Purls of Wisdom

August 24, 2004

It began as a healthy curiosity. Anna Eady read a knitting article in a magazine, ran out for needles and yarn and spent several weeks creating her first scarf. Then she made a skinny one -- then fringed, then furry, then fuzzy. 
And that's when knitting became an obsession for her, says Eady, BA '97, who is among a growing number of younger women who have fallen in love with their grandmothers' pastime. 
"It kind of reminds me of hearing about the old quilting bees, where they would sit around and basically just talk. It was a social time for them," she says. "For us, it's not a necessity anymore. Now it just falls under hobby." 
Eady, an artist who lives in Waco, is sharing what she's learned about knitting from relatives and books with a small group of women that meets in her home twice a month for tea and lessons. 
She began the group in January because friends -- including a few Baylor alumnae -- begged her to teach them. "I told them, 'It will be hard, it will be challenging and it will be frustrating. But you just have to keep on,'" she says. 
She reminds them that small flaws simply add to the character of the items. "If you wanted something perfect, you could go buy it machine-made. Hand-knits are going to have that organic feel, because it's not going to be perfect," she says.
Today's knitters aren't just sticking to scarves, nor are they stuck with old-fashioned patterns or coarse yarn, says Eady, who often scouts out yarn stores when she travels. Wools, silks, cottons, rayons and baby-soft cashmeres can be fashioned into shawls, ponchos and even string bikinis.
"I generally try to mix it up, so I don't get bored," Eady says. At any one time, she's got several bags filled with different projects, some for herself, some for others. This summer, she launched an online store, where people can order her knits, including off-the-shoulder shawls, retro headscarves and baby hats. 
Martha Hopkins, BA '93, joined the knitting group primarily for the female camaraderie -- an element lacking in her career as a partner in a small publishing company, where she's the only woman and frequently works alone. 
"I used to work in an office with about 30 other women doing cookbooks. When I started my own business ... it was such an adjustment," Hopkins says. "I was definitely missing out on regular girl talk."
Responsibilities for the group members are few, Hopkins says. "Nobody feels any pressure to dress up. Nobody feels any pressure to act a certain way," she says. "You just show up with your yarn."
Carly Engibous, BA '00, MA '03, says she relishes her knitting nights away from family responsibilities. "You get us all together and we're just silly girls again, laughing and giggling. It's a great escape for me. I live in a house with two boys," she jokes, referring to her husband and their 2-year-old son, "so it's really nice to go and sit with girly-girls, drink tea and knit." 

Anna Eady recommends the following stores, Web sites and books for those who yearn for yarn:

  • The Quarter Stitch, New Orleans
  • Yarniverse, Memphis, Tenn.
  • Hand Held, Fayetteville, Ark.
  • Knit Happens, Alexandria, Va.
  • Desert Designs Knitz, Dallas 
    (972) 392-9276