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Knitters find their niche


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POSTED: Thursday, August 20, 2009

One of the downsides of the creative arts is that they are generally solo pursuits, and if there's one thing that characterizes today's hyper-connected, socially manic individuals, it's the fear of being alone.

Enter the magic circle — whether of stitchery fans, quilters or knitters — because the more the merrier when it comes to gathering in one room to talk about and share works in progress.

On Monday and Thursday evenings, a couple of “;Reserved”; signs go up at Mocha Java in Ward Centre to save a place for the Aloha Knitters.

The group formed online about four years ago as a way for local knitters to share ideas and resources, and it eventually spilled over into real life.

It's still a loose group that claims no leadership and collects no dues, and anyone — whether a knitter, crocheter, or not — is welcome to stop by and talk story. They're not there to teach, although they'll certainly lend a hand if you're encountering a problem with your work.

During a typical session, there may be six to 25 people showing up at the cafe, from newbies to 16-year veterans like Ariana Wyle, who said she started knitting when she was in college.

“;I walked into a Benetton and it was $100 for a wool sweater.”;

Back then, that was a lot of money and she felt outraged. “;I said to myself, 'I'm gonna learn to knit.'”;

She's since taken her art one step further, learning to spin her own yarns in 2000 to suit her preferences. “;With spinning, you can get anything you want in terms of texture, quality and some of the most amazing colors.”;

Beyond knitting, the meetups provide an opportunity to break away from those who just don't get it, and talk with people who share the same passion.

“;Mostly we talk,”; Dorothy Dean said. “;Some of us get more knitting done than others.”; She suggested to newbies: “;Work on something you don't mind messing up.”;

Apparently, it's all too easy to drop stitches while chattering away, or trying to finish a bowl of soup.

Although many non-knitters tend to associate the pastime with heavy, often itchy fibers and sweaters, many in the Aloha Knitters make their own clothing from comfortable, breathable and lightweight cotton and silk fibers, down to customizing socks.

“;People don't understand what it means to have custom-fit outfits, and that includes socks,”; said MK Carroll. She started crocheting and knitting as a child and now sells her original patterns on Etsy.com, while helping to maintain, with Dean, the http://www.alohaknitters.wordpress.com Web site. She would never go back to the one-size-fits-all nature of store-bought socks, instead making them for herself and loved ones.

“;There's a lot of love in knitting, and those who receive a piece as a gift know this is something that someone spent a lot of time on, and put a lot of thought into it while knitting,”; Wyle said.

“;There's a lot of charity in it,”; said Dean, who added the Aloha Knitters has participated in such drives as Knit for Obama and the Chemo Cap Drive to benefit cancer patients at the University of Chicago Cancer Center, as well as providing blankets locally for senior citizens.

Although purchasing yarns and the time-consuming nature of knitting makes it an expensive pastime, Kayla Schreiber said she imagines those looking for affordable entertainment in this recession would find that taking up the hobby would deter them from more costly pursuits.

“;I could go to a movie every week, or I could spend $10 for a ball of yarn that would keep me busy for a month,”; she said.

And the prospect of earning extra income from one's work is alluring.

“;The ability of using the Internet to sell things on eBay and Etsy is changing the whole dynamic of the marketplace,”; Dean said. “;It's easier to find the niche market interested in what you're doing.”;

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The Aloha Knitters group meets at 6:30 p.m. Mondays and 7 p.m. Thursdays at Mocha Java, Ward Centre.