Before quarantine, you might have thought that knitting and crochet were hobbies reserved for old ladies with seven cats. After all, what college student has the time to sit around for hours crafting a spool of yarn into a blanket?
But once COVID–19 related lockdowns started to be announced around the world, suddenly everyone was living the grandma life. Stuck at home with nothing to keep us busy other than mediocre Netflix originals and the anxiety of living through a pandemic, our Google calendars— previously jam–packed with work and extracurriculars—turned into sparsely populated lists of the few classes that still bothered meeting synchronously.
After being sent home last March, I spent my newfound free time like a lot of people did: making my way through lists of bingeable TV shows, doomscrolling through social media, and baking copious amounts of banana bread. I also started knitting.
There’s something almost meditative about a repetitive task like knitting, as if it’s a productive form of fidgeting. In the midst of the increasingly chaotic news–storm, I could spend a few hours just watching a movie and making little loops of yarn turn into something useful.
I soon realized a lot of other people felt the same way, and that they too were channeling their feelings of panic into creating beautiful textiles. Knitting and crochet exploded in popularity all over the internet, from the Quarantine Knitting Facebook group to KnitTok. Even former First Lady Michelle Obama took up the hobby.
But unlike their ancestors, this new generation of knitting experts is using this hobby as a way to make items that appeal to young people. Colorful two–piece sets replace plain blankets; groovy, 70s–inspired cardigans replace neutral socks and hats.
Over the summer, a viral trend emerged on TikTok where fans of Harry Styles would recreate the iconic JW Anderson patchwork cardigan he wore at a concert in February. It was a perfect way for newcomers to get into yarn arts because the individual pieces were small enough for novices to handle, but the cardigan felt like a more interesting project than just making a bunch of washcloths.
In fact, the trend became so popular that the designer of the original cardigan, which retails for almost $1500, released a free crochet pattern for the piece along with a message thanking fans for appreciating the design.
I should note that these crafty TikTok users accomplished no small feat; I spent approximately two weeks before the start of the fall semester attempting to knit that same sweater to no avail. Now, a stack of small swatches and a few balls of yarn sit in a basket under my bed, eagerly awaiting the day I find the motivation and time to finish my project. In the meantime, I'll start little projects when my stress about the world runs high (including a washcloth during election week) or when a boring lecture leaves me feeling the need to do something with my hands (such as the other sweater I’ve been working on piecemeal for about a month).
So whether you’re tackling a complicated patchwork sweater or just making a simple dishcloth, you might be able to find a few moments of peace in a craft that used to seem too tedious. Maybe you can even ask your grandma to teach you her ways–if she can figure out how to work Zoom, that is.