Article about craft meet up groups and asking if its socially acceptable to do needle work in public.
(PS. Crafts based blog possibly coming in the near future)
NOT TOO long ago a family without at least one member who could wield a needle was relatively unheard of. If nothing else, there were things to mend or adjust and no other method of fixing them.
Then, as industry grew and things became cheaper to make and consequently cheaper to buy, it became less important to mend or make your own possessions. So the skills which had been passed down were slowly pushed aside in the majority of households.That is, until more recent times.
In the past five years or so, a variety of old hobbies have resurfaced and are growing in popularity in places where they were long abandoned. People have begun to come together, needles of various shapes and sizes in hand, to share tips, stories and laughter over an ever-growing pattern – and, often, a bottle of wine. Pubs, bars and cafeterias play host to an array of women, and some men, who have taken up the habits of their grandparents, not from necessity but from pure enjoyment of the craft.
Athens is no exception. Indeed, there are two large crafts groups meeting once a month within 500 metres of each other in the centre: Athens Knit & Crochet meets at the Akropol cafe on Mitropoleos Square while Stitch ‘n’ Bitch Athens meets at Cafe Merlin in the Theocharakis Foundation, located on the corner of Vas Sofias Ave and Merlin St.
Although offering a chance to gain some insight into a certain skill or method not yet mastered, these meet-ups don’t offer lessons. Rather, they offer a chance to socialise with like-minded individuals who may otherwise never cross paths.
Dominika, a graphic designer, has been knitting for four years and attending the monthly Athens Knit & Crochet meetings for half that time. “It’s great to get together with people who share your interests, especially for something that doesn’t interest your close friends or your loved ones.”
Other people find working with others very beneficial to their work. “The most important thing for me is that one inspires the other and together we move forward and stay motivated,” says Panayiota, a teacher and cofounder of another craft group, Double Crochets.
For a few individuals, the needlework they do isn’t simply a hobby but can also turn into a career in its own right or be incorporated into other creative forms of expression.
“I use embroidery, weaving and knitting in my own art work. I learned a lot about stitching techniques through observation, reading and visiting museum collections. Art historians consider embroidery a very distinctive, individualistic and highly sophisticated art form,” says Greek British artist Loukia Richards. The founder of the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch Athens group, she has been a needlework fan for most of her life.
“I asked my Greek grandmother to teach me embroidery and knitting when I was twelve years old. I fell in love with embroidery at first sight and as a teenager, I spent many hours working on a huge cross-stitch embroidery that I never finished.”
A question that arises with the growth of crafts group meetings is whether it is socially acceptable to work on a craft in a public space such as a cafe, shop or on public transport. Although traditionally a social activity, today doing needle crafts publicly is unusual and looked on with suspicion. Loukia quickly dismisses this.
“I do not think it is scandalising to knit in public. Women used to meet outside their houses in Greek villages not long ago and do needlework, gossip and have fun together – and in some places they still meet. In May 2011 I organised daily meetings in Coco-Mat stores in Antwerp, Amsterdam (see photo right) and Rotterdam. Everybody could just pop in and do some knitting or embroidery with me. People looked through the shop windows, came in and asked what we were doing. We plan to hold further meetings at Coco-Mat in Amsterdam and Rotterdam in October.”
Architect Sandra Bar, from Germany, agrees: “Why not? Does it bother anybody? Knitting is a craft, so why should you not take it out to the public? I think it is especially good in order to inspire others. I generally receive very positive comments from others.”
Knitting, crochet and embroidery are not the only crafts out there to be gaining in popularity. The making of a variety of other things (including, among others, jewellery, bags, shoes, clothes and crockery) is becoming more common. Websites such as eBay and, more specifically, Etsy are making it easier for people not only to indulge in their hobby but also run a sideline (or even full-time) business selling their creations to those looking for something a little different to what is usually available in shops.
Once curiosity has taken hold and social unease has been set aside, Dominika puts forward a good case to convince those still looking for a reason to cast aside any doubts and get creative.
“People are tired of everything being imported and owning the same things as neighbours or friends. They want something different, something authentic. Handmade things have more value and they make wonderful and personal gifts,” she points out.
An area that is thriving for “crafters” is the wedding and gifts market. Whether it’s something unique for that special someone or a boubouniera (wedding or baptism favour) or invitation card that’s a little different (and perhaps a little cheaper) than the usual, mass-produced items out there, more and more people are turning to home-based creators (or even trying their hand at it themselves) to satisfy their needs.
For items that are just a part of daily life rather than for a special occasion, it’s true that many are a little steep in price. However, considering the one-off status of each piece and the subsequent care the owner will probably give to it, perhaps this is a way out of unnecessary and constant consumerism.
Thread that needle
Below are the main crafts groups active in Athens. It is always best to confirm meeting places and dates in advance
Double Crochets usually meets on Fridays around the Exarcheia district. More info at doublecrochets.blogspot.com
Athens Knit & Crochet
usually meets on the last Tuesday of every month at Akropol cafe on Mitropoleos Sq. More info at http://www.ravelry.com
Stitch ‘n’ Bitch Athens
usually meet once a month at Cafe Merlin in the Theocharakis Foundation (cnr Vas Sofias Ave and Merlin St). More info at http://www.stitchnbitch.org
Athens News 22/Aug/2011 page 34