Woolly Wonders!

img_0069I’ve wanted to get a new knitting group going for a little while.  A couple of the ones I had participated in over the past few years either fizzled, evolved into other things, or real life kicked all of our asses at once and have been on a very long hiatus.

Between work, knitting shenanigans, slowly enacting my plan for world domination, and strong introvert tendencies, social commitments can be difficult at times.  I think everyone is in the same boat paddling for time, so setting up a groups that meets the second Sunday of every month sounded like a good plan.  To toss in a bit more fun, why not move the knit up location every time? The group wouldn’t stress one location consistently.  That also allows us group folk to support more than one local business.  I’m also a huge fan of crafting in public, when it feels like most of the world is staring at a smart phone, stitching away in public seems like an act of social deviance.  We can all use a bit of that in our lives.

After creating one of those infamous event things on Facebook I crossed my fingers and hoped a few people would show up to Mocha Moe’s in Flowery Branch.  One person came somewhat by force because I kidnapped her.  That’s not entirely true but a funny visual.  Three more people came!  Is that a huge knitting group, no, but it’s a damn good start.  Deborah, Kelly, Lia, DeAna, and myself had a good afternoon filled with knitting, coffee, and a few laughs.

We’re doing this again on March 11th at 1:00pm – 3:00pm at Left Nut Brewery in Gainesville, GA.  Keep an eye out for one of those event things, with the set up at the brewery I’m going to need a head count so I can beg them to reserve us one of the bench tables a few days in advance.

If you’re in Northeast Georgia feel free to drop on by.  Woolly Wonders (that name may change eventually) is meant to be open to anyone who enjoys any fiber craft; knitting, crochet, needlepoint, or anything else requiring fiber to make, with a welcoming spirit.  I hope for a diverse group of women and men, of all ages, walks of life, and skill levels.

We have very few rules.  Please leave the political debate at home, it has destroyed too many crafting groups over the years, and treat others respectfully.

There is no obligation to come every month.  There’s no rigid structure here, simply come and spend some time working with some crafty people.

All of us will have one thing in common, our love of fiber craft, everything else can be built on from there.

The Stories Strangers Tell: Knitting Adventures at 39,000 Feet

As a habitual knitter there’s always a small project that lives in my bag or backpack to work on if there’s a bit of downtime. It’s much more appealing to craft something tangible if a couple of rows can be thrown into a project than sitting and poking at a smart phone screen.

While sitting on a flight I pulled out a pair of Knitted Knockers (hand knitted breast prosthesis) to work on since I was trapped in the dreaded middle seat and there was absolutely no chance of a nap. Once in a while I’ll get a question or two about what I’m working on, but largely the yarn fidgeting goes unnoticed, other times like several other knitting in public adventures, there will a conversation I won’t forget.

Being trapped, both passengers on either side saw what I was up to pretty quickly. The first was a man in his mid-twenties who had just pulled out a game system. He commented that if he wouldn’t be teased that he would love to learn how to knit. Our conversation fell along the lines, of why worry about what his friends think, if he wanted to he could just knit in private, and there were plenty of men who knit. He asked a few more questions about where and how to start, and he was pointed towards his local yarn shop in Pennsylvania.

Now on the other side, sat a woman, well into her retirement years with a thick Brooklyn accent. “I knit. Mom taught me. Nothing fancy. Mom could really knit.” Really?

Her mother would knit her and her siblings new sweaters every year, ripping apart the sweater from the year before, knitting it a little larger and adding more yarn when necessary. When the yarns were finally too worn to reuse for the next year, the kids would pick from a handful of colors for their next sweater. Nothing too bright, nothing to extreme, simple colors that could matched if more yarn had to be added to in following years. She missed her yearly sweaters.

She asked me how I learned, and I filled her in. She asked where I bought yarn in Georgia, since she was going to be staying for a few weeks and wanted to make a couple of scarves for her grandkids. Filled her in there too, and how I was always there on Saturdays, but since it would be a long drive for her, I told her about a few shops I knew about near the family members she would be staying with.

