Knitting enthusiast Kelly Kubicz believes you can create almost anything from a few spools of yarn. Aside from handmade scarves, sweaters and socks, she’s also seen hand-stitched curtains, wine bottle coolers, celebrity dolls such as Elvis, Gandhi and the Beatles, steering wheel covers and even “weenie warmers.”

“Knitters, in my experience, have a great sense of humor,” said Kubicz, who is the manager of Chix with Stix, a knitting shop at 7316 W. Madison St. in Forest Park.

Kubicz herself recently knit her husband a praying mantis for their 15th wedding anniversary.

“It was probably the fussiest thing I ever made,” she said. “There was just a lot of shaping, and there’s wire in the legs. But he loves praying mantises. He brings them into our garden all the time and they always leave. So I just knit him one that wouldn’t leave.”

Knitting as a hobby has soared in popularity in recent years and, as Chix with Stix owner Dana Smith put it, “It’s not really a grandmother’s knitting any more.”

The store, which celebrated its 5th anniversary last week, recognizes that knitting has become a social activity for women – and men – of all ages. Every Wednesday the shop hosts an open knit night where people gather together to work on their projects, laugh, talk and drink wine. Last Friday, as part of their anniversary fun, knitters came together for a stitching party at the store, which stayed open until midnight.

The activity has resurged, in part, as a way to cope with the stress people are feeling under the economic crunch, the Chix believe. The act of knitting is rather calm and comforting, they said. 

“People come in after a bad day and say, ‘I need yarn!'” Kubicz said. “It’s squishy, soft to touch and colorful. All of those things make it very therapeutic.”

The best part, she said, is that anyone can learn to knit.

“If you can tie your shoes, you can knit and crochet,” said Kubicz, who once taught a blind woman how to stitch. (Chix with Stix also offers classes for all skill levels, as well as private lessons or private parties in the store.)

The biggest challenge, though, is usually instilling confidence within new knitters.

“We really wanted to have a friendly, unintimidating atmosphere,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of trial and error, and people get uptight and nervous about it.”

But all it really entails is pulling loops through other loops, Kubicz said.

In knitting, there is a whole row of stitches on the needle, and you work the yarn from one needle to another. Crocheting, on the other hand, is done with one hook and one stitch at a time, which can achieve more open and free form results.

Though making your own products is not necessarily cheaper than buying from a store, many knitters said they love the process of doing it on their own.

“You’re creating something with your hands,” Kubicz said. “And there’s something individual about everyone’s project.”

Whether it’s a colorful new scarf for the winter or a Madonna figurine complete with a cone-shaped bra, the Chix assure that there’s fun to be had when people pick up a set of knitting needles.