Fifteen Minutes: And Sew it Goes

Talk of knitting and sewing conjures up images of rocking chairs and bi-focals. But au contraire. Picture the emerging culture
By Juice Fong and Temple W. Simpson

Talk of knitting and sewing conjures up images of rocking chairs and bi-focals. But au contraire. Picture the emerging culture meshing knitting needles and doc martensoan transformation of the art from quilt-covered sofas to dorm rooms. The pearl technique and Singer machines are part of the arts and crafts revolution sweeping the Yard and beyond.

Meet Kim L. Megdanis i00. From her current projects, itis obvious that Megdanis takes her knitting seriously. At work on hats and scarvesopresents for her friends, and including a cap for her boyfriendoMegdanis is weaving her way up from novice status. iI do it for the art,i she explains. This is definitely no amateur.

With only two months of experience under her needles, Megdanis is off to quite the start. Her friend Amy, whom she considers the iGoddess of Knitting,i provided inspiration in the form of a starter kit as a gift. Megdanis took it home for winter break and spent a great deal of time with her grandmother learning, knitting and family bonding. And now, Megdanis already has visions of grandeur including mittens, slippers, blankets and, the pinnacle of the art of knitting, the sweater.

Her beginner status aside, Megdanis uses an astonishing size nine needle. But Megdanis says sheis seen even bigger. iThe biggest Iive seen is Amyis, a size 11.i Although the massive nature makes the tools intriguing, Megdanis was quick to point out that iitis scary looking.i As far as needle selection goes, the size can be misleading. iLength doesnit have as much to do with it,i she explains. iItis usually width.i However, she does point out that iweight is generally the same.i A biological anthropology concentrator, Megdanis notices that beginners tend to have a itightnessi problemotheir stitches are too close together forcing their finished products to curve in weirdly. Luckily for Megdanis, her experienced grandmother taught her the ropes, so she has been loose from the get go. iSome peopleis are tighter than others. All new stitchers are usually too tight. But over time they learn to loosen up,i Megdanis assures.

Sewersi needles sadly lose in the size contest. Erica M. Waddell i03, a master of the stitch, said sewers can only boast an average needle of one and half inches, and conceded the knowledge about this sensitive topic. iLength is important, but itis not that important. Endurance and stamina have a lot to do with it.i Despite struggling with diminutive stature, sewers do have some kinky benefits and greater range. Waddell speaks with great pride about the fur underwear and latex boxers she has made.

Waddell may be the closest thing to the Sammy Sosa of the textile industry. Walking around muttering iI sew because I am,i the clinical term for such people is usually nuts. But she would probably consider herself more obsessed.

The boob tube, usually blamed for inciting mayhem and pyromania, also provided Waddellis sewing inspiration. iI was watching a Garbage video on MTV and I really liked Shirley Mansonis dress. Then I turned to my mom and said, eI want to learn how to sew.i She pretty much taught me everything from there.i At the tender age of 13 she was hooked. And sheis never turned back. Her average daily schedule goes something like this: iI sew for about two hours a day, everyday. My personal record was 12 straight hours of sewing. I sew womenis clothes, menis clothes, underwear, anything. I donit use patterns. I can do muumuus. Right now, Iim doing costumes.i During the entire description of her typical day, nowhere did she mention eating or bathroom breaks.

Undeniably, Waddell has strong feelings about her sewing. iI use a basic Kenmore sewing machine that has no name but has a sticker on it that says, eI love my dementia.i I have a Singer at home. It feels like driving a car. It has about 480 horsepower, like a Lexus. I could give you a tour if you want to. Oh yeah, itis a her.i Regarding the oppression of fabric she says, ithread is born free and lives free. If you hold up a piece of fabric it just takes the shape it should be.i

She channels this passion positively, with plans to create her own concentration, fashion and taste, and insists that iit is happening.i One day she hopes to be known as ithe Goddess of Design.i But for right now, sheis creating costumes for the Dunster House Opera and making her own clothes with the help of her assistant, A. Helena Jonsson i03, a fellow sewing fanatic. Every few weeks or so, Waddell hauls her eclectic range of finished products to the Garment District in Central Square, where she can hawk her wares. At an average cost of about $30, Erica sells about half of what she brings to the exchange. Erica insists that she has no emotional attachment to her clothes. iAfter Iive sold them, itis all done.i But beyond the cash flow, sewing has other appealing qualities. iItis an outlet. I really enjoy it. Itis something I donit have to think about. I just pick up my needle and go,i Waddell gushes.Her desire for design and sewing runs in the family. iMy great-grandmother was a bad-ass freestyle sewer,i Waddell boasts. And her mother jumped at the opportunity to pass on all she knew about sewing. Similarly, Megdanisis family has been crucial to her relationship with knitting. Over winter break she seized the opportunity to learn about needles and yarn while chatting away with her grandmother next to a cozy fire.

Individuals have come to sew and knit on their own, but the social side of crafts also adds to the thread and yarn sceneoa virtual knitting and sewing subculture. Rumors floated about a group called iStitch and Bitchi in Leverett. Donna R. Winston i01 admits to taking part in an inebriated knitting bee. iKnitting is relaxing as is drinking,i she explains about the combination event. iIive also thought of knitting something and then going out wearing it.i Although this fusion of wool and alcohol only happened once, Donna plans on forming a more regular group of knitters that would meet in Adams House.

For those interested in joining the knitting movement, Woolcott & Co.oconveniently located next to the Grilleospecializes in needle necessities. They offer hundreds of varieties of yarn, patterns, the full range of needles and anything else a beginner might need, including in-store demos and private lessons for the more ambitious. Carol Gonzalez, a Woolcott & Co. salesperson, says she senses that knitting is catching on with todayis youth. iI see a lot of kids and even a fair amount of men.i She recommends starting with a scarf that requires just a few balls of yarn and a pair of needles. From there, young knitters can move on to more difficult pieces, like socks and sweaters, and truly take advantage of the Knitters magazine subscriptions, also available at the store.

Everybodyis doing it. This once underground arts and crafts scene has finally hit the mainstream. With people whipping out their needles in lecture and rehearsal, soon everyone will realize a stitch is a cinch.