Then she asked the big question. “What are you making anyway?” Knitted Knockers were explained and her expression changed entirely. It’s hard to describe what I saw on her face. Pain, grief, a touch of happiness, surprise. It was hard to read. I froze, and didn’t really know what to say.

She spoke first. I can still hear her story in my head.

Mom died in the early 80s. She found a lump in her right breast, and went over a year before going to the doctor about it. You’re far to young to know how cancer of any type was treated then. It wasn’t talked about, like it is now. There wasn’t support groups. There wasn’t information out there. The treatments were brutal. Mom had her breast removed. It didn’t heal well. It was always painful, there was no reconstruction choices. She was told to stuff the empty place in her bra, and go on with life. She began isolating herself. She was a housewife, she only left the house for errands stuffing her bra and wearing the baggiest clothes she had.

Mom found another lump in her remaining breast two years later. She chose to let it take her and was gone within a year. If she had one of these knitted things and felt better about herself, maybe things would have been different for her.

The woman went silent. I didn’t know what to say other than I’m sorry.

She spoke again.

The woman who started this organization and the people who are knitting these things are doing a great good in this world.

She picked her book back up and began reading. I took that as a sign that I should pick my needles back up and not speak further.

Others around us had heard her story and began sharing their own stories about family members that had fought cancer in many forms. I sat, worked, and listened. My neighbors in the row sat and listened.

The woman next to me, put her book back down, sat and listened in silence. Knitting triggered her memories of both happiness and pain. There were no more words between us for the rest of the trip.

I hope that the happy memories of the childhood sweaters and the scarves that she will make for her grandchildren will bring her comfort.

It’s been a few weeks since our conversation on the plane, she never made it up to Yarn Rhapsody during the time she said she would be in Georgia. I wish her nothing but peace.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles: Knitting on the Road

planeI’m escaping Georgia tonight for some shenanigans with friends this weekend.  Being the fanatical knitter that I am, there is always at least a pair of socks on needles in my purse and there is always a project bag tossed in my luggage for downtime on trips.

I’ve been asked at nearly every gate waiting for boarding about the legalities of traveling with knitting needles, so it’s time for a quick primer on air travel with projects.  My experience here is limited to domestic air travel, other rules may apply to international flights.

Are knitting needles and crochet hooks allowed in your carry-on bag?
The simple answer is yes.  But when is the simple answer ever the complete one?  All it takes is one misinformed TSA agent or a flight attendant to think your needles look intimidating and you’ve got a problem on your hands.  As much as some of us love our nice, pointy, metal ChiaoGoos or Addis you may want to leave those home.  Kick over to wood or plastic, and circular needles would probably be preferred over straight.  Besides using straights in a tightly packed airplane may be uncomfortable for you and the passengers seated next to you.

How about scissors?
This is another yes, but, answer.  Blades must be shorter than 4-inches, and the type that fold up onto themselves are recommended.  Those nifty thread cutting pendants, or anything that looks like it may have a razor style blade are a no-go.

Regular needles, you know the ones you finish projects with?
Ummmm this one is a bit gray.  I’ve flown with finishing needles with rounded points, but I’ve heard more than one person complain that theirs was taken.  So, you may want to leave those at home.

So what do I do if TSA tries to confiscate my needles or hooks?
The most important part of traveling with craft projects is to be prepared, just in case.  Carry a copy of the TSA policies related to your particular project, there are some agents that may not be clear on the guidelines, but screeners can confiscate any items they feel are unsafe despite of the guidelines.  You can find some help with this information on the What Can I Bring section of the TSA website.

If you think an item may be pushing a guideline, put it in your checked bag, or have a self-addressed, pre-paid mailer to ship your item to your destination or back home, and don’t risk flying with expensive or sentimental items.

