Lauren Lax GRD ’08 is on the yarn diet.
“I’ve been really good,” she said. “I’ve kept it up since August.”
No, a yarn diet does not mean Lax eats only yarn. It means she can’t buy any new yarn until January 1, 2005. For Lax, a knitting fanatic, that is a challenge.
“I have receipts posted on my refrigerator to remind me of the damage I’ve done,” said Lax, who once spent $400 on yarn in a single month.
Lax is a loyal member of the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch group, which meets Wednesday nights at coffee shops in New Haven to knit and gossip. The meetings, which are free and open to the public, attract around 15 people, mostly women in their late 20s and 30s. Approximately half are Yale staff, attend Yale schools or date Yale students. Karen Unger, who founded the group in January, said she works hard to publicize it through flyers, magazines and Web sites.
She might be working too hard. In June, two male undergraduates from Yale read about the group in Play, a weekly tabloid, and decided to find some, well, play. When they arrived at the meeting clearly uninterested in knitting, each woman told them she was making a garment for a boyfriend or husband.
“The poor sketchy guys didn’t get any girls,” Unger said with a smile.
Stitch ‘n’ Bitch is not a dating service — “bitch” is a verb. These women gather to knit, and they are serious about their handiwork.
“It’s like a whole vocabulary and scene,” Lax said about knitting.
She and her comrades exchange words like “the switchover,” “frogging” and “lifeline,” which sound to an amateur more like sexual positions than knitting terms. “Knitting muggles,” as Lax describes the uninitiated, also forget that experts do not just knit yarn, and they do not just make sweaters.
“You can knit wire, old sheets, trash bags, dog hair,” Lax said. Some people even knit coats for their dog out of the dog’s own fur.
Whatever the material, experts can make bikinis, pants, cat beds and covers for their cell phones.
Jennifer Jones even invented her own pattern for a funky hat with a spout on top. The hat is featured in Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, a how-to book from which the group took its name.
“It’s called the umbilical cord,” Jones said. “I just put two pieces together and gave it a funny name.”
The diehard stitch ‘n’ bitchers do not limit their craft to club meetings. They knit while reading, watching television, walking on the street, or sitting in class. It tickles Ada Fenick that she married a Yale math professor after knitting through all her math classes in college. For Bryna Keenan GRD ’04, knitting makes a nice transition between work and sleep.
“It helps me burn up nervous energy,” she said.
The knitters can stitch almost anything, but they mostly bitch about parking. Some drive half an hour from Fairfield County before circling Atticus, Koffee or Cosi in search of a spot. Other topics of conversation include book sales, rent, “Law & Order,” National Public Radio, and anything about yarn. Oh, and that time two pitiful Yale undergraduates tried to hit on them.
If group members get lonely in between Wednesday meetings, they can chat and share pictures with one another on a Yahoo Web site. Charyn Cevin and Sam Luszcz often hang out at the dog park in Hamden. And Unger has organized trips to yarn stores, wool festivals and music concerts (she and her friends knit through every song). Unger’s next mission is to convince the Yale Bookstore to host a signing with Debbie Stoller, the author of Stitch ‘n’ Bitch and an upcoming sequel, Stitch ‘n’ Bitch Nation.
One night with the group makes knitting seem like the biggest thing since “Terminator 2.” These women are not doddering ladies in bifocals making reindeer sweaters for their grandchildren. They are hip young professionals whose projects include satchels and place mats for their boyfriends and husbands. They even have a celebrity role model: Kelly Goldsmith, a recent contestant on “Survivor,” chose yarn and crochet needles as her luxury items, and she made washcloths on the show.
Five months without Martha Stewart will do nothing to hurt the knitting industry. Trust the stitch ‘n’ bitchers — and groups like them worldwide — to keep it alive.
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