I'd taken a knitting class a few years ago, but never got much practice.

I'd taken a knitting class a few years ago, but never got much practice. It was hard to actually make anything when my only pair of knitting needles were routinely stolen by my sons for use as Ninja hand spikes. Lately, though, I'm really getting into it again.

Knitting seems to be increasing in popularity. Karen Cipes, a sales associate and teacher at The Webster's yarn store on the plaza, says she's noticed more interest in the craft lately.

"It happens in cycles. I think it's becoming OK to do it in public, knit with your friends and even have a drink," she said.

Indeed, knitting is becoming more of a social sport, and there are a number of knitting clubs in town.

Stitch 'n Bitch is a popular name for the fast-growing groups of knitters and crocheters who get together on a regular basis to knit and, er, chat. For appetizers or a martini with your knitting, Tease Restaurant hosts a Stitch 'n Bitch night every Monday at 7:30 p.m. Tease's website says only to bring your knitting and the gift of gab. There are also several informal stitch 'n bitch groups that pop up at cafes and bars in town, including a new group for beginners that meets most Sundays at 5 p.m. at Standing Stone Brewing Company.

Carla Anderson, who hosts the Standing Stone gathering says she enjoys knitting groups.

"Knitting with other people is fun and sort of old-timey. It's a different way to connect with people and it's nice because you can include your kids and they can learn with you or they can play. Either way, everyone has a good time," she said.

There are two other groups, more gently named, who meet at Webster's. The Sit-n-Stitch group meets most Sundays from 2:00 to 4:00, and Friday Night Stitching meets from 7:00 to 9:00. Webster's also offers knitting classes, drop-in advice sessions, and loads of yarn, patterns, and knitting gear.

Karen Cipes says the groups often appeal to those who are new to the craft.

"It's great to knit and talk with people. You can get quick tips and enjoy a night out with the girls," she said.

Cipes added that she did not know of any men's knitting groups.

"We try to get men here. I know there are men who knit, but they don't seem to get together, they aren't doing it in public," said Cipes.

For beginners, Cipes says nothing beats a few hands-on lessons. She recommends taking a class or enlisting the help of a knitting friend.

"I think people should definitely take a beginner's class for the fundamentals. Then, practice, practice." she said.

As with most everything, it's helpful to have some good books on the topic. Cipes recommends the following knitting books for beginners:

"Stitch 'n Bitch: The Knitters Handbook" by Debbie Stoller. The book includes easy-to-follow instructions that teach knitting basics, knitting patterns and advice for starting your own knitting group. "The Knitting Experience: Book 1" by Sallie Melville. Cipes said this is a good basic book for beginning knitters. It has step-by-step photographs and lots of details. "Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book" by Vogue Magazine Editors: This one is a great reference guide. It is loaded with easy illustrations and easy-to-read diagrams. The cross references on each page and color-coded chapters make it easy to find whatever you are looking for.

If you are at all interested, grab some yarn, join a group, and give knitting a try. On winter evenings there is a lot of joy to be had in making something with your own hands, and in sharing that joy with friends.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at decker4@gmail.com.