A look at the resurgence of a classic hobby

These days, we are surrounded by gizmos that beep, ring, flash and vibrate. Cell phones, computers, PDAs, iPods and handheld games are everywhere.

Knitting defies the current obsession with all things "techie." Isn't it nice to know we can pick up our knitting and withdraw from all that for awhile? Immerse ourselves in the gentle clicking of the needles, the tactile warmth of the yarn, the comforting repetition of making the stitches.

Ahhh, now that's relaxing.

There is no doubt that the craft of knitting is currently experiencing a surge in popularity. Those who knit describe it as an enjoyable, calming and stress-reducing pastime. The skill can span years of a person's life - you might have learned how to knit as a youngster, then picked it up again in your teens, then gone back to it in your 30s.

Exciting aspects of knitting in the 21st century include the wealth of supplies and variability of yarns and materials available. Manufacturers produce all kinds of knitting needles, including standard metal knitting needles and smooth bamboo needles. There are even knitting needles that light up on the pointed ends! There are circular needles, straight needles and double pointed needles, all available in differing lengths and colors.

And, oh, the yarns! There are exotic fibers, natural fibers, cashmere, silk and cottons. There are variegated yarns and funky textured yarns. Ribbon yarns offer a certain fascination and uniqueness to the finished product that we knitters love. Single color, two-color and multi-color yarns are available.

Stripes and hand-dyed yarns are becoming quite popular when you want to make a one-of-a-kind shawl, sweater or even a purse.

Countless knitting techniques exist and explanations for them can be found on the Internet. In particular, there are different cast-on and cast-off (also known as bind-off) techniques. In terms of stitches, the possibilities are endless: stockinette stitch, seed stitch, garter stitch and yarnover, just to name a few.

Increasing or decreasing stitches are particularly useful techniques to know when knitting various articles. Picking up stitches or doing short wrap rows are other knitting techniques to use. Learning how to "carry" yarns of various colors for a single project yields very exciting and colorful results.

Knitting deserves its recent resurgence in popularity - it's a fantastic hobby that brings hours of personal enjoyment and satisfaction. Because of the array of supplies and yarns, no two projects have to be alike. Explore the craft of knitting and experience for yourself its capacity to bring calm, comfort, and joy into your life.

By Rita Chaney