Always be polite, and informed if questioned.  From personal experience here, I’ve only been questioned about my knitting once, and after showing the screener the policy from the TSA site all was well.

Now that the technicalities are out of the way, now what?

Bring something small with you, socks, scarves, and other items of similar size are perfect on adventures.  Just think about projects that don’t require grand gestures to manuver when flipping over to do the next row, since space is limited, and your row-mate may not want to be covered with a half finished afghan.  Simple projects are best for a couple of reasons.  Patterns that require you to reference printed patterns may become fiddly in a limited space, also it helps if your project is simple enough to be able to stop quickly (God-forbid mid-row but it happens) and is easily memorized.

Other things to consider…
Yarn:  try to have yarn caked or rolled into center pull balls so you can leave your yarn in a project bag while you work.  Having a ball fall to the floor and roll halfway down the plane isn’t as funny as it sounds. Trust me.

Needle Holders: Travel isn’t alwasy the safest things for needles, find a way to protect  your needles when they aren’t in use.

Project Bags:  I’ve always had great luck with project bags that have carry handles built in.  You can loop the bag around your arm and have the yarn feed from it while you work.  No worries about anything falling in the floor there.

Knitting in airports and on the plane is an excellent way to pass the time and maybe spark the interest of your fellow passengers, so enjoy it!

Social Knitting?

When knitting comes up in conversation the image of a matronly woman sitting in a rocking chair often comes to mind.  There she sits, alone, needles clicking away at some beige colored yarn.  This is the reality of some, well, maybe without the rocking chair, or the age….or the beige yarn….

It’s the norm for some of us knitty types to just work in the comfort and privacy of  our own homes.   At the end of a stressful day I’m absolutely guilty of grabbing a project and heading for the couch, with a cup of tea, or something harder depending on just how stressful that day was.  I knit alone for the first four or five years after picking up needles for the first time, and then there was the discovery of whole knitting social networks out there.

It happened after I moved to the current homestead and stumbled into a local yarn shop.   In the center of this shop was a long table with chairs set all the way around it.  No one was there that afternoon but the owner brought up she had several times a week where other knitters would come in and work on projects together and invited me to come.  The concept was a bit foreign to me, it took a few weeks to take her up on the offer, but I finally packed up a project into a bag and headed back down to the shop on a Saturday afternoon.

No joke, my social life changed.  This introvert found her tribe! The shop was filled with a group of vibrant and varied individuals, both male and female, working away and laughing their asses off.  All ages, and walks of life were sitting around that table.  I was made to feel welcome within minutes after getting grilled with the typical who-are-you and what-do-you-do questions.  You know, the typical initiation into any group.  After meeting these people, my knitting began to travel with me wherever I went, and if there was more than a few minutes of waiting time, out the needles would come.

Sunday mornings would  usually begin with a caramel macchiato, people watching, and yarn manipulation at the local coffee-house.  That led to another invitation to a knitting group on Thursday evenings packed full of more amazing people after being discovered knitting in a corner.  For the better part of a year and a half, Thursdays and Saturdays had standing plans to meet up with these knitting nuts.  The Thursday group began to disolve after jobs and life began to impact schedules, but both groups have introduced me to friends that have become family.  I really don’t know how I’ve survived without some of these people in my life, and we all have one thing in common, we love making things out of yarn.

All that said, there have been studies pop up over the years (just google them) that have shown crafting with others can improve confidence and self-esteem, reduce stress, and help with feelings of isolation (well duh on that last one).

If you are in northeast Georgia, or north-metro Atlanta wander into Yarn Rhapsody  in Gainesville, on Saturday afternoon, we’re a welcoming kind of people, and don’t bite.  Claudia (owner) also carries an amazing selection of yarns.  Side note: there has been no payment for this endorsement, this shop has turned into my home away from home.

Grab your yarn and tools of choice and get out there.  Find a group!  Or just start knitting at your local coffee house, the group will find you.  Thank me later.