2009-09-24 / Front Page

Group knits friendship with creativity

By Stacy Jones

Knitters gather each Sunday afternoon at the Jamestown library. In front, from left, are Leah Kapoor, Peg Avery and Carolyn Leys. In back, from left, are Susan Burke, Debbie Murphy and Julia Montminy. Photo by Caitlin Downing Knitters gather each Sunday afternoon at the Jamestown library. In front, from left, are Leah Kapoor, Peg Avery and Carolyn Leys. In back, from left, are Susan Burke, Debbie Murphy and Julia Montminy. Photo by Caitlin Downing Most days, the children’s room at the Jamestown Philomenian Library is filled with a highenergy vibe of storytelling and constant motion. But on Sunday afternoons, the atmosphere changes to what can only be described as a collective group exhale as an air of serenity occupies the space. This is where a local knitting group meets to create, discuss, learn and relax.

The knitting group is a free-flowing assembly of women from various backgrounds, ages and professions, all of whom happen to love to knit. Members, a loosely used term, come and go. Some attend faithfully, while others visit to get advice on a project or simply stop by when they are in town. But the one constant that binds this group together is the power of knitting to offer something not often found in a world of congested commutes, text messages and multitasking: Calm.

“It’s like a yoga-type thing,” said Debbie Murphy, a retired Jamestown elementary school teacher who’s been involved in the group for three years. “It’s stress-free, something you can do while watching television, or anywhere.”

Julia Montminy, a six-year member, forensic psychologist and mother of three, added, “It’s proven to be therapeutic, and it’s a good creative outlet.”

Although the group’s current knitters are all women ranging in age from 20 to 85, the group started at the Lawn Avenue School as an afterschool program. According to Montminy, she began teaching knitting to a group of students, including several boys. When the kids needed more time to finish their knitting projects, she suggested they all meet on the weekend at the library.

Six years later, the group is still active, though the faces have changed. New faces are always greeted with a smile – no knitting experience necessary.

“All you need are two needles, some yarn and we’ll take you step by step,” Murphy said.

Process, not product

With so much time devoted to knitting, one might think that participants would have a favorite creation, whether a wellcrafted sweater, sporty mittens or an eye-catching bag. Not so.

When asked about her most satisfying project, Montminy answered without hesitation, “Nothing.”

“It’s not about the finished product, but about the process,” she said. “As soon as you’re done, you move on.”

It’s a sentiment that was expressed unanimously by the rest of the group. It’s about the senses – colors, yarn texture and the challenge of creating something from nothing.

“You go and look at yarn and you see all the beautiful colors and you have to have it,” said Peg Avery, owner of Hair Affair, a salon and knitting store in New Bedford, Mass.

Avery started selling yarn in her salon 20 years ago after customers began commenting on her many knitting projects. Over the years, the establishment is more knitting store than salon, which is fine with Avery, a 40-year knitter and regular member of the group.

“I’ve always loved knitting. It’s like an obsession with me,” she said. “It’s weird. My god, what is it about this thing that I’m so crazy about? I know it’s the one thing I can do to relax me. It’s very calming.”

Knitting friendships

Besides its soothing effects, knitting, especially in a group, offers an additional plus: The joy of sharing.

“You meet people you never would have met before,” Avery said. “You don’t talk about problems, the world. It takes you from your everyday life.”

The camaraderie definitely makes the experience better, Murphy said. “You need the community for inspiration, and sometimes for help” on a diffi- cult project, she said.

For some, it’s more than that. Such is the case for Carolyn Leys, a Minnesota resident who summers in Jamestown and gets involved in the knitting group while in town. “I’m an old lady and it’s nice to meet young people,” she said.

A knitter for 65 years, Leys offered an explanation for her long-term commitment. “It’s my cigarettes,” she said. “If I get uptight, it calms me right down.”

The knitting group meets every Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Jamestown Philomenian Library. Newcomers are always welcome. In addition, on Sunday, Oct. 4, the group will host a “Knitting by the Sea” event at Mackerel Cove from noon to 4 p.m. Refreshments and a potluck menu will be served. Participants should bring a lawn chair, towel, potluck snack and knitting supplies. In case of rain, the event will be held at the library from 1 to 4 p.m.

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