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The Commonspace

Nov 2004 / communities :: email this story to a friend

By Julia Smillie

If I tried to tell you how much I look forward to Saturday mornings, my eagerness might remind you of the childhood years where the lure of hours of cartoons was enough to draw you, bleary-eyed, from your bed. But there are no cartoons for me anymore on Saturdays. Now, it's the day when I giddily look forward to hooking up with a bunch of friends and acquaintances in the sunny haven that is Hartford Coffee — and knit.

For the past year or so, a revolving group of us — dubbing ourselves the Urban Knitters, for painfully obvious geographic reasons — have met up each weekend to ply our craft, such as it is, consume baked goods, drink coffee and gab. We came together because we're all addicted — to varying degrees, certainly — to this strange art of taking a couple of sticks and a ball of string and producing wearable art. And we wound up, perhaps to our own surprise, as our own little warped, yarn-obsessed, cozy little community.

yarn galore! In this computer-driven time, perhaps we all came to knitting because underneath it all, we need to feel that sense of accomplishment exclusive to creating something with our hands. Working on computers, talking on cell phones — none of this is craft. There is a history rich and enduring to knitting and not just for its practical applications. Yes, the act itself has a specific, mesmerizing lure that draws people to it, but now manufacturers produce enough trinkets and accoutrements, enough luxury yarns in a myriad of colors and textures, to seal the deal.

There are, I think, very few endeavors that allow people to gather as a group, but work individually, at their own pace and comfort level while enjoying one another's company. The women I knit with — some of whom I wouldn't have known otherwise or known as well — are infinitely generous with their kindness, their ideas and their skills. Our group teaches newcomers how to master those first stitches, and we share with each other our projects, patterns and methods.

Those hungry for knowledge are drawn to knitting, I believe, because there is always, always something new to learn. Knitting, in our community, is refreshingly without judgment. There is no competition; there are no winners. No one cares if you knit a square for two years; they just care if you show up.

But we wouldn't show up just for the knitting, I don't think, if it weren't accompanied by sharing of another kind. We don't spin philosophy, but we do talk about our work, politics, movies and the mundane. I have gotten to know women I wouldn't have otherwise, because we share a common passion and the bonds we have formed are real and strong. (So strong that I will spare you any obvious fabric or yarn analogies here.)

Whitney and Davina Each of us has a different style and different strengths she brings to the group. Michelle is brave and always willing to jump into a new method or pattern with both feet forward, aspiring all of us with her confidence. Whitney's enthusiasm when she learns something new is infectious. Christina soldiers through each new project methodically, picking up speed and courage as she goes along. Amanda is slightly anxious, less confident in her abilities than she should be. Davina shows us what happens when you actually buy the right yarn for the pattern, the good stuff. D'Na is into the process, less concerned with the final product than with the habit itself. Many others come and go, depending on the day, the month, the weather.

Together, we have knit through grief, divorce, job changes, challenges and triumphs. We have organized and coordinated an upcoming fundraiser to extend the impact our own little community can have on our larger one. And this is why we show up, this is why we gather and sit and knit together, sometimes without words but always in unity.

Julia Smillie muses about knitting and other topics on her website; you can see (and purchase!) some of the Urban Knitters' handiwork yourself at the upcoming benefit Holiday Boutique for Women's Support and Community Services, on Nov. 12 and 13. Find more details here.

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