At Vogue Knitting Live, a yarn industry expo in Manhattan this past January, Newtown resident Linda Zemba Burhance taught an 8-hour session on arm knitting.
“I noticed that anybody, of any age or gender, seemed interested and could learn it quickly. It’s multigenerational and gender neutral,” Ms Burhance said of the ages-old knitting technique that has seen a resurgence in the craft.
Ms Burhance, a knitwear designer and fashion design graduate of Marist College in New York, has been in the yarn industry for nearly three decades. A national design award winner, her work has appeared in several fashion shows and on television. She has worked as a Fashion Editor for both Susan Bates and Phildar yarn companies, and has produced pattern books for Plymouth. Her original patterns have appeared in national magazines.
Currently, Ms Burhance is an apparel designer, specializing in knits.
“I own my own apparel development company, and consult business-to-business for producing apparel such as medical apparel, activewear, seamless knitwear, and compression garments,” she said.
Arm knitting, however, is something she learned as a child.
“I can’t even remember, now, if it was in Girl Scouts, or if my grandmother taught me to arm knit,” she said. When she saw that Vogue Knitting Live was seeking instructors for the January event, she was eager to share her experience.
The technique is simple, and precisely what the name implies. A person’s arms take the place of knitting needles, looping yarn about the arm and pulling the loop through to make a stitch. With arm knitting, the craft is literally in the hands of the creator.
“Everyone’s arms are different sizes, so you really get a custom size, just measuring as you go. It’s a stress-free, no needle form of knitting,” Ms Burhance said.
When she saw the excitement that arm knitting generated in participants at Vogue Knitting Live, she realized she could pass on her knowledge in an easy to follow booklet.
“Arm knitting is one of the original methods for knitting,” explained Ms Burhance, and she is pleased to be able to share the process, in detail, in her new book, Arm Knitting: Chunky cowls, scarves, and other no-needle knits, from the Thread Selects series published by Taunton Press in Newtown. Available at amazon.com as of April 15, Arm Knitting is a 24-page paperback of instructions and photographs for 12 arm knitting designs. The designs, Ms Burhance said, have appeal for knitters of all levels.
“Typically, arm knitting is used to make cowls and scarves. It’s a loose sort of knitting that anyone can master,” said Ms Burhance, who is confident that experienced knitters will also find inspiration in the book, in the more challenging design patterns.
Bulky or fibrous yarns produce the best results, but any yarns will work, “if you know how,” she said — and she is happy to share that secret within the pages of Arm Knitting.
The renewed interest in this ancient technique, Ms Burhance believes, arises out of people’s frustrations with a decade of touching hard technology, such as cell phones, iPads, and computer key boards.
“[Arm knitting] is a chance to create something tactile, textural, and soft. In the end, you have a 3D object, instead of a virtual reality,” she said. “I think that young people have caught on to it through YouTube and viral videos, too,” Ms Burhance said.
In a world where so many are pressed for time, it is a creative outlet that is quick. It does not take long for even a novice knitter to learn the technique, she said, and most projects can be completed within 30 minutes. Items such as the cowls and scarves take only one or two balls of yarn, making arm knitting an economical hobby, as well.
Arm Knitting provides complete patterns, as well as color suggestions. “You can certainly choose your own colors, though,” Ms Burhance said. “With arm knitting, you are the designer.”