “The home arts.”
We live in a time of weird surfaces. The face of a computer screen in smooth and flat. The images it transmits are usually a bit on the cold, corporate, sleek side of things. You can point and click on the screen, but you can’t get through to what is behind it. It shimmers out of reach.
Knitting, and needlepoint, are porous, they are all textural, tactile, touchworthy.
I felt a pang of curiosity. I suddenly wanted to touch a little wool, and it was with this in mind that I set out on my visit to “Gotta Knit.”
I climbed the stairs and entered a shop crowded with balls of wool. There were hundreds of colors and textures, and in the middle of the room sat Laura Eackloff, the store’s co-owner. She was being interviewed by a radio reporter who was doing a story on the popularity of knitting. The reporter was a trim young woman in a green knit sweater.
“That’s a lovely sweater,” said Laura.
“I didn’t make it myself,” the reporter said bashfully.
I asked Laura if she often gave interviews.
“All the time,” she replied. “Next week I’m going on Fox.”
I perused the store. A couple of other women were there, a peculiar kind of concentration etched on their face as they touched and stroked the balls of yarn. It was as though they were being reminded of something. The wool was so soft and soothing. A young woman stood beside me. She had a reasonable haircut and normal clothes; she looked in her mid twenties. Her name was Sarah and she was, it turned out, a new knitter.
“My mother just taught me over the holidays,” she said bashfully. It turned it out her mother had taught her to knit years ago, and she forgot, but this past Christmas for some reason I asked her to teach me again. I don’t know why.”
Just then the interview came to an abrupt halt because the radio journalist’s fancy digital recorder was malfunctioning. She went out, got new batteries, came back, and still it wouldn’t work.
“I’m so sorry she said,” standing up in that chunky green wool sweater. “I’ll have to come back another time.”
Laura told me all about how she started the store two years ago and business has been on the increasing every since. “There’s a lot of young women who’ve been coming in. They want to get away from their high tech, over stimulated world. They’re much more interested in little luxuries, the kind you can cuddle up to,” she said. Then she added, “We fulfill people’s knitting fantasies.”
And what are those fantasies composed of? I wanted to ask, but just then Sarah, the novice knitter, arrived at the counter, her arms full of balls of wool that was thick, colorful, like braided hair. Laura kept enthusing about knitting.
“Another thing about knitting is it’s very portable” said Laura as she rang up the sale.
“It effects you immediately!” chimed in Sarah. “You see it right there in front of you!”
After a few months, my girlfriend slowed down on the knitting front. Rosie Greer and the other needlepoint books are stacked in the corner. She’s moved on to pottery. I visited her in at La Mano, the little pottery studio where she takes lessons from a woman named Minutia. The room was full of women with spinning wheels between their legs, smocks on, cheeks flushed as they pressed their wet hands against the spinning ball of clay, forming it into something. Touching.