In this essay, I will discuss why knitting is more popular than ever and how Web 2.0 has been a key enabler for this latest revival.
What the heck is Web 2.0?
Web 2.0 is a marketing term for any new web based approach or technology which enables the “collective intelligence” through “user driven content”.
Now this definition may sound like something you might see in a Business Week article, so what does it really mean?
Web 2.0 is a term which categorizes such technologies and terms as blogging or blogosphere, podcasting, and web communities. It has been sparked by the engagement of users through such things as meetup.com, myspaces.com, PodDaddy Adam Curry’s his podcast and many other sites on the web. The latest approach to Web 2.0 is in the combination of these technologies called mashups to enable anyone to speak or write on a topic and engage in discussion with others all across the web. This is what is termed the “collective intelligence” through “user driven content”.
What does Web 2.0 have to do with knitting?
Obviously knitting has been around centuries before anyone even imagined that bits and bytes would one day drive the universe. The origin of knitting is still not clearly traced. However, there are points in history where knitting became a key to driving economic change to various communities in many countries. For example, hand knitted stockings during the Elizabethan Era in the Britons drove the sheep and wool trade which enabled farmers to sustain a living. This created an entire trade community in Scotland and other countries centered around knitting usually primarily whom were men. Other later examples include the Orenburg lace knitting communes in Russia, Shetland Lace knitting from Unst, and Fair Isle knitting from Scotland.
The industrial revolution changed a lot of this once the knitting machine had been invented and later widely used to produce and export clothing from these countries. However, at various points in history since then, knitting became popular especially during war times when “knitting for the troupes” and other occasions popularized the idea of knitting by hand. During the 1950’s and 1960’s, as new materials for yarn became available and high fashion returned, hand knitting again had a resurgence, however, died down again until recently.
Even given these points in history, knitting was never as popular as it is today, especially in the US and Canada. Although some would say that the popularity was sparked by celebrity knitting, there may be more merit to being related to the events of September 11th, 2001 when many people turned back to crafts and home oriented projects when travel seemed troublesome.
Why is it that knitting is sustaining and even growing in popularity?
Some would say, due to the availability of thousands of new yarns and knitting patterns that knitting is continuing to be popular. They would partly be right. The manufacturers and designers however, would not keep selling, and creating if there wasn’t a market to sell these yarns and patterns to. The most likely reason for the continued popularity is that blogging, web communities, discussion groups and podcasting have brought together knitters from all over the world to share photos, discuss the latest patterns, share their discouragements and successes and have the very biggest and ongoing “Show and Tell” possible. This has enabled every knitter to have a new project idea every 15 minutes, driving their desire to build up stash and chat with others about all the possibilities that knitting affords.
This phenomenon is not just on the internet either. Knitting Meetups happen all over the world. Knitting guilds and “Stitch & Bitch” sessions are happening every day in various cities and communities. “Knit & Crochet Outs” and “Knit in Public” days are scheduled annually in cities around the world and tens of thousand attendees are swarming to these events in hopes of seeing what others have done and what is the latest trend. Conferences, knitting camps and cruises are bringing knitters and vendors together in exciting locations which are changing knitters’ vacation spot choices.
Podcasters and bloggers even spurred on others to “Knit for their Country” during the 2006 Olympics and the International Soccer Tournaments, bringing the spirit of competitiveness while spurring on knitters to learn new things and complete projects. (Of course this crowd of folks doesn’t need an excuse to complete a project!)
Knitting Knitalongs and meetups have also sparked knitters to knit for charities and causes. Afghans for Afghans, RedSweaters.org, Premie Caps, Chemo Caps and countless others have brought knitters together to give of their art for helping others and remembrance of their cause.
As the internet continues to mature and the collective intelligence continues to grow, many other hobbies and crafts will continue flourishing because groups of people now have a place and people to engage with and discuss their experiences, keeping these topics fresh and new everyday. Instead of the public relying on books, magazines and trade journals to find out the latest, now Mary in Mississippi can ask Inga in Germany about the latest Herbert Niebling Lace pattern that just showed up on ebay and whether she can help her translate the 1930’s pattern from German to English!
So keep blogging, podcasting and posting your pictures! The more we do, the more opportunities to find to knit on……
What are your thoughts on this subject? I’m interested in your comments.