[Story Break] “Not Just Knitting”

Not Just Knitting
Ruth and Jeanne agree that “The Knitting Group” is about more than just knitting.

knittingAt a retirement community in Chicago’s west suburbs, 10-15 ladies gather every Tuesday afternoon with skeins of yarn, bags of needles, and books of ideas. They are often referred to as “The Knitting Group,” but a member named Jeanne is quick to assure me that “it’s not just knitting.” The group, she explains, does embroidery, needlepoint, and other types of stitchery (as if I know the difference) in addition to knitting tiny hats for new babies at a nearby hospital, or prayer shawls for the church across the street, or scarves and sweaters for their own children and grandchildren.

Ruth is the woman who started the group. She is not a resident of the retirement community (yet), but as a member of the neighboring church, she needed new needlers to help meet the demand for prayer shawls. In fact, when the retirement community first opened, she told the Executive Director not to let new residents throw away their knitting supplies as they were downsizing.

Ruth does lead a knitting group at the church, but that group does not knit together. Instead, Ruth emails them the needs, and they each knit on their own. The Knitting Group, however, loves gathering as a mini community to work on their various projects. “There’s always something new to learn,” they assure me, and they recite a litany of terms that I can only assume refer to types of stitches or advanced needle techniques.

Some of the ladies have been knitting for 60 or 70 or 80 years, having started as children who learned to contribute to family life by knitting dish cloths and pot holders. “It’s good to start with pot holders,” someone named Rachel tells me, sensing that I am hesitant to take up the craft. “But whatever you are working on,” she advises, “don’t knit if it’s frustrating. Just set it aside. Knitting is supposed to be relaxing.”

The other women around the table agree, and they all laugh and affirm that Tuesday afternoons are as much about conversation as about knitting. “This group was really what made me feel at home here when I first moved in,” remembers Judy, an exuberant personality. And now she is quick to invite other new residents to join the group. “It doesn’t matter what level you’re at,” she seems to be reassuring me personally. “We are all there to help each other.”

I don’t tell the ladies this, but chances are, I will never take up knitting. Or any of the other forms of needlecraft these ladies have shown me samples of this summer afternoon. Even so, I have gained an appreciation for their expertise. And I can certainly see how knitting actually stitches people together and creates a vibrant community.

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8 thoughts on “[Story Break] “Not Just Knitting””

  1. Of course, I love to hear about any group that does crafts and I especially enjoy that you talked about it here on your blog. Knitting and needle crafts are also popular now with some tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings. It would be cool if they could get a group in those age groups to meet and knit together and make it multi-generational – after school, of course. :) Not only could they share their crafting wisdom, they could share life-wisdom as well, maybe a history lesson or two.

  2. There’s even a broader knitting community online. I’m a huge fan of Ravelry website where I have met and converse with knitters from all over the world. I listen to a podcast called CraftLit — the host, Heather Ordover, is the English Teacher everyone wishes they had in high school. She spends 30 minutes talking about kntting things, then 15 giving an overview of the next chapter we’ll be listening to of classic literature while we knit. On my bucket list is to take a trip to England with these podcasters one of these years and see the Shakesperian sites and LYS’s in the UK. Most knitting fun this year was stumbling onto the Chicago Yarn Crawl (first week of August), and meeting Amy Kaspar, knitting blogger for the Chicago Examiner. We then hit the LYS (local yarn shops) in the area for freebies and meeting other knitting “celebrities”. I bring knitting along almost everywhere I go and it usually sparks a conversation of some type :-) Knitting is a universal language.

    • Joan, you’re hilarious! First of all, I love the name “Ravelry” for a knitters website! Second, I love it that Heather Ordover is combining knitting with literature—how fun! Third, it cracks me up that you are so casually dropping acronyms (LYS) that are familiar among the knitting crowd. And finally, I don’t even know what to say about the fact that there is a “knitting blogger” and other “knitting celebrities.” Your whole comment is awesome!

      • Oh, and I forgot to mention the plethora of knitting related novels such as, “Friday Night Knitting Club”, which actress Julia Roberts is producing a movie currently in development on the book. Author Debbie Macomber incorporates her passion of knitting into her novels. And, there are many men who knit, especially in the UK.
        Here’s a list of famous celebrities who knit: http://magazine.foxnews.com/celebrity/kate-middleton-and-other-celebs-known-knit. One of my absolute favorite knitting bloggers is knitter/designer Franklin Habit of Chicago. http://the-panopticon.blogspot.com/. Check it out even if you don’t knit. Franklin’s sense of humor and his use of language is engaging. Sewing is still my #1 passion for a hobby, but it’s very independent. Knitting is coming up the ranks and may be taking over because it’s more transportable and it’s more social. Ooo, Ooo, and next time you go to the Art Institute, make notice of how many paintings have someone (male or female) knitting in them!!

  3. Hi Mel, I am a knitter, and I have taught several people to knit, including my grand daughter and your niece. Our church hosts a knitting group that meets every Thursday, and it is multi-generational, especially during the summer. I belong to Ravelry too, and I know where every knitting shop is located in our area. The best thing about knitting is the community. Knitters are really nice people.

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