Field Notes: Knit Your Socks Off with This Local Group of Knitting Enthusiasts
Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vast and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: Aloha Knitters.
photos: kent nishimura
What it is
A casual gathering of knitting enthusiasts who meet weekly at various coffee shops across the island to work on projects and talk story. What began as a local support group for women with fibromyalgia to get together and knit turned into “Stitch ’n’ Bitch,” complete with a Yahoo! Groups page (this was back in 2005). When a store called Stitch ’n’ Bitch said it already had a trademark to the name, the group became the Aloha Knitters.
“Over time, some of those original members left, but the group kept growing. Then, through Facebook, the numbers really started growing … we have more than 500 members,” says graphic designer Angela Ni, the senior member of the Aloha Knitters. Today, groups of about six to 16 knitters, ranging from teenagers to 60-year-olds and beyond, meet on different days of the week in various neighborhoods.
“We’ll have folks coming to Hawai‘i on holiday for just a week or two, who’ll message the group and ask if they can jump in,” says fiber artist and scientific illustrator Michelle Schwengel-Regala. “If you’re doing anything with fiber, hang out with us. We’ve had people bring whole spinning wheels with yarn.”
How it works
Bring all of your own materials and show up. The Aloha Knitters don’t teach classes on how to knit, but they’re supportive and often share skills, such as particular knots or tips on binding off. They take breaks when they get tired or stuck on a pattern. Other times, people will show up just to chat and be social. The group’s not particularly (k)nitpicky.
Sometimes, knitting sessions are rescheduled because of holidays. But not always: If knitters want to get together, regardless of the holiday, they will. In the past, cafés have put out little reserved signs. “Otherwise, we just sort of park down and people suddenly realize they’re in the middle of a knitting circle and they sort of skirt away,” Ni says. So, the knitters are like druids wearing robes, participating in a time-honored mystical tradition? She laughs: “Well, in knitted robes, maybe.”
Look out for the fuzz
A few members of the Aloha Knitters may or may not be members of “TheFuzz,” a team of guerilla knitters known for “yarn bombing” various public fixtures around town. Maybe you’ve seen their work: a bike rack covered in crocheted yarn or a fire hydrant wearing a knitted scarf. It’s technically graffiti, except instead of using spray paint or vinyl decals, the group’s more likely to put sweaters on trees. (Follow its adventures at thefuzzhawaii.tumblr.com.)
One of these street artists goes only by “archiPURLago,” creator of the spam “knitsubi,” a super cute square of knitted spam connected to a strip of knitted seaweed that can be wrapped around anything—streetlights, railings, parking meters, people’s pets—to serve as the “rice.” (See more images on Instagram: @SpamKnitsubi.)
Knit: the most common stitch
Purl: the second-most common stitch, the opposite of a knit
Tinking: unknitting stitches one at a time to fix a mistake (“tink” is “knit” spelled backward)
Frogging: unraveling stitches to fix a mistake (from the froglike sound of “rip it! rip it!”)
Cast on: to begin a piece by creating the first stitch
Bind off: to finish a piece with a final row to close the knit
Yarn groupies: significant others who don’t knit but are “just there for the socks” (coined by Angela Ni)
Yarn shrapnel: bits of fabric scattered on the ground after a pompom-making session
Lindsey Elder, 36
U.S. Army public affairs officer, Kāne‘ohe
“It’s relaxing to be here and there’s the benefit of both learning and making something by hand, like a baby blanket or hat, that you can give as gifts.”
Shannon Johnson, 49
UH Mānoa academic adviser, Hawai‘i Kai
“There’s a sense of accomplishment in being able to make something, and it’s empowering as your knitting skills grow.”
Cynthia Frazer, 64
Crafts librarian for the state of Hawai‘i, Kāne‘ohe
“Knitting’s a good post-apocalyptic life skill. I don’t know if we’re going to need socks when we’re zombies, but I’m prepared.”
To find out when the next Aloha Knitters meeting is, go online: alohaknitters.wordpress.com