Happy Birthday, Interweave Knits!
Twenty years is a long time. I was in my first job out of college twenty years ago, and more importantly, I didn’t know how to knit yet! I can’t imagine a life without knitting, but it’s true. Twenty years is an especially long time for a magazine. They come and go, as I’m sure you’ve noticed over the years. But not Interweave Knits! It’s been going strong for all that time, and this Fall 2016 issue is its twentieth-anniversary issue.
It’s really special; just one wonderful design after another. Editor Meghan Babin has done an amazing job on it, and we’re all so proud of her and this issue of Knits.
One of my favorite features are the essays from Interweave founder Linda Ligon and many of the editors of from the last twenty years of Interweave Knits. The one that spoke to me the most was from Pam Allen, who was the editor when I first discovered the magazine. She talks about the emergence of knitting websites, and how the Internet was just poking its head up to introduce itself to knitters.
As an online editor, I found it interesting to take a look back at the beginning of the intersection of the Internet and knitting. Here’s Pam’s essay, interspersed with photos of the gorgeous projects in the fall issue. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Happy Birthday, Interweave Knits
In 2002, when I began my four-year tenure at Interweave Knits, there was no Ravelry. Imagine! If you wanted to learn a knitting technique, you went to the library, a bookstore, a friend, or a local knitting shop for help. If you wanted to be a hand-knitwear designer, your only recourse was to find a magazine or yarn company willing to publish your designs—on paper. It wasn’t easy to break into the field—no Instagram, no Pinterest, no Tumblr, no trendy blogs to speak of. The Knits website was a sleepy affair, with little substantive content.
That was March 2002. But during that year, a quiet revolution was underway. Clara Parkes’s Knitters Review had recently launched, and Amy Singer’s online magazine Knitty was getting off the ground. (We asked Amy to write a regular column for Knits, pointing to new and exciting Internet resources for knitting.)
Knitters began to journal their knitting experiences online, and their blogs proliferated, offering guidance, new techniques, informal patterns, personal stories, and photographs of cats. Bloggers answered questions from knitters who lived halfway around the world or right in the neighborhood, strangers who shared the love of the craft.
Stealthily, and then not so, the Internet became as important a tool for knitters as needles and yarn.
Then came Ravelry, so popular that if you hadn’t joined in the early stages, you were placed on a waiting list. Ravelry offered a place for everything knitting: yarn and pattern reviews, pictures of stashes, forums for those interested in specific yarns, patterns, techniques, designers. If you had a good design, you could bypass the magazines’ curation; you could publish it yourself. The Internet was the vehicle for the democratization of knitting.
But not everyone was ready. In my first year, Knits posted a pattern online for a lovely sweater by Annie Modesitt. Given the page limitations of the magazine, we couldn’t fit both photograph and instructions in the issue. We thought that using our website for overflow was a brilliant solution. Not so. (Or not yet.) Content on the Web upset the readers. No one wanted material pictured inside the magazine but instructions accessible only electronically. Everything should be within the front and back covers of the magazine. A quaint idea these days. By the time I left Knits, online content had become as much a part of life as an email address. No one thought twice about it.
The proliferation of knitting on the Internet has created a resurgence in our ancient craft. It would be rare these days for someone to equate knitting with grandmothers. Because of the Internet, knitting is modern. It belongs to anyone and everyone who loves to make things with yarn and needles. It brings people together because knitters share an interest in texture, color, craft, materials, and that particular pleasure that comes from the feel of needles in hand and the first cast-on stitch. We recognize each other.
So how does a print magazine such as Interweave Knits survive and thrive in a world where instruction, pattern design, inspiration, materials, and commentary are a mere click away?
I could argue the pleasures of paper over screens, but that’s a personal preference. I think what makes magazines as vital as blogs is their broad perspective, one that encompasses more than a single person’s experience and gathers together an ongoing set of articles, profiles, and departments—all of which are elements of knitting’s “circulatory system.” For all the pleasures of visiting the virtual living room of a favorite knitter through her or his blog life, a magazine represents a feast of knitting knowledge and experience, a thoughtfully curated collection of material singled out and highlighted by the editor. Although a blog offers a welcome personal take on knitting, a magazine offers a friendly but objective perspective.
Both are good; both are a pleasure. And both are necessary for the continual
enrichment of the craft we love.
—Pam Allen, Interweave Knits Editor 2002–2007
Isn’t that wonderful? And I have to say I’m grateful that the Internet has made such an impact on our craft, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to talk to you fine people every few days!
If you don’t have your 20th Anniversary Interweave Knits issue yet, get it now. It’s truly an instant classic.
P.S. What was your first foray into the online knitting world? Mine was knitty.com; I was so happy to find it! Leave a comment below and share your experience.