Community Knitting

22,360 stitches

an average sized pair of hand knit socks

I knit in the morning

I knit at night

I knit in my car

only at a red light.

I recently had my blood pressure and heart rate checked. When I told my sister my heart rate at rest was 61, she said, “Well that’s your runner’s heart.” But I think I have a knitter’s heart – every heartbeat sending love to my needles.

Canadians have a rich history of community knitting. A family friend in Winnipeg loves second hand stores. At Christmas he sent me a vintage World War Two Corticelli pattern book. The book is in fantastic condition. A great example of wartime knitting  comes from Newfoundland. The Women’s Patriotic Association consisted of over 15,000 women across Newfoundland. The ladies donated time to raise money and support for those at home and overseas. One of the Association’s goals was to provide troops with the comforts of home. Volunteers knit scarves, socks, mitts and hats and sent them overseas.

To commemorate what the Association accomplished, the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland/Labrador, the City of St. John’s and other partners have embraced  that sharing spirit with their Grey Sock Project. This project aims to link traditional craft and contemporary community by creating knit goods, sharing knowledge and helping each other. The Project includes knit-a-longs and workshops. The hand knit items are being donated to Syrian refugees, shelters and food banks.

Canadians have knit for pleasure and for profit. Canadians have knit for peace. During the Vietnam War over 30,000 items were knit for the children of Vietnam civilians left homeless by the conflict. This knitting effort was organized by the Voice of Women for Peace. In April, 1970 a group of women made a trip to Ottawa to protest Canada’s involvement in the war. As the train left Toronto, a knit blanket was begun.   Passengers were invited to knit a few rows and sign a peace petition.

Before Jo Stewart moved to Whitehorse a few years ago, she checked to make sure there was a yarn shop. She visited the store right away. Itsy Bitsy Yarn Store owners Sophie and Yann  share a deep commitment to community with Jo. Soon the group Sticks, Strings and Stewardship began meeting every Thursday evening at the store. The group has four main goals:

To provide opportunities for gathering with like minded people.

To facilitate skills development.

To support projects benefitting our community by engaging in craft based fundraising.

To  provide resources for knitters in need.

Sticks, Strings and Stewardship sponsors a number of events through the year. Every February the group displays hand knit items along downtown streets. The “Take Me Home” project encourages people to take a scarf or hat or mitts. The group donated warm and welcoming items to our Syrian family. They also sponsor Knit in Public Day activities each June.

One of my favourite projects involved a public knit-a-long. Jo learned that cats are more adoptable at a shelter if they have a knitted blanket. So she organized a “knit a stitch blanket” at a public event. Everyone was encouraged to knit a row or a few stitches. The blankets were donated to Mae Bachur animal shelter.

A colourful ball of yarn rolls through all community knitting – from the past right up to the present. The knitter’s heart celebrates the connection between people, craft and community service.

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