By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Feb 20, 2004 at 5:25 AM

{image1}It's been said that knitting is the new yoga. Although it won't limber your legs so they bend behind your head, it is relaxing and it might even bring clarity to your mind and life.

"There's definitely been a resurgence of knitters," says Lori Ahrenhoerster, who recently started an online business selling knitted and crocheted scarves called Scarves By Friends. "It seems like everywhere I go, I see someone knitting."

Ahrenhoerster, a stay-at-home-mom who lives in Whitefish Bay, started knitting as a kid, but then picked up the needles again this past fall. And, pardon the pun, but she's been hooked ever since.

She started the business with seven other women, three of whom she has never met in person, but chats with regularly through a private e-mail group called "Cheapskates" that informs one another about on-line bargains.

The other scarf-making friends live all over the country but, thanks to the Internet, can easily maintain a personal and business relationship with one another. Cindy Arnold lives in Lawrenceville, Ga; Laurie Formichella in Gloucester, Mass.; Jennifer Mack in Lee's Summit, Miss.; Cecilia Miller in Jacksonville, Fla.; Barbara Moreda in Dayton, Ohio; Norma Paulin in Brookings/Harbor, Ore.; Daron Quinlan in Dunnigan, Calif.; Starlene Stewart, Maricopa, Ariz. and Michelle Atkins, who also lives in Whitefish Bay.

Atkins originally suggested the business. "I laughed at first, but then I posted Michelle's idea on Cheapskates, and a lot of people thought it was a good idea," says Ahrenhoerster, a former science teacher. "So then I thought maybe it wasn't as foolish as I originally thought."

The site launched on February 1, and instantly sold three scarves. These are not the bulky striped mufflers that you find in thrift store bins either. They range from cute and colorful to fuzzy and funky to sleek and sophisticated.

All of Scarves By Friends' products can be special ordered and custom made, and people living in the Milwaukee area can contact Ahrenhoerster to view them before purchasing. They come in an array of colors, patterns, lengths, widths and styles, and cost between $20 and $30.

"I make about one scarf a week right now, and it takes me about three to five hours per scarf," says Atkins. "I will certainly make more as business picks up."

Aside from the entrepreneurial aspects of knitting, many women -- and more and more men -- are attracted to the intergenerational aspect of the hobby.

"I really like the idea of passing on the tradition of making things my daughters will have forever and teaching them the joy of knitting," says Jennifer Lucas, who was taught to knit by her grandmother.

Lucas is a member of a knitting circle that involves six women who get together once a month to hook and chat.

"We talk about everything, but mostly reflect on our week and catch up with people we haven't seen in a while," says Lucas. "Lots of discussion about our children, we all have kids, and what's going on at school or with home schooling."

Similar circles have popped up in numerous Milwaukee neighborhoods, including a "Stitch 'n Bitch" group that existed in Riverwest.

People knit for all different reasons, but the most popular reasons seem to be because it's relaxing and creative. "It makes me feel like I'm doing something productive while I'm watching TV," says Atkins, who is applying to UWM's post-baccalaureate program to get certified to teach elementary school. "I also like it because it results in something beautiful but also practical."

And knitting may even encourage children to develop important physical and emotional skills. Waldorf schools across the country have routinely included knitting in their curriculum for years.

According to Marsha Duncan, who teaches knitting to first through fifth graders at the Waldorf-inspired Tamarack School, 1150 E. Brady St., knitting can improve motor skills, dexterity, confidence, patience and perseverance.

“Handwork is the foundation for thinking,” says Duncan, who has been knitting for 15 years. “Working with your hands truly does develop activity in the brain. There is a connection.”

Plus, she says, "It teaches kids about the world and educates them as consumers. They learn that clothing doesn’t just appear in Gap bags. It’s made by someone … (Knitting) helps them not to take things for granted.”

For anyone interested in learning the art of knitting or crocheting, Ahrenhoerster suggests Ruhama's, 420 E. Silver Spring Dr. "I hold them personally responsible for my addiction," she jokes.

Ruhama's offers a variety of introductory knitting classes, as well as more advanced workshops that teach sweater, afghan and mitten making. Most of the classes are $35.

"Style-wise we are reaching a point where people want the unique," says Ahrenhoerster. "We are looking for things that are handmade, more natural, and are getting away from things that are mass produced."

For yarn-ific shopping, go to

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.