Camaraderie and creativity are the cornerstones of the Armonk Knitting Circle, a group of like-minded women who bond over a love of fiber arts. “Knitting is meditative, therapeutic. We’ve built friendships with people who share at least one thing in common with us,” says Suzanne Percello, circulation clerk at the North Castle Public Library who helps organize the Knitting Circle.
The group welcomes any age at any skill level. All that’s required is an interest in some form of needlework, such as knitting, quilting, crocheting, and weaving. The Knitting Circle began six years ago when a Westchester County resident posted a thread on Ravelry, a popular social media site for crafters, seeking fellow knitters interested in forming a group near Pleasantville. What began as a handful of women meeting at a local coffee shop now averages 60 members, ranging in ages from 20 to over 45. They meet every Wednesday at the Pleasantville Library in Pleasantville and every Monday and Thursday at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk. Suzanne credits Linda Hellisum, a charter member, for keeping the group flourishing. “She spent many Wednesday afternoons knitting by herself at the Black Cow in Pleasantville. It took several months for people to make the commitment to the group, but once that happened, we quickly outgrew the coffee shop. We went from meeting twice per month to weekly meetings, and have been meeting three times per week for the past two years,” explains Suzanne.
Art brings people together, and The Knitting Circle is a gathering where members feel comfortable being themselves while sharing ideas and exploring new techniques. “We keep the conversation light and pleasant. Knitting in a group allows us to work on our own knitting and offer inspiration for each other. We teach each other what we know,” she says. “For a beginner, this is a terrific way to build skills and get inspiration in a more personal and intimate way than watching YouTube videos or reading craft blogs. For the person teaching the skill, it’s empowering to see someone benefit from sharing the skills that you have to offer.”
Janet Eiger, of Pleasantville, has been a member since its beginning when she wanted to refresh her fiber arts skills and expand her knowledge base in spinning. “I knew a lot about knitting but I never knew anyone who could spin so I learned about the different twists of the yarn and how it affected the finished knitting project. This helped inform my yarn choices from the ready-made yarns available. We all learned from someone,” says Janet, appreciating how the women inspire each other.
“When you sit around the table and see what others are turning out it’s easy to tackle a skill you don’t have experience with. If you get stuck there are people to help. People who did that last week and it came out great. Or, you can teach someone who just decided to learn to try a simple cable or more complex stitch and watch the sense of accomplishment when they create something they thought was way beyond their ability,” she says.
“No pressure, no judgments.” Janet appreciates the Zen of knitting. “You can lose yourself in the complexity of it for a while and take a break from whatever you need a break from,” she explains. “It’s an interesting collection of women who have interesting conversations, sometimes about knitting sometimes about anything or everything else.”
Field trips to local events in the Hudson Valley are an added bonus. The group recently attended the Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York and six knitters are planning a trip to the Shetland Islands. During the summer, Suzanne organized six Yarn Crawls to over 25 local yarn shops in CT, NJ, and the Hudson Valley. “They’re meant to be fun and educational,” she says. Additionally, some of the members contribute their knitted projects to charitable organizations such as Project Linus.
Crafting is a fulfilling endeavor. “Women bond with knitting. People enjoy knitting/crocheting because it’s a creative outlet that’s enjoyed individually, yet it unites you to a community,” says Felicia Lonigro, owner of Pick Up Every Stitch, a knitting shop in Mt. Kisco, New York. “The social aspect of group knitting is definitely appealing. Creativity is nurtured and enhanced and ideas and techniques are naturally shared among knitting groups. Every project is a new adventure and it’s wonderful when the adventure is shared!”
Felicia mentions the popular trends are embellished yarns in addition to hand-dyed and speckled yarns used for ponchos, ruanas, shawls, and cowl head scarves. She notes knitters are moving away from basic scarves and blankets. “They’re working with various stitches on shawls, ponchos, and loose-fitting sweaters in luxurious fibers,” says Felicia. “If they’re knitting a blanket, it’s not ordinary. They’re working in multi-colors, stripes or working with exaggerated super chunky yarn.”
Knitting offers immeasurable benefits to its paticipants. “It’s an affordable hobby that builds self-esteem. Improved health, social inclusion, networking, and friendship are just some of the reasons we get together as often as we do,” says Suzanne. “I really value the friendships I’ve made because of these knitting groups.”
The Armonk Knitting Circle meets every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Pleasantville Library in Pleasantville and every Monday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the North Castle Public Library in Armonk. For more information, visit ravelry.com/groups/armonk-knitting-circle and ravelry.com/groups/ply.