How the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a global knitting craze

knitting needles and yarn of blue wool sitting on table.

Sarah Marinos

Posted August 20, 2020

Knitting for coronavirus: How the COVID-19 crisis spawned a worldwide knitting craze.

Sarah Jessica Parker, Demi Lovato, Ryan Gosling and Christina Hendricks all have something in common – other than their celebrity status. They’re all keen knitters. Demi Lovato often knits on tour, preferring to reach for her needles rather than her phone to pass the hours between gigs. 

Christina Hendricks was often spotted with her needles and yarn on the set of Mad Men, as was Sarah Jessica Parker during the filming of Sex and the City.

Ryan Gosling discovered knitting while filming a scene with a group of elderly women some years ago. “I was in a room full of old ladies who were knitting and it was an all-day scene, so they showed me how. It was one of the most relaxing days of my life,” he has said of his introduction to knitting.

Knitting has shrugged off its blue-rinse-set image and found favour with creative and crafty millennials. And its popularity has surged since COVID-19, as people look for ways to pass the time at home. 

Volunteer-run community knitting group The Handknitters Guild in Melbourne reports a “huge resurgence of interest” in knitting. 

Social media platforms such as Instagram have also given knitting a boost as people discover the range of looks that can be created with the latest yarns. It has also been reported that US sailors stranded in the Persian Gulf because of the COVID-19 pandemic began a knitting club to cope with the long hours at sea.

Anna Hooper began knitting when she was eight, learning the basics from her paternal grandmother. She dipped in and out of the hobby, but by her late teens it had become a regular way to relax. Now 32, knitting has become Anna’s full-time job since she bought Woolarium yarn shop in Northcote, Melbourne. 

She says demand for yarn, patterns, needles and knitting tips has boomed as more and more people discover the pastime.

“Not many of my friends knitted when I was a teenager but I liked the idea of essentially taking a couple of sticks and some string and being able to make something I could use. That’s still what interests me. There is an architecture to knitting a sock that is quite remarkable,” says Anna. 

“Knitting is relaxing – it forces you to slow down and because you can’t hold your mobile while you knit, it stops the crazy busy-ness that we get stuck in. It’s also rewarding – making something beautiful to wear yourself or to give as a gift is lovely.”

With more people spending time at home with extra hours on their hands, Anna has received a stream of online inquiries and customers who are keen to take up the hobby. Although she has had to suspend hands-on classes due to COVID restrictions, she says they normally attract a wide range of people, from children, to 20 and 30-somethings, to expectant grandparents wanting to create a family heirloom for a first grandchild.   

“It has been crazy during the past few months – there are lots of new knitters who have turned their hand to making blankets, scarves and hats and they are bringing in friends and introducing them to knitting. It’s certainly no longer a hobby just for grandma,” says Anna.

Anna’s top tips for the novice knitter:

  • Start with something simple. A dishcloth isn’t glamorous but it is small and manageable and at the end you’ve achieved something that you can use. A scarf can take a while to grow so it can become frustrating when you are new to knitting. 
  • Chunky yarn isn’t always the way to go. It can be a bit painful on your fingers when you start knitting. Choose a medium yarn – 8 or 10-ply instead. 
  • Don’t be intimidated. At the end of the day, knitting is a mixture of a few stitches and a few different techniques. You can master the basics quite quickly so don’t lose motivation.
  • If you can’t get to a class, learn online.  There are plenty of YouTube tutorials to get you started and help you develop your skills. Anna recommends VeryPink Knits, and Tin Can Knits have a collection of patterns to help people learn to knit – The Simple CollectionWool Baa  offers a range of Learn to Knit videos, while Melbourne Knitting Club connects professional knitters with novices to help teach them the basics.