Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Social Knitting - Everybody's Doing It

Social Knitting – or Everybody's Doing It

When I decided to go public with my knitting, I thought it might be fun to seek out other knitters.  I was certain that there were quite a few and thought I could probably learn something from others.  I thought I could even find a knitting group.

My Local Yarn Shop (LYS), Knit & Caboodle, has a weekly knit-in so I thought I would try it out.  I went and there were 4 other ladies and another guy sitting around a table knitting.  They welcomed me, and asked me to return, and I did for a while.  One of the ladies said I should check into Ravelry (an online knitting community) so I did.

  Holy Cow!!

This year, Ravelry got their 2,000,000th member.  At any time, there are between 5,000 and 10,000 knitters online searching for patterns or talking about whatever.  I had no idea what I was getting into.  They have groups for everything you can imagine.  I have a Boston Terrier, so for fun, I did a search of groups who like to talk about Boston Terriers – There are 7 different groups.  I’m in one called Boston Terrier Owners and Lovers.  There are 588 members.  If you like a specific designer I’m sure there is a group where people discuss her designs.  For example, if you like the Rosemary Hill (Romi), there a group called Romi’s Studio with nearly 5,000 members.

On Ravelry I heard that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot) was coming to the St Louis area for a book signing.  I couldn’t believe it.  I entered the world of public knitting just in time to find out my hero was coming to town.  The book signing was held at a local church.  I decided to go.  Again, I was still very new to social knitting so I didn’t know what to expect.  Luckily, someone said to bring your knitting so I brought some.  (This was before I learned that you can and should take your knitting everywhere).

I got to the church early because I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to get there.  I sat down and started knitting.  Pretty soon the church filled up – completely.  In fact, some people were standing in the back.  Everyone was knitting.  I was surprised at how friendly everyone was.  Everyone was checking out shawls and sweaters people were wearing.  People would ask you what you were knitting.  Nobody even thought it was strange that I, a man, was knitting (there were several of us.)  The program was late starting, but nobody cared – because we were all knitting.

The actual program was awesome.  At the end of the presentation she did a book signing.  There were several hundred people there and she was going to sign books for everyone.  She said an interesting thing up front.  She said that people should start the line from the front row and work backwards – but if anyone needed to leave early, they could just come up front of the line.  She said nobody would mind because we’re all knitters so we’re friendly.  She was right.  Nobody complained about the line.  Nobody complained about people that went up front and cut in.  I stood in line for over an hour and everyone was happy.  I learned an important lesson – Knitters are kind, friendly people.  Stephanie acted happy to talk to me.  I had a picture taken with her (sorry it’s fuzzy, blame the lady who took it.)  She did refuse my proposal of marriage but other than that it was great. 

Since that time, through Ravelry I have found other groups locally.  I believe every yarn shop has knit ins.  I know of many many knit-ins done at women’s homes or in rest homes or churches or where ever.  I’ve kind of settled into a group that meets here in St Louis.   We’re called the Gateway Knitters and have over 200 members.  We have monthly meetings with 30 or 40 women and an old man meeting together for a few hours to eat cookies, show off our projects, give each other knitting hints – and knit.

I have since also discovered a knitting group which meets monthly at our local library which I attend regularly.  I was there last night and was again impressed with how nice everyone is.  It’s more than just showing each other how to knit – it’s a place where someone can go without a friend and be immediately accepted.  One lady had just had her cat put down and was alone and new in the area.  One young woman was trying to learn and was knitting her first scarf.  Everyone is so helpful, supportive and friendly.

Of course, there are much more sophisticated knitting events.  Our little group had 2 retreats a year where we go to a local hotel for a long weekend.  There are other events that are much more exotic.  I just did a computer search for knitting cruises.  There’s one going to China in Mar 2013, the Panama Canal in April, and Alaska in July – and so forth.   There are mountain and/or beach retreats on both coasts.   You can go to a retreat in Vancouver where they just do sock knitting for a week.  These can cost thousands of dollars.

There are Knit-a-longs (KALs) where a group decides to knit the same pattern.  You can help each other over difficult parts, compare yarns, or just see how different people knit the same thing.  These groups can be in a small LYS knitting group, a designer’s forum, or a Ravelry group with hundreds of people knitting the same thing all around the world. 

One additional point I will make is that most knitters are obsessed with yarn shops.  For me, I’m content with on-line shopping; I use knitpicks.com for nearly everything, so I don’t go to the LYS too often.  When I do, it’s in and out.  I’m not sure what the big deal is.  Other knitters talk about going to the LYS and spending all their time and money there.  I guess it’s a testosterone thing.  I may knit – but I don’t shop.

So, what I learned from going public is that there are lots and lots of knitters out there.  They are uncommonly kind people.  They love to knit and they love to talk about knitting.  They love to help.  What I really learned is that I am not alone.  Last weekend I visited my mother in law.  I knit while I’m there (surprise) and one of my sisters-in-law told me that she thought there might be a knitting group there in the area.  I just smiled and thought, “Yes, there probably is.”

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