Saturday, February 14, 2009

Knitting For Good- Chapter 4

Here is the fourth installment of my review of Knitting for Good and exploration of its themes. You can read my discussions of chapters one, two and three by clicking on the links.

Chapter 4 begins the section on "Knitting for your Community" is called "Using Craft to Connect: Building Communities through Common Bonds." I get very excited about knitting communities, so bear with me. This is going to be a long post. If you aren't interested you can just skip this one. I promise I won't talk about any sales or give away any trade secrets or anything like that.

It starts out by talking about the power knitting (or other crafting) has to build or strengthen the most intimate community we have- family. It made me think of my own life. My relationship with my mom has always involved crafts. From the earliest age, my mom taught me to sew, knit, crochet and make crafts with whatever supplies were within reach. Growing up, mom and I had more in common than most mother/daughter pairs. I won't say we always saw eye to eye- I was a teenager after all- but from time to time we found ourselves sitting across the kitchen table with yards of fabric between us, colored paper and fancy scissors or skeins of yarn. As I got older the roles began to change and now I often find that I'm the teacher! I was the one that originally taught mom to spin (though she is far better than me now) and I often find myself helping her with knitting patterns or teaching her new techniques. While other mother/daughters may have a hard time finding something to talk about, we always have a common interest.

As you expand the community beyond family, the next level is probably the LYS or knitting group. For the last several years, up until moving last summer, I had a really wonderful knitting community at my LYS, Knit Picky. I worked there before starting The Unique Sheep and met so many people and truly came to count many of our customers amongst my friends. Everyday that I worked there, the importance of community was so clear to me. In my opinion, LYS exist because of and for community. Yes the yarn and books and tools are great but whats really special are the people. The people who work there, teach there, shop there and just hang out there. I think that a good LYS is one where you feel like you are home the very first time you walk through the door. We had a woman walk into the shop one day, sit down on the couch and start knitting. Now this wasn't too uncommon, customers did this all the time, but what was different this time was that no one knew this woman. She soon told us that her friend travelled a lot in the area for business and that she would often drive with her to keep her company and share the driving, then while her friend was in meetings she would find a LYS and hang out for the afternoon. By the end of the afternoon, when her friend came to pick her up, I felt like I'd made a new friend. In what other situation would it be okay for a complete stranger to walk in, sit down and just be at home?

We had a great wednesday night knitting group too (it still exists, and I'm sure is still great, I'm just not there anymore). I know a lot of people are part of knitting groups that aren't connected to LYS, and I imagine they are similarly wonderful. It reminds me of the "41st thing" in the Yarn Harlot's "Things I Learned from Knitting" where she talks about how totally different all the people in her knitting group are, and yet how they all get along just fine because they have one very important thing in common- - they all knit. Think about your own knitting group for a moment, if you have one. I'm not saying that they are always diverse but often you'll find yourself surrounded by people of varying ages, religions, political views, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, education levels, etc. And yet they all get along. Better than get along, even. They enjoy spending time with each other. Take time out of their week to spend time together. Its like magic.

One thing that Ms Greer doesn't talk about very much is the online community. This is a community that is really important to me. I've always struggled to find people in my physical community that I have things in common with. When I was younger this was mainly because, well, I was younger. And a lot of my hobbies weren't very popular among younger people (unlike now, knitting and sewing were not fashionable when I was a teenager). My earliest experience with an online hobby based community was a group called Treadleon. We collected antique sewing machines, had an online forum and email list and occasionally met up for weekend get aways. I once carried a ten zillion pound cast iron sewing machine through several airports for a weekend in Vermont. And now with knitting I have an even bigger, better online community. What with Ravelry, podcasts, blogs...there are no borders!

I really liked this quote from the chapter, "Community is where you find communion and where you feel at home."

So what is your community? How has knitting affected your communitie(s)? I'd love to hear about YOUR crafting communities!


AnnasMomma said...

As a Special Education teacher in a distance learning school, it's difficult to build relationships with the kids there. My students tend to be transient, or bear the scars of failed relationships even at their tender young ages. I use knitting as a way to give them a skill that they can keep for themselves even if they give their product to someone else. Being able to see positive change over time and to be able fix mistakes with clear and clean results to their efforts is motivating to them. Then I can use their knitting as a metaphor for making, fixing and getting better at relationships or school or life in general. It isn't all serious though, mostly it's a chance to sit with someone and just chat about things. You end up giving them something that they don't get very often; someones time.

kangath said...

I have had a hard time finding a knitting community. Knit groups usually meet during my work hours, and anyway I am very slow to make friends. Also I like to focus on my knitting, either on the work itself or as a meditative act. So I have been content with knitting alone . . . but I'm starting to wonder whether I can find community online.