In fact, at Knitting Nation, Nyack’s very own knitting, crocheting and spinning center, you’ll find a variety of women. Teens and girls coming together to partake in this more than 1000-year-old craft.
Jane Saffir, who opened her charming and colorful shop seven years ago, says that knitting’s popularity tends to fluctuate, but that it really hit a stride back in 2003 with the publication of Debbie Stoller’s irreverent and now classic, Stitch ‘N Bitch—it not only made knitting a trés cool thing to do, but encouraged women to connect via knitting circles, both live and on the web.
And Saffir believes that we are in the midst of a knitting upswing once again.
“Art and craft activities resurface during tough economic times,” she said. “People prefer to make things for themselves rather then to spend money on expensive items or luxury vacations.”
Knitting’s popularity may ebb and flow with the times, but Jane’s passion for it has remained a constant, starting when she was a child making miniature dogs out of yarn pom poms.
“I have a vivid memory of going into a yarn store when I was very young and being mesmerized by all the colors and textures and absolutely loving them,” she explained. “I was hooked.”
But unlike many of us who share in a lineage of knitters, Saffir’s mother and grandmother did not teach her how to knit. She taught herself by following patterns in a book. (And she is a lefty!)
But it was an ad in a 1967 issue of McCall’s Needlework & Crafts, which promoted starting your own knitting business, that really planted the idea of owning her own shop in her teenage imagination. Years later, when she retired from being a New York City schoolteacher, she pondered what to do next in life.
Around the same time, her youngest daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26. She’s fine now, but the experience made them both very aware of their mortality, and reinforced the idea that you have to go for what you are dreaming of now. Saffir actualized her teenage wish by opening Knitting Nation with a partner.
Because of its very warm and welcoming atmosphere, Knitting Nation is a place where women can join in community, make new friends and share more than just tips on casting, purling and binding off.
Aspiring knitters often come into the shop feeling like they aren’t skilled enough, but under the cozy blanket of Saffir’s affable and encouraging nature, defenses easily come down and most women learn not only that they can knit, but they enjoy it. Knitting offers tremendous gratification right before your eyes, as a skein of yarn is transformed into your own, unique creation, like a personal scarf, sweater or hat.
In addition to the incredible sense of fulfillment, there are many other benefits to knitting. It is meditative, sensual, even medicinal—one of Jane’s students who suffers from high blood pressure reported that her pressure went down ten points while knitting.
It is easily portable, and teaches the pleasures of patience; whereas most of us quickly frustrate when being made to wait for just about anything these days, Saffir welcomes it. She pulls out her yarn and needles and converts her waiting time into creative time.
“I loved sitting around at jury duty because I got to knit all day,” she said.
But don’t think for a moment that knitting is always sedentary. Saffir successfully combined her love of knitting with her need to exercise.
“During the summer, I take walks around Rockland Lake, which seem interminable to me,” she said. “So I decided to knit while walking.”
Using a circular needle (two needles connected by a flexible cable), and a wrist gadget to hold her ball of yarn, she knit sideways so she didn’t have to change rows too often,—it made her walks more enjoyable and productive.
Saffir considers herself to be a “knitting curator,” a caring facilitator who offers a public service to the knitting community. She is deeply committed to preserving the tradition and passing it on to young people.
“To be able to make and create things yourself is wonderful skill,” she said. “It is an important message to teach today’s youth.”
She is not alone in this quest. Knitters of every age and from all over the world can benefit from the many wonderful on-line, knitting communities. Sites like Ravelry allow you to share tips, post projects, ask questions and receive feedback.
Knitting Nation offers a variety of classes for beginners, advanced students and children too, in either private or group settings. Basic knitting, crocheting, felting and a whole lot more are available. And yes, there is even a class for lefties.
(Visit Knitting Nation’s website for a full schedule of classes.)
And when you are ready to explore and indulge in the many fine types of yarn available at the shop, you will be amazed at the selection. Choose from the more traditional types like wool and cotton, the ever popular and sensuous cashmere, or the new more exotic fibers like hemp, linen and bamboo, as well as organic and naturally dyed.