I learned about Toronto's
Downtown Knit Collective [DKC] at the Creative
Sewing and Needlework Festival in 1997.
The CSNF instantly affirmed my knit-o-mania
by providing an expansive venue for knit-related
businesses - designers, yarn spinners, retailers,
booksellers and the like - to display and
sell their wares. I was gob-smacked. And,
since my mania is heavily accented by a
certain tendency to shop (I detest the word
shopaholic, so one-dimensional) I was able
to greet this new and wonderful world with
the happy embrace of an open wallet.
One of the booths at the
CSNF was dedicated to local knitting guilds.
Kntting guilds? In my town? Near my house?
It was a pivotal day in my knitting life;
a dimension to knitting that had never occurred
to me. I'm not sure why not, because
it makes perfect sense. A group of people
dedicated to knitting, getting together
to talk knitting and to knit. Genius!
I suppose I was too busy
knitting to have figured this out on my
own. I had been aching for the company of
other knitters, other people with whom I
could share my passion. People who wouldn't
scoff or roll their eyes or immediately
ask me to knit them a pair of socks. ("Sure,
it only takes about a half hour; wait right
Little did I know that
I was about to join a knitting tradition
that dates to Medieval times. According
to knitting historian Bishop Richard Rutt,
there are early records of cap knitters'
guilds in Britain and evidence that knitting
guilds existed in Paris as early as 1268.
At the time, knitting guilds were professional
organizations comprised of men who knit
by hand to provide their families with a
living. Given my personal capacity to finish
what might be marketable or practical hand
knit goods, it doesn't take much imagination
to realize that life for these people must
have been very hard. The machine age brought
the end of these guilds. Guilds continue
to exist, though without the commercial
purpose. According to the Oxford English
Dictionary, a guild is "an association
of people for mutual aid or the pursuit
of a common goal". What better thing
to share with others than your greatest
When I arrived at my first
guild meeting, I was astonished to find
a room filled with knitters. Things were
lively, full of chatter, full of knitting.
The president called the meeting to order,
announced the news and offered tips on what
to carry in your knitting bag. There was
a presentation by a designer I had never
heard of whose work was wonderful. And there
were things to buy. When I went home that
night, I was full of excitement; as high
as kite. I rattled on and on to my husband
about how incredible it was to be with so
many other knitters. I had found a new home.
Nearly 6 years later,
I still feel excited after a DKC meeting.
Whether your guild has 3 or 13 or 130 members
like the DKC, I am sure you know the feeling.
Because guild members share a purpose, they
become a community very quickly. Our happy
community continues to grow and thrive.
Word-of-mouth has enabled this growth, that
and the positive experience of the meetings
The DKC is successful
because it has been true to its founding
ideas of sharing, education and community
participation. Our monthly meetings and
annual events are a celebration of our work
and an ongoing exploration of the art and
science of knitting. Because we are in a
large urban center, our members come from
many walks of life with many different levels
of skill and experience. This diversity
is underscored each meeting during show-and-tell
when members share their work and the stories
that go with each project. Whether the knitting
is a delicate lace shawl, a chunky cardigan,
a pair of socks, or a first garter-stitch
square, everyone is applauded and each in
his or her own right serves as inspiration.
Each DKC meeting has a
feature presentation that, over the years,
has included designers, fiber artists, distributors,
writers, museum curators, teachers and textile
artists. We've tapped into our local community
as well as into the tremendous riches of
our membership to make things work and to
keep our shared experience rich and rewarding.
This is something that
knitters can do anywhere, any time they
gather together. We support each other,
respect and enjoy each other, and we have
fun. Together, because we have helped and
supported each other, we have uncovered
deep resources in ourselves both as knitters
and as participants in a broader community.
I love my guild.
Before joining the DKC,
I'd tell my beloved spouse, no matter how
enormous, that my knit-related shopping
only ever amounted to $49. ("Really.
Amazing! Only $49. for all this!")
Through my guild or, I should specify, through
one of my very special guild friends, I
learned to make my husband even happier
by lowering that price to $29. He has never
questioned my purchases since.
Looking back to the bleak
days before I joined the Downtown Knit Collective,
I wonder how on earth I managed to cope. Participation
in the guild has given me so much more than
I could have expected when I first joined
in 1997. It is a source of inspiration, support,
community and friendship. It is a place where
even if only for a few hours each month, I
exist as a knitter in a world dominated by
knitting in all its aspects. At my guild,
knitting matters and being a good knitter
means something, even if you're only being
a good knitter for the very first time in