A close-knit community connects people, patterns and yarns

Tuesday Morning Knitting Group at Yarn Harbor Photo Credit: Lisa Mattson

I may have a problem: I am rarely speechless. Yet walking into Yarn Harbor, the overflowing bins of colorful yarn stopped me in the doorway. A full spectrum of reds to purples, yellows to blues hung on one wall.

The rapid clicking of needles and raucous laughter brought me to my senses.

"I frogged the entire WIP and grabbed a hank from my SABLE to start over."

Need a translation? I did. This knitter ripped out (frogged) her current knit work in progress (WIP). She used some yarn from her rather large yarn collection (SABLE stands for Stash Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy) to begin again.

A group of women sat at the back table, surrounded by patterns, yarn and desserts.

“The reason we come to Yarn Harbor is because we love fibers and to be surrounded by the colors,” said Micheal Krepps, who pulled more yarn out of the yellow skein.

“No. That’s secondary,” Deanna Kimber said as she started a new sweater.

“What’s the first?” Krepps asked.

“Us,” Kimber said, eliciting nods of agreement from the other group members.

For the past five years Krepps, Kimber, Ceci Riehl and Nancy Odden have met every Tuesday morning at Yarn Harbor. Other groups gather on Monday evenings, Thursday mornings and afternoons, Saturdays and Sundays. On Friday nights Yarn Harbor frequently hosts pajama parties.

“I’ve seen people who come in to learn to knit, but the community drew them in,” Kathy Thomas, owner of Yarn Harbor, said. “It’s a different way to meet people. As for the different groups here, it’s the common ground of knitting and the passion that people have. It really joins people in all economic situations, religions and demographics across the board in this common ground. And you are all there with your passion for knitting.”

Thomas has owned Yarn Harbor for over four years, but the shop opened in 2002. She noted that over time trends have changed. Ten years ago, scarves with fun fur were popular. According to Thomas, traditional knitting like Nordic sweaters, fair isle and colorwork, remain popular today. New designers, such as Jared Flood, Ysolda Teague and 13-year-old Lily France, bring energy to their patterns. So much energy in fact, large groups of young knitters follow them, eager to take up the hobby.

“People who are more technologically hip, look at patterns in the shop on their phones. You have all of the information right there,” Thomas said of some of her customers. Consulting online resources is not new, but craft-specific websites are more popular.

Ravelry, a social networking site for knitters and crocheters, has connected knitters and crocheters worldwide.

“It’s a whole different reality with Ravelry now. You can connect with people in other countries,” Thomas said.

Riehl even met a Ravelry friend when she was visiting Kazakhstan.

Knitting is one handcraft that has remained popular, even enduring wars as people knit socks to keep soldiers warm.

“Knitting is still around after so many years because you can be creative with it,” Riehl said.

Technology is a significant part of my life since my academic focus is digital culture. The tactile process of knitting and the products created provides a balance between virtual and face-to-face connections. Knitting connects people--both women and men--not only with the community around them, but also in a physical space.

For others, the process of knitting is productive. “Those two little stitches—knit and purl—are just infinite sources of entertainment,” Krepps said.

“Once you start, it’s meditative. If you’re stressed out, it can take you down a few notches,” Thomas said. “It’s just a good addiction. Better doing that than getting into something else.”

I have been an officially addicted knitter since January 2011. There is a pair of pistachio green socks in progress stashed in my bag, a half-finished baby bib sits on my office chair, and I have a basket of projects at home. Visiting the shop is a weekly errand; the colors are no longer overwhelming, but comforting. My stash is not yet to SABLE proportions, but space is quickly becoming an issue. The knitters got to me.

Knitters always ask “What’s your story?” Share yours in the comment section below. What’s your experience with knitting? Know a knitter? A knitter yourself? What have you noticed about the community?

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