By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some of us have had to get creative over the past two years, for our minds and for our sanity.

One hobby that has exploded in popularity amidst the pandemic is knitting. According to Forbes, the company We are Knitters has seen a 75% increase in people ordering products.

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It’s a hobby many of us associate with grandmothers. But Minnesota has a growing group of men who love to knit.

(credit: CBS)

They all have their projects, and they all have their reasons.

“For me it’s a creative outlet,” Bill Matey said.

“It’s a great social outlet. You’re coming to a like community of people who are all excited about what they’re working on and what they are doing,” Carlos Rodriguez said.

“I love all the color that I get to play with and the amount of individuality I can put into my projects,” Anderson said.

And like every project, they all had a starting point.

“I actually started knitting when I was about 6 years old,” Matey said. “My mother was a knitter and I watched her do it and she showed me how and so that’s kind of where I started.”

“I taught myself basically when I was trying to quit smoking and it was a way for me to keep my hands busy,” Rodriguez said. “I haven’t smoked since. 20 years now.”

It’s an art form that can be healthy and healing.

“When my mom passed away, I inherited all of her stuff. With the use of YouTube, I watched a bunch of videos on how to knit,” Katzenberger said.

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He has since become advanced, creating patterns and selling his work to people around the country. He says it feels like a connection to his mom.

“I mean, I still have some of her needles,” he said.

For many, fiber arts are associated with mothers and grandmothers.

“When I was 7, 8, 10 years old and going to a yarn shop and normally the thing would be do you have a list, a note from your mom to pick up what she needs,” Matey said.

Matey is advanced, too. He’s currently creating a freehand sweater without any seams.

“All of the sudden they started taking me a bit more seriously,” Matey said. “Yeah he’s not just here to pick up women or whatever it was that they thought I was there to do.”

But Matey says patterns are changing. The men are all part of the Twin Cities Men’s Knitting Club, with more than 60 members.

“It was nice to meet other guys who were really excited about yarn and textile creation and the different things you can do with it, with color work,” Rodriguez said.

While the pandemic prompted many to give it a shot, so did a gold medal-winning Olympian who knitted between dives.

“Definitely saw an upsurge in the interest of men getting into knotting because of Tom Daly,” Rodriguez said. “Breaking that stigma to think that it’s really something that only a woman would like to do. It’s actually very therapeutic.”

And as it turns, it’s not just about the lines they knit, it’s about the circles they create.

“You’re creating the fiber but you’re also creating the relationships and friendships of the group,” Rodriguez said.

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Men’s Knitting Club Twin Cities has an active group on Facebook. They meet up regularly at coffee shops, breweries and yarn shops.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield