Ella Emhoff has experimented in many lanes within the industry, first popping onto the scene as a model and stealing fashion insiders' hearts with her charismatic personality and personal style. Coming from a background in fine arts, Emhoff was eager to explore the fashion realm. But after a few years of dedicated modeling work, she yearned for a tighter-knit (pun-intended) community.
After learning how to knit as a young girl, it later became a preferred pastime of Emhoff's and a relief from busy on-the-go days. When she was stressed, it became her solace and when she felt creatively enlightened, it acted as an expressive outlet. During February 2023's New York Fashion Week, the multi-hyphenate presented her first-ever knitwear array, characterized by color blocking, dainty bows, and stripes galore. Emhoff labeled this as more of a passion project than a fully fleshed-out collection — as her passion really lies in the craft itself.
A big part of that craft, for Emhoff, is also the joy of getting to share it with others. After attempting to start an online community of avid knitters, she decided to bring things IRL and out of this yearning, Soft Hands Knitting Club was born. The club hosted its first edition on October 24 with Emhoff and friends providing tutorials to both novice and experienced knitters.
Materials — a collection of Emhoff's beloved, sourced yarn from the past few years as well as knitting needles — were provided and all were welcome to dive in no matter their skill level. In between knitting our own pieces to take home with us, Hypebae spoke to Emhoff about what she hopes to grant other creatives through sharing her love for knitting.
Tell me about why you decided to start Soft Hands Knitting Club.
I've always been looking for community in knitting. It's something that I always did by myself, but I found a group on Instagram pretty quickly. The more I started posting stuff, I felt like I was building that sense of community, but it still felt one step removed from what I was actually looking for. My friends and I would all make an effort to work together in person because that kind of environment, working alongside each other — even if it's within different mediums — is just nice. It makes such a singular activity feel less lonely.
You have a background in fine arts and went on to model, and now you are highlighting your passion for knitting. How do these things all intersect and interact with each other within your daily life?
I think I've always openly approached anything that interests me. When I've been doing all of these things, whether it's modeling or fine arts, it's always been towards this one greater goal of finding my own creative voice. Doing all of these different things is just getting me one step closer. With modeling, I've met so many people who have helped me gain more insight into the fashion industry. And it's shown me that that's maybe not something I want to go into. But that's really important because I wouldn't have been able to figure that out if I hadn't seen behind the scenes and tried it myself with my own knitwear line. Though I don't think it's something I'll ever market that way. It was more or less a different way to explore the fine arts. I like bringing joy to people through different mediums. And it just happens to all now fall under textiles.
Your personal style often incorporates fun, colorful knit pieces like balaclavas or chunky cardigans. How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is definitely ever-evolving. I think the one common throughline is that it's all based on comfort. I've always been a person who will not sacrifice the feeling that I have with clothes for the 'fashionable' aspect. For a time, a lot of the comfy clothes I was leaning toward were colorful. Now, I'm in an era of dressing more subdued, but I think the work that I'm creating is only getting more crazy and more out there. So I think I'm now putting in the energy that I would for my own style into the stuff that I'm working on, which kind of reflects me moving out of the modeling world and more into fine arts. I think it's important to have creativity in my life, and not only in the clothes I wear.
What is a common misconception people have about knitting that you’d like to resolve?
I think one of the common misconceptions of knitting is that it's really, really hard and it requires a lot of finger dexterity. I think if you're going to a certain level — yes it does. But you're always going to get the amount of effort out of knitting that you put in. If you're really not trying to learn how to do the techniques right, it's going to be hard. It takes a lot of effort and practice because it's a mental game too. You're sitting, repetitively doing the same thing and that can be a mental block for some people, but that's why I love it.
What is the most valuable lesson knitting has taught you?
I've learned so many lessons, but the main reason I started knitting was as an anxiety-coping mechanism. It really taught me how to slow down and be in the moment because you have to focus on your stitches. You have to focus on counting rows. So I think it just showed me how to take a break and breathe. This knitting club feels like something that is more cemented and closer to what I wanted to achieve and I hope I can share that feeling with other people. I love working with others and that's something I want to branch more into.
Soft Hands Knitting Club will meet monthly at The Standard, East Village's NO BAR.