A quick look through Ella Emhoff’s oeuvre surfaces impeccably knit self-portraits, dog sweaters, rugs that span entire floors, and knit canvases that recreate elaborate tablescapes of food. Emhoff’s fierce attachment to the craft and contagious eye for the kooky have made her a something of a knitting diplomat. One might assume that her process begins with the intense solitude of an artist tucked away in their studio, but friends who have joined her in her practice know that is far from the truth.
“I’ve always really loved working with other people," says Emhoff. "During school, my friends and I would always work together in the studios, and it made working fun and also weirdly easy to concentrate." As Emhoff’s former roommates Fifi Hodgkinson and Irene Hayes remember, Emhoff encouraged them to join her in knitting, a hobby they had each adopted at an early age but were thrust back into by Emhoff’s obvious enthusiasm.
Drawing from the communal experience and whimsy she has cultivated with the craft, Emhoff had the idea of starting a knitting club fully open to the public, to share her knowledge and passion for the medium. Thus, Soft Hands Knit Club was born. Last night marked the inaugural session at The Standard, East Village’s NO BAR, just a few blocks walk from Parsons School of Design, where Emhoff got her arts degree.
Guests walked in to find balls of yarn on each table, all of which had been collected by the artist over the years, and that she wanted to share with the group as a token of welcome, both to the club and the knitting practice. Emhoff gathered the attendees, who were enjoying snacks and drinks by Ghia, for a demonstration on how to knit with giant knitting needles and yarn, making it easy for everyone to understand the exact steps of her process.
“I still make an effort to have studio days with my friends, and this just feels like an extension of that," says the artist. As for the club’s future, Emhoff shares, “I want to mold and change it with how I’m feeling and how the people attending are feeling. That being said, I would like to expand it so more people can come and more yarn is donated and more people are knitting.” This first iteration has left her feeling "hopeful."
“Knitting and textile art in general has and always will be a therapeutic practice for me. I treat it as something to calm my anxiety, it just happens to be something that I’m also very creatively passionate about," shares Emhoff. "I feel very lucky that I’m able to mix what keeps me feeling centered and grounded as a human with my career. This is something I’ve been working on my whole life. I’ve never really had a physical community [to knit with]. Watching people do what I love to do and feeling that excitement was insane."