by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
The women who meet once a week to knit at Edythe Dyer Library in Hampden are a friendly, lively group. As they knit, their conversation meanders from one topic to another — what they are knitting and why, the type of yarn they are using, the Fiber Frolic that was held in Windsor the first week in June, books and more books, an alpaca farm in Thorndike, patterns of speech typical of old-time Maine people, plans for a neighborhood block party, the Hampden Historical Society yard sale, gardening, the woes of Hampden’s town council meetings, embroidery, travel, Texas, the charitable work of the Pine Tree Stitchers, learning to spin, and the coming and goings of children and grandchildren.
On this particular evening, eight people, including myself, were part of the newly formed group that meets 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesdays at the library. The group is open to anyone who wants to show up with knitting or other needlework in hand.
One attendee brought a beautiful slouch cap she had just finished knitting and modeled it for everyone to see. Others were engaged in a variety of projects — finishing the second of a pair of spiral knit socks, knitting a sweater, casting on stitches for a project, knitting caps, knitting socks, doing embroidery.
Knitting books were passed around and commented on. Lots of helpful hints and advice floated in the air, almost tangible. I had the feeling I could reach out and grasp some it, as if the words were nuggets I could put in my pocket and carry home to pore over later.
A knitting group meeting at a library is not an unusual thing. Providing meeting space for needlework groups is one of the many free services libraries are known for. By doing so, those who find community in stitching are able to connect and add richness to one another’s lives in a setting that is comfortable and pleasant.
One of the important aspects of being part of a knitting group, even for one session, is that it provides a forum for telling the stories of who we are as individuals and how we got that way, the everyday bits and pieces of one’s life history — the town we grew up in, commentary on men and women who influenced our lives, when we learned to knit and who taught us, the books — knitting or otherwise — that stay with us and why, the opportunity to share information about what we know about needlework and everything else, to offer assistance with things that may or may not have anything to do with knitting.
I find it interesting that in an era when so many organizations are withering for lack of younger members, groups for knitters and needleworkers seem to grow, though in a fluid way, so the potential for meeting new people is always likely and the atmosphere of each meeting will be subtly different as new personalities join the mix. The fluidity of the group is one of its strengths and attractions.
Needlework groups that meet in libraries tend to be unorganized — officers will not be elected, no committees will be formed and no hierarchy of control will be established. The emphasis will be on sharing, learning, teaching, cooperating and socializing with like-minded women. The group welcomes knitters and stitchers of all skill levels.
The only criteria for belonging to the group is to show up with a knitting or a needlework project in hand — experienced or beginner, or interest in learning how to get started — it doesn’t matter. Everyone finds a place and fits right in.