NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Brooklyn man is turning heads on the subway – all because of a needle and thread.
Every day, he is helping to break the stereotype by proving that knitting isn’t just for grannies, CBS2’s Steve Overmyer reports in this week’s Snapshot New York.
For many New Yorkers, the train is a second home.
“This is where I spend most of my time. You know traveling, it’s an hour going to work, an hour coming home from work,” Louis Boria told Overymer.
Boria is a modern artist, and his most famous work is done 100 feet underground.
“I get comments, both women and men staring at me for like 10-15 minutes. They’re like, ‘So what are you making?’” he said.
Inside the steel shell of a subway car rides a virtuosos with yarn.
“I always carried my project in my bag and never wanted to knit once on the train, because I was fearful of being judged because I’m a guy. ‘Oh, look at this guy knitting.’” he said. “I’m wasting my time and I could be knitting, and as much as I wanted to knit.
“That first time that I took that project out of my bag and I started knitting, I remembered that zone that it took me to,” he added. “And once I got into that zone, I forgot about my surroundings.”
Boria was spotted by Broadway star Frenchie Davis, who posted a photo on Facebook, resulting in a response that changed his life.
“The power of social media,” he said. “I tell you, it’s pretty awesome.”
Steve Overmyer: “What was it like to see that flurry of comments underneath that photo?”
Louis Boria: “I couldn’t understand it. They can’t make the correlation between the knitting and the guy – the guy in the sweats. And they see a guy sitting there, and he’s got tattoos and he’s got a full beard and then he’s got a baseball cap and he just looks like your average Joe on the street.
“You always ask that big question in life: Well, what am I good at? And when I found knitting, that’s when I realized that I found my niche. And from that very first time that I picked up those needles, it’s just something that I knew I was meant to do.”
Historically, knitting has been a male-dominated craft.
Sailors would knit their own sweaters. In World War One, the injured repaired uniforms. Even knights would knit their own chain mail. And the man known as “The Gladiator” relieves stress by knitting.
“It takes me to a place that makes me forget about everything. I go into a zone. And nothing has ever done that to me in my life before,” said Boria. “I’m creating something; I’m making something at the same time. So it’s kind of like I’m so focused on making sure that I’m executing whatever it is that I’m doing, and it just drifts me off. And you know, I love that it does that for me.
“It kills the time, so it makes my ride go even faster,” he added. “You know, next thing I know, I’m home and I’m getting ready to get off the train.”
Since his social media fame, Brooklyn Boy Knits has turned this into a full-time commitment. He knits up to 30 pieces a month and delivers his art to the world.
Overmyer: “This is where you come to get your materials. When you look at some of these colors, do you think of what you can do with it?”
Boria: “Absolutely. So like you know, you have different types of yarn. I mean you can see that there’s so many varieties of color here, and they’re constantly changing. So I’m always checking in and out. You know, I go online and I’ll see what’s going on there, and then I’m like, ‘I got to take a trip down to the store.’ And it’s all about feeling the yarn. I’ve been to places in Europe where you’re not allowed to touch the yarn. But here, we come and we touch and that’s how you know you’re going to get what you want.”
Overmyer: “This is an art that is built on tradition. There are only two different types of stitches, right?”
Boria: “Yeah, knit and pearl. But there’s techniques involved also that you have to learn. And you know, sometimes you’ll get stuck and your neighbor sitting next to you at a knitting booth can tell you, ‘Oh, I know how to do that, let me show you.’”
No longer the domain of grannies, knitting now has an edgy side.
“This is called Implexa. I basically used recycled T-shirts, leather, suede,” Boria said. “I never look at it as work. I look at it as my art, and it is art. You know, at the end of the day, it’s fiber art.”
Proving that art has no gender.
“My message more than anything and what I want people to understand is that you have a passion, you have a love for something that’s not considered normal, you go for it,” said Bario. “Take that plunge and just do it, because the world can only benefit from that.”
As he continues his ride through the tunnels that weave together the boroughs, he serves as a reminder that we all share a common thread.