On Wednesday nights, a sassy crew of Hampden hipsters gets together in the basement of Atomic Books and chats about politics, Netflix, belly dancing, real estate, feline care, Jude Law and hair color. Every once in a while the conversation moves to their real purpose for gathering - knitting.
For the past three years, Atomic Books owner Rachel Whang has invited anyone and everyone with an itch to stitch into her store for knitting night.
A core group of women in their late 20s to early 30s shows up regularly with bags of yarn and needles. Men do come from time to time, but it is mostly a crew of boisterous women who laugh and banter while their fingers move swiftly over spun wool.
"It makes something that could be a solitary activity social," said Sara Davis, 25, who was squished into a comfy chair knitting a cotton throw rug. She likes how the women will swap yarns, share patterns and help one another learn new stitches.
Knitting became trendy a few years ago when such stars as Julia Roberts were spotted clicking needles on movie sets. Trends in La La Land have shifted (having children seems to be the thing now), but the wake of this fashion left pods of knitters dedicated to the craft.
Meetup.com, a Web site that links people geographically who share interests, lists 153 social knitters in Baltimore. Several local stores sponsor learn-to-knit classes, and there is a cluster of yarn shops in the area.
And members of the Hampden group are quite talented. Woven between the dish sessions are discussions about difficult patterns and new projects. One woman has become known for her knitted socks. Another, having already completed what she estimated to be 4 billion hats, is moving on to felted purses. And one person knitted a wedding veil for her sister.
The Hampden knitters also say these evening sessions have helped define their experience of living in this city.
"I didn't feel like it was really my home before I started knitting," said Lynda Del Genis, who had two knitting needles stuck in her thick hair.
She likes that the core group of knitters have become fast friends. They know each other's boyfriends and cats. And several came dressed to hit Shanta night at Red Maple after knitting.
"I was intimidated by knit night," laughed Amy LePerle, 30, recalling the first time she poked her head in. The rowdy group scared her off at first, but she persuaded a fellow knitter to go with her again (strength in numbers) and now says it was "the best thing we ever did - well, not the best, but one of the top 10."
The group meets from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Wednesday. On the first Wednesday of every month, they meet at Golden West Cafe, 1105 W. 36th St. On all other Wednesdays they meet at Atomic Books, 1100 W. 36th St. Call 410-662-4444 or visit www.atomicbook s.com.
For club events, see Page 31.