Close-knit crafters find solace in stitches
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A close-knit group of friends that meet weekly in Brandon keep each other in stitches as they handcraft sweaters, ponchos and mitts — anything that requires needles and yarn.
Half a dozen like-minded women who share a love of knitting gather to work on their projects and share purls of wisdom as well as tips and tricks from their years of crafting.
No one takes attendance during the meetings; it’s a casual come and go. In fact, some of the members have known each other for more than 10 years, after striking up friendships at a Brandon arts and craft store.
The store has since closed, but over the years they found other places to meet, and lately it’s been the Tavern United lounge in the Canad Inns Hotel.
Wendy Brownlie, who said she is a beginner, appreciates the ideas, inspiration and even coaching she gets from the others.
“It’s just wonderful. I came for the support of a knitting group so that I could learn, and I stayed for the company,” Brownlie said, laughing. “But everyone is so helpful, and honestly, I’m still learning.”
Knitting is enjoying an increase in popularity in Canada that started during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sales of sewing and knitting supplies were up almost 30 per cent during the last few months of 2020, compared to the same period the year before, according to Statistics Canada.
This group didn’t drop a single stitch or miss many meetups during the pandemic, they simply met online. Even to this day, one of their members who now lives in Saskatoon still joins them by video.
There’s something special about getting together with the others, Brownlie said, especially if there’s a problem that can only be solved in person.
“Looking at a pattern, it was like reading a foreign language, it had no meaning to me at all,” Brownlie said. “These ladies helped me to learn the language of knitting, they’re the best teachers ever.”
It’s common for knitters to have more than one project on the go, said Judy Dandridge, who listed the many creations she’s made and given out as gifts in the past, including sweaters, socks, toques, blankets and baby clothes.
“Whether you’re learning a new technique, or doing something that’s more straightforward, it’s a good little workout for your brain,” Dandridge said. “The straightforward patterns are the ones that are more meditative in nature for me. Not that I meditate per se, but there’s something soothing and calming about some of the patterns that I work with.”
There are many benefits of knitting that are important to one’s mental and physical health, according to a clinically trained physiotherapist and author Betsan Corkhill, who wrote the book, “Knit for Health and Wellness.”
Knitters reported effects like calming and increased concentration, wrote Corkhill, and over time, knitting can fend off loss of memory associated with aging. And the action of moving the yarn around the needles helps with the mobility of fingers and hands.
For Karen Webb, it’s a sense of community that she said she likes, and the fact the knitters are all different, yet woven together one night a week.
“I don’t have to think about work, I don’t have to talk about work in fact. I just get to sit and be myself,” Webb said.
The group is diverse, from Brownlie the beginner, to Karlie Mymryk who spins her own yarn after getting it from a business that hand-dyes it in Winnipeg.
Mymryk’s advice to someone just starting out is to not overspend and keep it simple.
“In the past, I have used yarn that’s more than $30 for a skein — or a ball — and I know that’s a lot. So, honestly, for a beginner, just do what you love with what you’ve got. Watch for sales, because many arts and craft stores have good acrylic wool, so that’s a great place to start,” Mymryk said.
The next outing for a few of these crafters is a conference in Montreal in May called Knit City with workshops, events and a celebrity in the world of wool, according to Brownlie.
“These lucky ladies are going to see the Yarn Harlot at the conference. We watch her videos, see her on social media and read her blogs — she’s incredible.”