When one of the oldest of old-school trends reared its warm and woolly head in 2000, no one was ready for the swarms of hot urban goddesses, tatted arms swinging and tattered Pumas, Fluevogs and Chucks keepin' rhythm to the clicks of the needles, the sway of the conversation and the chill indie noise.
Whether it's a take-it-back feminist bent, a throwback to what your foremothers taught ya, or just a way to keep your fingers busy and your neck warm, knitting groups have popped up across urban landscapes in almost every shape and form. So what else is there for these quietly creative, urban trendistas to do but pick up some yarn and get to it?
The usual meeting spot for these tatted tatters, the independent urban café, thrives on its ability to serve an indelible slice of its local community along with some killer brew. Chicano Perk is a warm sunny alcove that boasts a lush patio and a cozy interior full of locally handmade goods. The kind barista explains that local means both San Diego and Tijuana and presents the drink of choice, a Mexi-Mocha teaming with sizzling chocolate and spice.
Sandra Sarmiento sits outside in a group of about a dozen. One of the girls has just finished her first piece, a fuzzy cobalt scarf, which the young son of the barista adeptly models, wrapping it around his small head and dining on cookies and whipped cream straight from the can. Sarmiento shows her how to finish off the end of the scarf while the latter beams, "The meetings really helped me to commit to the project and finish it."
Sarmiento and arts activist Victor Payan started The Craft Cartel sewing circle in September after Sarmiento moved here from Orange County to work on the Latino Film Festival. Sarmiento talks about the original circle she started and ran for two years up north, while she adds patches to a small quilt. "It's a girl's baby blanket," she explains. "My friend travels the world doing documentaries, so these are all the little girls of the world." She points out all the countries represented by little girls on a soft, red-checked fabric.
"I think the resurgence of knitting and craftiness stems from the DIY aesthetic, kind of a punk spin on the '70s back-to-earth movement," she asserts. "I learned to quilt five or six years back to do a piece on the AIDS project and picked up stitching from there. There's a physical... almost a synapse change when you are doing detail work with your hands. It's this repetitive, meditative aspect of knitting and other thread arts that offers a therapeutic effect."
Sarmiento and Payan's interest in the importance of textile arts speaks to its ability to translate personal experience into something soulful and shared.
Case in point: In early 1930s Los Angeles, a young girl is sent to detention for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance and for speaking in her native Mexican tongue. She complies, with her crochet piece in tow-just a young girl, creating something with needle and thread. The crocheted piece will read "Viva Mexico." A lifetime later her grandson, Victor Payan, will help promote a group of "Crafty Chamacas," otherwise known as the "Craft Cartel." Payan's mother will be demonstrating crochet techniques at upcoming meetings.
Sarmiento was originally taught the art of knitting by her grandmother in Bolivia and is currently working on a way to share knowledge and grow that integral human connection with older residents who frequent the Sherman Heights Community Center. Beyond the intergenerational attributes, Sarmiento also points out that it's a healthy response to the mass-produced mall-foisted trends that don't fit people's individual styles.
To join the meeting, all you'll need to bring are knitting needles and yarn.
The Craft Cartel meets every first Sunday of the month at Chicano Perk, 129 25th St. in Barrio Logan. 619-702-5414 or email@example.com.