In the book "Bowling Alone," author Robert Putman said the greatest social epidemic in American life is loneliness. I have long known that one doesn't have to be alone (physically isolated) to feel lonely, and in our world of social media and video chatting capabilities (on which my family relies when my husband is traveling for work) it is possible to be connected with others despite any distance. The true importance is that sense of connectedness, of sharing some of yourself with another.
As makers, we are often quite adept at sharing with others and even connecting with someone new simply by the interest in a project the other is working. Last week I volunteered at an evening event at my daughter's school and became immediately engaged with another mother who was admiring my shawl and couldn't resist touching it, although she did ask if it was acceptable to do so before making contact. Just wearing a handknit item helped to make a connection, and one I absolutely needed to make at this school where I feel a bit like an outsider at every attempt at interaction.
Since I learned to knit a handful of years ago, I have been blessed with having others with whom to gather and share my triumphs and gain encouragement when I have been stymied by a project (whether the knitting itself is complicated, or simply a large enough project that progress seems slow going). My friends and I gathered on Sunday nights at one of the local coffee shops on the Eastside of Seattle, laughing and knitting and joking that Officer Steve came in just before closing to throw our rowdy knitting selves out (really, he was just getting coffee - but always asked about our projects and even took photos of us to show his fellow officers just what happens on his shift). I had developed a rapport with a Local Yarn Shop enough that when I walked in I felt a bit like Norm on "Cheers" - where everybody knew my name. In Northern California, I began taking classes at the LYS in town right away and soon found myself with three friends to meet with outside of class and plan fiber adventures with (they plan to come here for the I-75 Yarn Crawl this summer!), and we continue to video chat when they are together for what had been our regular knit time.
Now that I have returned to Michigan, I have been hosting fiber craft nights, inviting friends who knit, crochet, cross-stitch - and even make yarn beards! I hadn't known this was a thing, but here is my daughter, sporting the Unicorn Rainbow Beard our friend taught her to make:
I've checked out many of the yarn shops to see what they offer as well. Some charge for the space at open knit time - having different fee schedules based on whether you are working from your own stash, using yarn purchased at the shop, or creating something for a charity drive the shop supports. Overhead costs certainly need to be covered, and I know that the way to keep any LYS in business is to support it by making purchases and taking classes. On Wednesdays, Stitch In Time offers open knitting, at no cost. Of course, being there with the magnificent makers assembled, seeing their projects, and being among the lush yarn offerings all around, it is easy to find the next project and all its materials. Inspiration abounds, as does the most delightful sense of community. These makers *know* each other and care about one another. After only a short time around the table, I feel part of this community too. I look forward to meeting you there!