25 Nov 2015
Knitting people are the best people
I've written several blog posts about knitting in the last four years: patterns & open source; learning; knitting in meetings; and even just a general "knitting is awesome" post. But somehow I've never written about one of my favorite things about knitting: the people.
I didn't start with the intention of connecting with others. I went to one knitting meet-up, which was cool (and Cathy taught me long-tail cast-on), but it was in a part of town I didn't often get to. I joined Ravelry, but mostly as a place to keep track of my stuff.
But two things happened.
He noticed a woman's bag at the coffeeshop, and complemented her on it, and then she said it was a knitting bag. Or something like that; in any case he is garrulous and curious, where I would've been tongue-tied, so he found out that she was in a knitting group, which met in our favorite weird little coffeeshop.
When I finally showed up, I was nervous as hell, but ended up finding great people and making. I've lived in the same town for more than a dozen years, and volunteered until I was exhausted and overwhelmed, but had found only a few friends.
Like volunteering, we are there for the thing, and I've learned lots about knitting and gotten more daring and more patient with it. But unlike my volunteering experiences, we're also just there to hang out, relax, take a break from whatever else is going on. The very action of knitting is also conducive to chit-chat; the stereotype of ladies gossiping over their handwork isn't entirely wrong.
We all work in different fields but have overlapping social groups and personal histories. We're all a little odd, a little nerdy in slightly different ways, close to the same age but far apart enough to be interesting. (Also: So. Many. Tattoos. I might be the only one without?)
So friendships grow, in small ways, until these strangers become people I'm excited to see, people I trust. People who road-trip an hour together just to go to yarn shopping and have lunch with margaritas.
Which is like meeting knitting, but fully in public. And when you knit in public, there's a pretty good chance that someone's going to say something, especially if they also knit.
Two things from that: first, we've got something interesting to talk about that isn't tech. Sometimes my brain is so overloaded that I don't want to talk about tech in between sessions, and my introvert self is overwhelmed by the usual "where are you from/what do you do" small talk. Talking about knitting keeps me manageably social; it also means I might end up talking to someone who does something really different in their work. We're bonding over something else.
Then, because for whatever reason knitting is coded as a women's hobby, usually the people who will come up to you at a technology conference and talk about knitting are women. Given the ratios at some of the conference I've been to, it's really lovely to connect with other women. And again, we're not just meeting up as "women in [X]", we're connecting over another shared interest.
So one of my best Drupal event experiences has been a knitting "birds of a feather" session: taking over one of the meeting rooms and knitting, about a dozen women, one or two guys. Talking about knitting, of course: projects, yarns, yarn stores, but not entirely a break from the tech, either. Because we may look like a clutch of middle-aged crafters, but we're all still tech people, and we end up talking about the things we care about, because knitting is a perfect thing to do while having a chat with friends.
So talking about Drupal projects, our work lives, what we'd do with Ravelry if we could. Because all conversations with technology-minded knitters end up being about Ravelry. Partially because we like to think about what it could do better, but also because it does what it does so well. Sharing your Ravelry handle goes with sharing your Twitter handle.
Because, also, the people that I've met because of conference knitting have become people who are some of my favorite internet friends. And vice versa: I've met knitting people in tech on Twitter and then delighted to meet them in person.
I want to cram in all the amazing connections I've made with so many wonderful people because of knitting, and I just can't. And for someone who is as introverted as I am, who struggles almost all the time with social anxiety, that itself is amazing.
This hobby, that I took up out of a what-the-heck impulse, then discovered that I enjoyed purely for its own sake, has also been a stepping stone out into social worlds I might never have found otherwise. For that, I am immensely thankful.
- Eight longer posts (and 2 follow-ups) about knitting. I might have enough to put together a chapbook or something!
- Ravelry is the most amazing resource for knitters and crocheters. Project and stash tracking, a humongous database of patterns (including many available for free), and forums of all kinds. Also a great lesson about long-lived sustainable social networks. You can find me there as epersonae.
- I don't know where the name came from; they'd been meeting for maybe a year before I started, and it's what the Facebook group is called. If you happen to be in the Olympia, WA area, holler me up.
- The local librarians I've met through Goodreads are awesome people and good friends, but they all work together. So sometimes I feel like an outsider.
- Patriarchy sucks for dudes, too. I know there are men who knit, but it's definitely a more feminine hobby.
- One of my favorite "everyone is connected" moments is seeing someone I used to play Dungeon World with, who knits and studies insects, become connected to someone I started following because of Drupal & Git, who knits and keeps bees. (IIRC, they both also have bee tattoos.)