Shannon Harmon, 31, a Mendota Heights lawyer who works in the attorney general's office, started knitting three years ago. Since then, she has discovered other knitting lawyers, although they often aren't too upfront about it.

"It's kind of a dirty little secret sometimes," she said. "People don't expect a lot of lawyers to be crafty."

On a Saturday afternoon, Harmon and other knitters circled in and out of the comfy chairs in Unwind Yarn Shop in Burnsville, a sleek contemporary store that opened in August, with soothing blue walls and a five-foot pair of wooden knitting needles leaning in the corner.

"Our beginning-knitting classes are always full," said Unwind instructor Linda Kindem. "I think one of the biggest reasons is because of the newer, younger designers."

Trish Hoskins of Crafty Planet, a hip knitting and fabric store in northeast Minneapolis, thinks the "Project Runway" fervor that spurred interest in sewing carried over to knitting.

"You can make something exactly how you want," she said. "You can choose the colors, the size you want and create embellishments. [Also,] nowadays, there's so much hip stuff online. If you have some geeky obsession with Dr. Who, there's a whole website devoted to Dr. Who crafts. You can go online and find people who are into exactly the same things that you are."

Hoskins will teach a beginning knitting class specifically targeted to teens at the Dakota County Library on Friday, where participants will learn the basics by knitting a wrist cuff.

Also on Friday, Unwind will host its first "Mom and me" classes. The store just started a second class because the first filled up. "This is our test class," said owner Barb Paulsen. "We wanted to see if people are interested. We've had a really good response."

Jessie France, an instructor at the Yarn Garage in Rosemount, has seen interest in knitting spike. "In the fashion world, there have been a lot of hand-knit hats and cowls," she said. The shop hosts "Pizza and Purls" knitting on Friday evenings and a Thursday afternoon "Kids and Sticks" class.

Yarn Garage owner Steven Berg "has an unorthodox approach to knitting," she said. "He knits with videocassette tape. He knits with shoelaces. He's really energetic. He just wants people to have fun."

Lots of new yarns have also renewed interest in knitting, said Unwind instructor Karla Underwood. "It's not our mother's yarns," she said. "It's not like the old stiff yarn."

"The textures have changed," agreed Kindem. "They are made out of bamboo and corn, alpaca. It's fun for the hand knitter to use some of those specialty fibers."

Thick, ruffled yarns and thin lace-weight yarns are hot right now, and shawls have made a comeback, Paulsen said. Unwind announces new yarns, patterns, and events on their Ravelry page -- think "Facebook for knitters."

Even with new yarns and patterns, technology and interest, age-old reasons for knitting remain the same -- creativity, friendship, relaxation.

"For me, knitting is a form of unwinding," Paulsen said. "I'm a type-A person. I'll never be a 'B,' but it takes me to that A-minus so that I can go to bed."

"I'm sure that stress relief has a lot to do with it," said Harmon, who belongs to a knitting social group called K1D1S1 -- "Knit one, dip one, sip one" -- that started two years ago.

Paulsen said women have come in from holiday preparations, glazed-eyed, to sit and knit. One pair of women told her, "they wanted to run away from home," she said. "We want to encourage people to run away from home."

Liz Rolfsmeier is a Minneapolis freelance writer.