We’re so excited for the Winter Olympics! From the 9th February we’ll have two weeks of becoming an expert in alpine sports, learning slaloms from skeletons and watching the luge and the bobsled. But what else are we excited for? The winter knitwear of course!

This year’s Winter Olympics is set in Peongchang on the mountainous east side of South Korea. We didn’t know much about the knitting community in South Korea so we made it our mission to find out – speaking to knitting academics and bloggers in the country to get a real flavour of what it’s like. Dr. Ji Soo Ha, an academic, told us that he thinks more people are inspired to do knitting now because of the Winter Olympics. “Every item which reminds us of warmth”, he says, are now being given “more attention because of the Winter Olympics”.

Knitting was a popular craft in South Korea until the 1980s. However, the clothing industry in this time quickly became more mass-produced. This meant that fewer people knit clothes because they had cheaper and quicker options. Hand knitting became more and more associated with a lifestyle choice, and became to be seen (according to Ji Soo) as a “middle-class leisure activity” for those with enough income and leisure time.

We spoke to Misu Kim who owns her own conceptual knit label in South Korea, Misu A Barbe. She was taught by her mother to knit, but she also learned to knit in school – such as simple glove making. Crochet, however, is not as popular as knitting – Misu self-taught herself how to crochet, and knitting is more popular in the country.

Knitting shops, both wholesale and retail are especially popular in the capital, Seoul. Most knitting shops are concentrated in the Dogdaemun Jonghap market, which is the biggest market for clothing materials in South Korea.  Misu tells us South Korea is an easy place to buy materials as they are “very cheap”. One reason for this could be the rise in wholesale shops. Before the 1990s, wholesale shops only sold to trade – but now they deal with customers too, who can buy in bulk.

Although both Ji Soo and Misu told us knitting in South Korea is more common in the winter, the rise of the internet has allowed for knitting and crochet bloggers to become more popular and become an all-round pursuit. In a way thats’s similar to what we have in the UK – knitting’s not just for cold times anymore!

  • Thanks to Ji Soo Ha for the interview and recommending Korean knitting bloggers to us. His shared 2011 thesis on knitting in South Korea is here
  • Thanks to Misu Kim for the interview and sending us photographs. Her Instagram is here