On a Tuesday night in December, a diverse crowd gathered in actor Alan Cumming’s cozy East Village cabaret, Club Cumming. They weren’t there to watch a show, listen to music, or dance. They were there to knit.
“It’s a great place to have a couple drinks, bang out some noncommittal knitting, and socialize,” said Josh Bennett, Menswear ’12, the night’s knitter-in-chief.
Knit@Nite launched shortly after the club opened in September. The goal was to bring in a different guest instructor each time. First up was Bennett, a former men’s sweater designer at Tommy Hilfiger with an exclusive line of hand-knitted sweaters at Bergdorf Goodman and a collection of luxe superhero-themed sweaters, developed in collaboration with Marvel Comics, sold on his website. He also teaches at knitting retreats worldwide. (Yes, that’s a thing.)
The affable, handsome Bennett was a hit from the start. “He was so wonderful, we decided he’d be the regular knit pro,” said Brini Maxwell, the charming host of the night. Brini, perhaps best known for her homemaking cable TV show that ran on the Style Network, is the drag alter ego of Ben Sander, Fashion Design ’93, who designs interiors when he’s not being Brini. Sander also sewed the chartreuse ensemble he was wearing. “I made a commitment to make everything I wear to this event.”
Bennett has always loved knitting, but at first he didn’t consider it as a career because he believed men were not supposed to knit. After going into theater, his colleagues convinced him otherwise. At FIT, he became known for teaching his classmates the skill. As Brini pointed out, in medieval times, knitting was originally a man’s trade.
On that December night, Brini welcomed everyone graciously while Bennett coached beginners through tricky stitches. Most of those present were seasoned knitters. Robert Cole, a high-school teacher, was knitting a pair of shorts. Angela DeLuccia, a PhD student, was constructing a complex afghan with 40 repeating rows. “I do well with structured mathematics,” she said.
The week’s theme was “ugly sweaters”; toward the end of the event, Brini and Bennett took the stage and invited the knitters to show off their most hideous creations. The winners got knit kits, containing a pattern, needles, and yarn.
Cairo Romaguera, a makeup artist who knits black accessories to wear to work, won a kit on the strength of a strange knitted brassiere. “None of my friends understand my excitement about knitting,” he said, “but they do here.”