By Mary Heyl

This year, make a resolution to engage your creative side and meet some new friends by taking up a new hobby: knitting! Whether you’re an experienced knitter, have dabbled with knitting in the past, or are totally new to knitting, winter is the perfect time to enjoy this relaxing yet productive pastime. Learn how to knit yourself a beautiful, one-of- a-kind garment, make heartfelt gifts for family and friends, and even knit to give back to the community!

Why spend hours learning how to make something that you could easily buy in a department store? In a world that is constantly moving toward the future with faster, more efficient technology, there just doesn’t seem to be a place for something as leisurely and time-consuming as knitting. However, the stress of fast-paced modern living is perhaps the best reason to take the time to learn this purposely low-tech hobby.

A 2016 New York Times article entitled “The Health Benefits of Knitting” cites many reasons knitting is good for your physical and mental well-being. The repetitive motion of knitting is meditative and has been shown to reduce chronic stress and its symptoms, such as high blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. Those who suffer from arthritis often find that knitting keeps stiff, sore joints flexible.

Many benefit from the inner satisfaction that knitting brings, as well as the social interaction of knitting in classes and social groups. Learning how to knit forms new pathways in the brain, which can benefit those who suffer from depression, but also prevents cognitive decline, including dementia.

So what do you need to get started? Knitting has come a long way from your grandmother’s long aluminum knitting needles and stiff acrylic afghan yarn! Many beginners like to get started with a pair of bamboo knitting needles, as these aren’t as slippery or awkward to hold. A middle-of- the-road needle size that’s not too small and not too big is a must: consider using a US size 8 (5 millimeter) needle. Next, you’ll need a smooth, medium weight yarn (called “worsted weight”) in a color that you love, but not a dark color that’s difficult to see. Many beginners get started with a small basic project in a washable, wool-blend yarn or cotton yarn that allows you to practice the knit stitch over and over, such as a scarf or dishcloth.

Knitting supplies are available at most craft stores, and your LYS—your “local yarn shop” where you can get individualized attention, help with your knitting, and advice from someone who has many years of experience. Local yarn shops often offer a variety of knitting classes for those who want to learn how to knit and experienced knitters who want to learn something new.

Yarn for Ewe, located at 129 Main Street in Randolph, offers ongoing weekly knitting classes that new students can join any time. Whether you’ve never picked up a pair of needles or have been knitting for years but want to learn how to make socks, sweaters, and other advanced projects, these classes are for you. Weekly classes meet on Thursday and Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon and Thursday nights from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Everyone is working on different projects in these weekly classes, so bring whatever you’re working on or come on in to get started on your first project. Special classes are taught on Saturday afternoons from 1 to 3 p.m., when you can learn how to make a specific project that everyone in the class is making, such as Norwegian Fair Isle mittens, beaded fingerless gloves, and a lace cowl. To learn more about Yarn for Ewe’s knitting classes, call (716)267-2070 and check out Yarn for Ewe on Facebook.

Knitting is a great way to meet new people and form new friendships. Laura Flanagan, director of the Ellicottville Memorial Library, invites experienced knitters and newbies alike to join their weekly knitting group. Flanagan explained, “People bring whatever they’re working on and everyone gets new ideas for their knitting. Although it’s not a class where we teach you how to knit, everyone is willing to help you. The more the merrier!”

The library’s knitting group meets every Monday and alternates evening and afternoons: on Jan. 23, the group meets from 2 to 4 p.m. and on Jan. 30, the group meets from 6 to 8 p.m. “We have a great time,” said Flanagan, “especially in the evenings when we sit in the comfy chairs by the fireplace!” To learn more, stop by the Ellicottville Memorial Library at 6499 Maples Road or call 699-2842.

Stay tuned to the Ellicottville Times and learn more about how you can use your knitting to give back to your local community and take part in national and international knitting charities!