For information about the Knitting Goddess Sock Club, how to get the next instalment, or when to get the past ones, scroll down to the drawing and pictures of socks. For joining me on a journey of deep (and not so deep) thoughts on community, you might want to pause now, and grab a large cup of your favourite beverage and, again, take the comfiest seat, for it might be another long one…
It all started because of Kate, of A Playful Day blog (and podcast). She put together this Love your Blog Challenge for April, with a weekly theme to write about. I had been thinking about my next post for a while without finding something really interesting to write about, so when I read about this challenge, I thought ‘why not?’. The theme for this week is ‘Interactions and community’, and it got me thinking…
Community is a word I learned to re-learn the meaning of upon leaving France. Where I grew up, ‘community’ seemed to be a pejorative word, which was often spitted out with disgust. And it was always associated to religions, immigration (not especially recent one), wealth/poverty… Being atheist, and with not enough blood of one ‘group’ in my veins, I didn’t belong to any of these ‘communities’ often pointed at. And somehow, I was lucky, because I don’t think I had ever heard the word ever mentioned with a positive vibe. I know that grumpiness and criticism often apply to my compatriots, but still…
Imagine my surprise when, during a 3-months stay in the US, I discovered an entirely new meaning to ‘community’. Suddenly, communities were a good thing, people were proud of them. They covered lots of topics, from religion to sport, craft, about the local area, etc. And it was all about sharing, discovering, supporting…, within and beyond the community. There was a strong sense of belonging which was new to me. It boggled my mind.
Fast forward a few years, and I am living in Scotland, took up knitting, joined a knitting group for a while, met knitting friends, discovered Ravelry, started designing… I can now say that I belong to two communities: my local community (the ‘village’), and the knitting community for which I have a strong feeling a belonging. I wrote in the past (here in particular) about the knitting community, and how wonderful it is, for it enabled me to meet some lovely people, either in real life or online, and I received the most unexpected support in the saddest times.
However, the prompt for the Love your Blog Challenge made me question on this sense of belonging, and on the reasons why I feel so strongly about it. Maybe the feeling of being with like-minded people?
Everyone who belongs to the knitting community already have lots of things in common: an appreciation for the time and skills involved in making things, an interest for fibre, etc. Admittedly, we don’t all share the same passion for the crafts: some knit, some crochet, some weave, some spin, some do all of that or only a subset. We are not all eager to study the properties of different fibres, the sheep breeds, the fabric characteristics, knitting techniques, or the properties of knitted fabric under different constraints. But somehow, the common base of things we share transcends the differences, and despite these differences, we can all talk to each other and appreciate each other’s work. And beyond that, our differences enable us to exchange, discuss, share, and grow our knowledge or understanding of the fibre world.
Taking the example of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, which happened just a couple weeks ago, the knitting community is like a busy beehive, with shared interests. Have you ever been to a wedding only to find you sitting at a table where you don’t know anyone? Chances are that you don’t have anything in common, and after the usual discussion on ‘how you met the bride/groom’ and on the weather, you soon find yourself surrounded in an annoying silence or meaningless discussions. On the other hand, if you have ever been to a fibre event, and stopped for a coffee/quick lunch, sat at any table, chances are really high that you can have an interesting chat with your neighbours despite not knowing them the minute before. Because you share at least one thing in common: yarn, wool, knitting, fibre! Next time I am invited to a wedding, I may look for a yarn festival to attend instead :)
Beyond ‘simple’ chatter, I have found the knitting (and designing) community to be a wealth of information, where people would share their knowledge generously, or engage in discussions bringing arguments in an attempt to move forward, and not to defend their point no matter what. I never cease to learn about knitting, its history, technique, physics, about business, design, teaching, graphics, trends, colours, etc. Of course, I am not completely naive (although…) and it doesn’t always happen like this, but generally speaking, I think the knitting community is a nice place to be.
While I have no doubt about what I get from the community, I often question what I can bring to it. Obviously, the knitting community has been doing well without me, and would do well without me… Yet, I think I can have a little role, if only to give back some of what I received. Teaching, and sharing what I have learned, read, tried, or ‘unvented’ is an important part of what I want to give back. Like I discussed in a previous post, this is one of the reasons I add interesting techniques to my designs. Of course, I try to convert friends and random people to knitting, and also share about knitting and spinning with children. Another of my little ‘hobby horse’ is to try to convince non-knitters of the value of knitting, and of wool. That is one epic battle… but an interesting one!
Let me tell you about another gem from the knitting or fibre community: the ability to empower, to enthuse, and to inspire. So many times, I have heard or read people encouraging each other to try new techniques, push boundaries (first steek anyone?). So many times, I have felt inspired by a text, photos, work, something shared by a fellow knitter. And what about those discussions which end up looking like a brainstorming session… like this one day I shared on Twitter about me seeing/guessing a lace pattern in the pureed carrot spitted out by Little Miss, and the discussion ended up as a list of names and themes for shawls inspired by baby food (!). Quite likely, these will not happen, but the sharing of enthusiasm and inspiration was great.
Finally, one of the most precious things I have received from quite a few people in the community is the confidence that I am a competent knitting designer, and I will try to not disappoint.
Aurelie / spinnygonzalez
Speaking of designs, and of pushing boundaries and feeling empowered, here is an update on the Knitting Goddess Sock Club:
For those who haven’t joined yet but would like to, the sign-up for the May instalment will close tomorrow March 31st. So if you’re interested, hop over now to Joy’s website and sign up. Last time I checked, there were a few spots still available.
Finally, I am happy to announce that the first design in the Great British Inventors and Scientists Sock Club, the railway- and steam engine- inspired All Aboard! Puff Puff Puff… socks, will be available for sale on 2nd April 2015.