In Miami, one gets the sense that the right hand of the city never knows what the left hand is doing. This city is so dichotomous that most implants cannot stand it and relocate somewhere else. There are organic farms teaching people beekeeping and farming and there are all night raves that feed Denny’s business at 6am. This is Miami.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the gap between the knitters and non-knitters of the city. It’s an impossible bridge to gap. The answer to that may lie in the fact that when you think “Miami”, your mind doesn’t immediately think “wool” and “keeping warm in the winter” so very few really know there is a knitting community here. Since most people associate knitting with wool and really warm items of clothing for winter such as sweaters and scarves, those that don’t bother to dive into the knitting world deeper don’t know there are all kinds of cooler alternative fibers to wool that can be worn in any climate. And when I say “cooler”, I am referencing temperature- I would never use the word “cool” in the non-temperature sense to refer to knitting except when talking to another knitter. Non-knitters just don’t understand how awesome knitting is, so I won’t even try to explain it.
Although our local yarn shop does have a ton of beautiful warm wool and alpaca in every color imaginable, cotton is the fiber which I usually knit my garments in because wool in the endless summers of Miami would be absolutely unbearable. Even in the coldest days of winter here, wool warms too much. That hasn’t stopped a lot of women (and men, YES men) in the community to frequent my favorite local knitting shop in South Florida (The Knitting Garden in the very chic part of Miami called Coral Gables) and knitting up warm handmade items for themselves, friends, and family.
In my knitting circle on Friday nights, we have “knitting happy hour” that runs from 5 - 8pm. In my mind, I lovingly call it “Prosecco and Pima” because of my long-running preference for Cascade Yarn’s pima cotton (I love wool and alpaca but remember… Miami). And because on these Friday nights, we pop open bottles of prosecco and gab as women do when they come together. We gather at a long wooden table and fill up every possible space available- and then some- to gawk at each others projects, share funny anecdotes, or discuss Jon Snow or the new season of Grace and Frankie. Sometimes, someone comes with a homemade desert or platter of food to add to the sweet and savory snacks already spread on the table. They are usually welcomed by cheers and “ooh’s”, “aaahhh’s”, and “however did you find the time?” Women ranging from 20-80 are known to frequent happy hour which makes it that much more interesting- seeing what everyone is knitting up for themselves, their grandkids, husbands, or friends always helps give you ideas for what your needles may want to knit next.
Reading Clara Parkes’ “Knitlandia” and hearing her speak at New York’s city bookstore The Strand (via YouTube, I wasn’t lucky enough to actually attend), I totally get that Miami hasn’t caught up with being on the cooler side of knitting yet. Yarn bombings aren’t prevalent here and there are few knitting groups or meet ups. I attended the Perez Art Museum’s Day for Knitters where knitters gathered in the main entrance and received free entrance into the museum. I only counted about 20 people knitting or weaving. For those of us that have drunk the knitting kool-aid, we get it. Even though Miami doesn’t have anything close to a wool festival or a convention-like gathering, knitting is a way of life for many of us here already.
I can’t help but have major crushes on knitters like Clara Parkes, Ysolde Teague, Amy Hendrix, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and Stephen West. They’re changing the game and now making it fun and hip to be a knitter even though it always has been (the secret all knitters since the dawn of time have known but whose excitement and passion for it have fallen on deaf ears). I follow their Instagram accounts and always admire their projects and other creative photos and smile to myself at their wittiness. To make a living around something so wonderful and satisfying as knitting must be sublime. I often think of this more now that I lack the free hands it requires to knit as often as I’d like as I am a mother of 3 children. I usually make things in 10 - 30 minute increments which has made completing a recent project of a color-dipped cowl in fisherman’s rib something of a feat of patience and determination.
I know that the knitting scene is changing- not only in Miami but all over the world. When I look around the table at my knitting shop, I see no specific stereotype. I see women and men of all ages, colors, and cultures- all welcome. We all know how meditative and relaxing it is and how gratifying it is to turn a simple ball of yarn into something useful, wearable, sometimes intricate, and beautiful. However, the “granny” stigma is still very much there. Recently I was with my children at the park and was knitting on a bench and a girl in her early twenties approached me. She was wearing a tank top that said “CROSSFIT FOREVER” and was there with her toddler. She said to me,” Ohhhh, how cute! You’re knitting like in the olden days!” I didn’t know whether to smile or go put on a mumu! I felt like I needed to be on a rocking chair with my knitting, telling stories about the war. In the end I did smile and tell her how fulfilling it is for me and that knitting is still very much alive, but I realized that most people still think of it as archaic and old.
... which is why knitting fits me perfectly because the indigo paradigm-busting priestess in me loves to shake things up and shift perspectives. In this case it will be one ball of yarn at a time!