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In Bushwick, young people find community in a knitting circle

On a recent December night, a group of two dozen 20-somethings gathered at a coffee shop in Bushwick for their knitting and crochet circle.

“I’m probably doing a bookmark for my dad for Christmas,” said 24-year-old Crasianne Tirado.

Marco Michel, 23, was also crocheting a gift: a handcrafted beanie.

“One day, my goal is to have a closet of all clothes I handmade,” she said.

The group was gathered around a tiny table in the back corner of a coffee shop called Nook. One member was making a funky scarf. Another was hard at work on a striped hat.

For many, the “Magic Circle” is about so much more than fiber arts — it’s a way to make New York City feel a little smaller, a little more like home.

Raul Taunay, a 26-year-old member, moved to Bushwick last summer. When he walked past Nook, he was enticed by the motley crew of young knitters.

He had never knit before, so he spent the weekend shopping for yarn and browsing YouTube tutorials.

A year later, despite moving to Bed-Stuy, he still returns most Mondays. He said it’s to see the people.

“Everyone’s super friendly — and everyone’s soft, just like the yarn,” he said.

Gillian Harrill, 23, spent the night crocheting a sweater, complete with a colorful spiral which she fondly referred to as a “cyclops eye.”

She said that her generation — and modern society in general — is missing a third place that isn’t just home or work.

“For some people, that’s a gym or a bar, but I think this is another really healthy way to express yourself and learn a new skill while also making new friends,” said Harrill.

Her interest in crocheting began during the pandemic, when the trend exploded across social media, as many in Gen-Z moved away from fast fashion and sought activities they could do at home.

She, too, taught herself by watching videos online.

Still, she prefers the company of others.

“After a while you’re like, OK, I kind of want to share this with someone.”

The group was founded in February 2021 by Rosie Reyes, a 27-year-old with a silver septum piercing and tooth gems, who said she started the club due to her own post-pandemic loneliness when she was working at Nook.

“In our generation or community, anywhere you look, there were always people saying they were feeling really lonely,” she said.

She knew a weekly meetup would encourage even introverts to unite rather than knit “forever alone.”

Since their first meeting, the group has more than doubled. Reyes said Magic Circle represents a new demographic of crafters: Young adults who taught themselves through social media.

For most of the evening, she hovered at the front table, scanning the room for late arrivals and newcomers, who she greeted with a cheerful hello and offered a seat with the crew.

“I’m here every week, and I still see that person that comes here alone and think that is the bravest thing you can do,” Reyes said.

Magic Circle is part of a bigger trend among young adults in Brooklyn, particularly in Bushwick – who are seeking out in-person engagement after decades on digital devices and a pandemic shutdown.

Another popular new spot for IRL activity is Ridgewood’s “experiential hub” Woodbine, which is geared towards progressive-minded locals interested in enjoying a weekly group dinner.

Bushwick’s Mayday Space is another example. It’s a home for “radical ideas and debate” and encourages activism through community events, including film screenings and fundraisers.

For art lovers, Studio 45 is the go-to gathering for zine-crafting nights and art workshops. Writing groups, chess clubs and comedy troupes also meet at Nook.

What’s old is new again.

“In the 1950s and 1960s, sewing circles were a major form of social club in American suburbs,” NYU sociology professor Paul DiMaggio wrote in an email to Gothamist. “The knitting/sewing pendulum may be swinging back from private to public.”

Social isolation turned out to be much harder on people than anticipated, he said.

It’s natural for people to resume public life as the world recovers — and it’s most noticeable among young people, who are more likely to have time to go out as many don’t yet have spouses or children.

“Perhaps there’s some recognition that the solution to young peoples’ catastrophically bad mental health is not necessarily stepping back to take care of oneself but seeking out connection with others and purpose,” said Alex Barnard, an assistant professor in NYU’s sociology department.

Most Magic Circle members are Bushwick-local, but others travel from as far as Harlem or Queens to join the unique crew. Many said they have met lifelong connections.

“Some people are like, ‘I have found some really good friends through the circle,” said Reyes. “And those things mean the world to me.”

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