Some communities are formed by proximity, others are stitched together.
The latter's the case for a group of knitters that has continued to meet virtually twice a month since their in-person get-togethers have been put on hold during the pandemic.
The Knitter’s Corner is one of the many adult programs at the Collingwood Public Library (CPL).
“It’s about having that connection with your community,” said Lori Crossan, the adult and senior programming coordinator at the CPL. “It’s a nice way for people to see each other, even if it is virtually.”
The Knitter’s Corner has been in existence for two years now and currently meets twice a month over Zoom. It is free to attend and open to people of all knitting experiences and skill levels. For about two hours each session, members connect online and discuss everything from their current projects, inspiration and any questions they may have, to checking in on each other’s personal lives.
“It’s become more of a social group. A show and share,” said Crossan. “Sometimes they discuss tips and tricks or the current piece they are working on, and other times we digress, catching up on family and life.”
The group started small, but as word got out and more people moved to Collingwood, it slowly grew. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak there were upwards of 12 members attending the then weekly meetings. In the virtual sessions, there are usually four or five dedicated members in attendance.
The CPL also accepts donations of yarn and knitting needles, so newcomers are able to participate even if they don’t have their own equipment. Many of the items made by the knitters — specifically the hats, mitts and scarves — are then donated back to the library or to other organizations in the community.
“If someone wants to come by and borrow needles or grab yarn, they just have to get in touch with me and I can get them set up,” said Crossan. “It’s a ‘feel good, giving back to the community’ experience.”
Bev Blais, a volunteer at the library and active participant in many of its programs including Knitters Corner, said she appreciates how accessible the library is in that way.
“The inclusiveness is the thing I am most interested in,” said Blais.
Blais has lived in Collingwood for over thirty years now, and is always looking for new ways to help other people get involved in the community.
“I think all of these groups have a social aspect,” said Blais. “I came in as a relatively new knitter, but some people are a lot more serious about it.”
With Crossan’s help, members of the Knitter’s Corner have started to introduce other crafts into the bi-weekly Zoom sessions as well.
Some people come and crochet or cross-stitch while others knit. The library has also introduced “take and makes,” which are individually packed crafts put together by volunteers that can be taken home and made during the Zoom meetings. On Dec. 9, the group plans to make Christmas cards.
“We are very dexterous with our hands and we’re very creative. The knitting is definitely keeping us together, but we are trying to break off and introduce other things as well,” said Bev Donaldson, another active participant and volunteer for the Knitter’s Corner.
Donaldson didn’t know anybody when she and her husband first moved to Collingwood two years ago. She stumbled on a newspaper clipping for the Knitter’s Corner, so she went to the next meeting and introduced herself. She instantly met people who she now considers close friends.
“I didn’t know anybody when I moved here,” said Donaldson. “So by starting this club and meeting people… It got me involved in the community.”
Blais said she tends to send people who are new to town to the library to see if there is anything that interests them.
“A lot of people I’ve met at the library said it saved their bacon when they first moved here. When they got there, not only the programs but the whole atmosphere was conducive to being supportive of new people coming in,” said Blais.
Crossan has created several other programs along with the Knitter’s Corner, including weekly pole walking, chair yoga, book clubs and conversational French for adults.
Due to the pandemic, the majority of the programs are currently held over Zoom and all are free to attend. Interested adults simply need to email Crossan to register and receive the Zoom link.
Pole walking is one of the most popular programs and the only activity that currently meets in person. Crossan has enjoyed having at least one offering that allows for real human connection, safely. Chair yoga is also extremely popular, and usually sees upwards of 30 attendees on Zoom every week. The movement programs take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.
“It’s the social connection that everybody really needs for mental health. And some of our programs are for physical health as well,” said Crossan. “It’s getting them through these difficult times, having that connection. And it did before COVID too.”
Donaldson said she appreciated that the CLP was quick to get online and be able to continue offering several of its programs.
“I think, especially because of COVID, the programs kept me mobile. I knew at least once a week I was going to force myself to do yoga. And I made friends out of it, there’s no question,” said Donaldson.
Blais agreed. Not only is it a good way to stay active, but also stay connected with other members of the community.
“I know a lot of people have struggled with loneliness and not being connected,” said Blais. “For a lot of people, it’s all about having contact with people they know.”