When Christina Fagan found herself perilously close to flunking out of Skidmore College a few years back, her struggles stemmed not from the typical collegiate pitfalls. She wasn’t balancing an unmanageable course load, for instance, or spending too many nights stationed in a barroom booth.
“I spent two months . . . knitting and watching ‘Breaking Bad,’ ” Fagan says.
“Netflix and Chill” — the millennial offer to come on over and, uh, cuddle — might still reign supreme in the pantheon of TV-related extra-curriculars. But, laugh if you want to, “Netflix-and-Knit” — or Knitflixing, as it’s sometimes called — is no small thing.
For some young adults, there’s nothing like firing up a movie, grabbing the knitting needles, and getting to work on a pair of Icelandic wool socks. On Pinterest, entire boards are dedicated to patterns that can be stitched while binge-watching. Over on Reddit, commenters swap suggestions on the shows most conducive to a quality knitting session (Hint: “Gilmore Girls” is a fan-favorite). And on Twitter, proud yarnies use the #KnitFlix hashtag to post photos of themselves stitching alongside their favorite shows.
Even Netflix has made moves to accommodate its needle-toting viewers, releasing patterns for knit-able, Netflix-themed socks.
Attempting to understand the habits of millennials can be a head-scratching endeavor — as evidenced by the recent report from the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior that despite the rise of dating apps, fewer young adults are actually having sex than Generation X-ers were at the same age.
But with the rise of such streaming video services as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon — coupled with the growing interest in DIY crafting among young adults — binge-knitting represents a logical development.
If the knitting groups of recent years brought a social element to stitching, then Netflix and knit is all about a good, old-fashioned solitary knitting session.
“Knitters have that (fantasy) all the time, especially really hard-core knitters,” says Kara Gott Warner, executive editor of Creative Knitting magazine. “The wish is to be able to just sit and watch a chick-flick and knit.”
Which is not to say that it can’t get a little intense.
“With ‘Making A Murderer,’ I was knitting furiously, my hands were going numb, and I was yelling at my TV because the show was crazy,” says Sarah Makowicki, a 33-year-old nanny in Boston who admits to once Knitflixing for a total of 24 hours over two days.
“That was a more memorable Netflix-and-knitting weekend.”
And if you’re under the assumption that it’s as simple as plopping down on the couch and purling away at a scarf, you’re denser than a cabled Brioche-stitch sweater.
As knitting enthusiast Sarah Schorr explains, pairing the right knitting project with the perfect TV series “is like pairing a good wine and cheese.”
Particularly difficult projects, often call for light-hearted sitcoms like Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” or reality TV, like ABC’s “The Bachelor” or the competition cooking show “Chopped.”
Fagan, who parlayed a popular Instagram account into the online knitting company (Expletive) That I Knit, has diverse tastes. She has knit Christmas stockings while watching ABC’s “Revenge” and beach bags while watching “Scandal.”
“I knit my mom a sweater one summer,” she says, “while watching the entire ‘Sons of Anarchy’ series.”
Her go-to show, though, is the dearly departed “Gilmore Girls,” soon to get a four-episode reboot on Netflix.
“It’s just stupid banter, and nothing ever happens,” explains the 26-year-old Boston resident. “So you just turn that on, and you don’t miss anything.”
Some shows, on the other hand, are known to be knitting Kryptonite. Films with subtitles can give knitters fits, as can complex series requiring constant concentration. Those attempting to stitch along to something scary or suspenseful, meanwhile, have occasionally glanced down two hours later to find a mess of yarn in their lap.
“I actually have a really hard time knitting to ‘The West Wing,’” says Martha Carl, 29, a mobile applications designer from Salem. “I have to ask my husband (questions) every five minutes, so I’ve actually been vetoed from knitting to that show.”
The Netflix-and-knit trend, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
Earlier this month, Netflix went so far as to add a program in which viewers can watch people knit in real-time. At least one public library has begun hosting “Knit Flix” days.
And some say they can no longer focus on a show without a pair of needles in their hands.
“If I don’t have a project that I’m working on, I’ll find myself aimlessly picking up my phone, and then 10 minutes will pass, and I’ll have no idea what happened on the show,” says Olivia Baxter, 22, a knitting enthusiast who works as a marketing coordinator in Boston.
Of all the draws, however, there is one that might best explain the trend’s unlikely rise. Fagan (whom, it should be noted, eventually rebounded to graduate with a degree in art history) explains it this way:
“If I’m knitting a sweater,” she says, “it makes me feel a little better about watching ‘The Wire’ during an entire beautiful weekend.”
Dugan Arnett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @duganarnett.