There were a lot of reasons I decided to start a knitting group this year in my neighborhood outside Washington, DC. Although I’m shy, I had set an intention just before New Year’s to become more engaged socially in 2019. I had seen how my mood in 2018 always picked up while being with others. And I also realized during my New Year’s introspection, that I’m actually really good at getting people together. I’ve been doing it since high school, and people have enjoyed the activities I’ve organized. The biggest reason for starting something was that I wanted to do more things that made a difference to and for people–and I wanted it to be ME who came up with the ideas for how I would contribute.
“Think of your community on a larger scale. Find something that
energizes you that you can share.
Work toward using that gift for the greater good,
whether your community is your block or the whole planet.”
–Betsy Greer, Knitting for Good!
The idea of getting people together to make things by hand came upon me in a flash at a cocktail party in early January when I met two knitters, neither knew each other or me, yet we all lived in this pretty small neighborhood. Without thinking, I said,“Knitting is so good for us, and knitting together is even better! I’m going to start a knitting group at the community center. Want to come?”
“Knitting creates and strengthens communities.
Social knitting embraces the whole person within their community.”
— Betsan Corkhill, Knit for Health & Wellness
I’ve knit in groups before: in a North Carolina yarn shop where I was welcomed into a group that relieved my increasing depression from moving somewhere I knew nobody and felt very isolated; where I was inspired as I knit with a group of Project Knitwell volunteers who teach knitting to people in stressful situations; when I knit in various hospital settings as a volunteer knitting instructor, and where I witnessed the friendships and support patients shared as well as seeing the confidence and happiness of the knitters as they became more comfortable with knitting. In knitting groups, Betsan Corkhill notes, “There exists a bond of shared feeling that somehow goes beyond mere camaraderie.” I wanted more of those good feelings for me. And I wanted to be able to share them with my neighbors, too.
I knew there was science to back up the anecdotal benefits of knitting together because I did the research for a therapeutic knitting book. I knew about studies that had been done on the health and psychological benefits of knitting in groups, some of which I’ve listed here:
–According to a 2013 Stitchlinks/Cardiff University study, “Knitting in a group had a significant impact on perceived happiness, learning new skills, improved social contact and communication with others. Those suffering from clinical depression benefitted more in terms of feeling happier and better about themselves if they belonged to a knitting group than if they didn’t.” The same study noted that “86% of respondents told [researchers] that attending a knitting group gave them a feeling of belonging.”(1)
–A 2012 study showed that “social engagement… resulted in a reduction in nerve pain.”(2)
–The supportive nature of a knitting group combats social isolation which, in the digital age, is more and more common. Neuroscientist John Cacioppo found that social isolation and the resultant feeling of loneliness “is as detrimental to health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day.”(3)
–And knitting in a group allows you to enjoy social contact which “is an important part of living life to the full… A study in 2012 found that people who are socially engaged and mentally active are 40% less likely to develop dementia.”(4)
But none of that was what I was thinking about when I began the arduous, often Byzantine tasks involved in securing a comfortable room with good lighting and chairs–and in our neighborhood–where the group could grow, and hopefully thrive. It turned out that our community center was not “ours,” not the neighborhood’s center, so I needed to work with the county where we live, to wheedle a room for no fees (harder than you would think), and to go through the hoops to get the room set-up as we needed.
“Knitting has a profound connective power. The culture and people and rituals
around it, the values, they all contribute to an immediate and
profound trust in one another. It’s home.
You belong and are accepted, which rings true no matter where you are.”
― Clara Parkes, Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World
With a room secured, I next attempted to publicize the event through the county–a no-go (I was too late for their calendar of events and too early for the future calendar), and through newsletter for the community where we live –another no-go (I was too late for the March all-neighborhood newsletter, but would be able to have a mention in the April newsletter). Undaunted, I created a logo and was able to post our first meeting to the neighborhood Facebook page, and on the local, but wider area that NextDoor could reach. From those two online posts, I got a lot of interest for the meeting–over 30 people responding favorably.
“No matter how loosely it’s organized, a [knitting group] is fun.
For the obsessed knitter, there’s nothing as exciting
as finding like-minded people who share your passion
and with whom you can share your craft…
But even new knitters who aren’t yet consumed by the craft
can enjoy an evening spent stitching with others…
Best of all, is the fact that a [knitting group] makes knitting,
which can be a very solitary activity, a communal one.”
–Debbie Stoller, Stitch ‘N Bitch
And we met last night, knitting through the first late sunset of Daylight Savings Time. We were seventeen strangers, old, young, Spanish and English speakers, new knitters, super skilled knitters, some crocheters. Some people brought extra yarn to share, extra patterns to share, knitting project bags to give away. We had cookies and dried apricots and talked, talked, talked. There was laughter–lots of laughter–and the sounds of needles clicking together. Everyone who had something to show, showed their project off to “ooo’s” and “wows.”
“One of the noticeable things about knitting groups is the volume of laughter
and easy banter that goes on. It’s a relaxing, rejuvenating experience
as the problems of the world are forgotten…
Enjoying, fun, laughter and relaxed conversation with friends in
a safe environment is the opposite to your ‘fight or flight’ stress response
and will enable your body’s natural healing system to kick in.” — Betsan Corkhill
As the evening broke up, participants (my new friends) stopped by to check that the group would continue and to be reminded when the next session would be. Sarah said, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you got this group going! This is wonderful! I’ve met so many people–some of whom are my neighbors but I didn’t know them!” Kricket, a new knitter called out, “I hope this group is going to go on–I’m only starting to “get” the knit stitch. Don’t leave me!”
We’re not leaving anyone. The next meeting will be on March 25th. Join us! Or if you can’t come this far, check local MeetUps for knitting groups near you. Just go. Knit. Together.
“There is no doubt that enjoying supportive social contact
is good for you and there are numerous benefits to belonging
to a group even if you don’t feel lonely.
These include support from other members,
mutual learning, sharing of information, having fun,
and providing a support network which you can call on in times of need.
Belonging is important.
Knowing these is someone there in times of need is important.
It gives you strength to live, to explore and enjoy life.” –Betsan Corkhill
(1) Riley, J., Corkhill, B., Morris, C. (2013) The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Findings from an International Survey. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76(2), 50-57.
(2) Hinzey, A. & Devries, C. (2012). Social contact can ease pain related to nerve damage. Poster No. 786.04. Neuroscience 2012, New Orleans, USA.
(3) Hawkley, L.C., Cacioppo, J.T. (2010) Loneliness Matters: A Theoretical and Empirical View of Consequences and Mechanisms. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 40, 218-227.
(4) Valenzuela, M.J., Matthews, F.E., Brayne, C., Ince, P., Halliday, G., Krill, J.J., Dalton, M.A., Richardson, K., Forster, G. & Sachdev, P. (2012). Multiple Biological Pathways Link Cognitive Lifestyle to Protection from Dementia. Biological Psychiatry, 71(9), 783-791.