Plenty of Mainers have stories to tell, either as a hobby, or with hopes of earning a living through podcasting. In this occasional series, Spectrum News Maine profiles local hosts who are expressing themselves through podcasts.

Jennifer Fleck and Julie Nye didn’t set out to do a podcast on knitting with a grand plan to change minds, but one thing they hope their listeners understand is that it can be a hobby for everyone, not just grandmothers and retirees.

“It’s easy to do at the same time as something else,” Nye said. “There’s something about this. It’s repetitive. It’s soothing.”

Nye, of Poland, and Fleck, of Windham, host “Maine Yarn Podcast,” a series where they talk about yarn, patterns, current and completed projects, and occasional interviews. The series launched in 2017 and has 66 episodes so far.

On a recent Tuesday evening, Fleck and Nye met for an interview at a pizza shop in Windham to talk about their hobby and their podcast. Naturally, they both brought small balls of yarn and worked on their current projects.

“I figure we should be knitting, right?” Fleck said as she showed off the sweater she was working on. The yarn was a combination of Merino wool and hand-dyed silk. The color, she said, was called “Plant Lady,” and looked salmon pink with green speckles.

Fleck said she tried knitting as a child, but didn’t really get into it until 2006. She said she has always liked crafting hobbies, but finds it easy to take her knitting with her everywhere.

“I can’t bring my watercolors in the car. It’s a very portable hobby,” she said.

Nye, a native of Birmingham, England, started knitting at age 7. She hastened to add, “But I was very bad. I’ve gotten a little better since then.”

As she talked, Nye worked on a cowl, or neckwarmer. She was using a light, multicolored wool yarn with a teal green-gray thread woven in. She took care to note she was using a size 17 needle, insisting that knitters would know what that is.

And there is a community for knitting. Both ladies cited reports that celebrities, including Michelle Obama, actress Krysten Ritter, actors Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe and even British Olympic diver Tom Daley are knitters or have shown an interest in the hobby. 

Nye and Fleck have interviewed notable figures in the knitting community such as Shelley Brander, Simone Kereit and Casapinka, all of whom interact with knitters on the national level.

Fleck said she and Nye met while working at an insurance company, Fleck as an actuary and Nye as an underwriter. Both women said they found a common bond in their common hobby.

“We needed a creative outlet for all that insurancey stuff,” Fleck said.

When both ladies moved on to other employers, Fleck said she came up with the idea for a podcast in part to make sure she and Nye stayed in touch, but given other knitting-related podcasts she had listened to, she had a feeling the two would find an audience.

“People were craving community,” Fleck said.

Nye said they do not track downloads or listenership, but even anecdotal evidence points to the podcast’s reach, which goes as far as Europe.

“I was expecting UK, I was expecting my mom, but it was Germany, Poland, quite a few in Poland,” Nye said.

Nye said there were other signs of the podcasts’ popularity, like the time both ladies went to Stitches, a knitters’ convention in Hartford, Conn., about four years ago. To their surprise, she said, the two were approached by groups of people who said they were fans.

“That’s the coolest thing, because you almost feel like a celebrity,” Nye said. 

Interest in the podcast has translated into in-person activities, too. Locally, Fleck and Nye started a local chapter in Windham of The Knitting Guild Association, a national nonprofit that promotes knitting. It started with only five members, but has grown to 30. 

The podcasters have also created KnitWit at the Shores. Named after Fleck’s yarn shop in Portland (she bought it three years ago when the original owner retired), the summertime event, held in Searsport, is an outdoor retreat that offers classes for knitters. 

The first event, held last year in June, drew about 25 people. This year’s event, Nye and Fleck said, had about 35 people, some coming from as far away as Washington State and California. 

Fleck said there was a bit of a learning curve, but with a good laptop computer and microphone, she and Nye have made it work, and expect to keep going with it.

“It sort of like keeps you company,” she said.

Maine Yarn Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Audible, Spotify and other podcast providers.