Knitty: little purls of wisdom
letter from the editorfeatured articlesKnitty's fabulous pattern selectionarchive of back issuessee what others have made using Knitty patternstell us what you think of KnittyKnitty's favorite linkstake home something Knittyjoin the Knitty notifylistto find out how to support Knitty, click here!

my grandma's knitting needles. click me.the Knitty FAQ

submission guidelines for designers and writers
the obligatory legal statement
the rabbit

© Knitty 2002-3. All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. This means you.


Knitty's favorites La bonne tricoteuseTechniques with Theresa
Knitting yourself togetherBildungsrowanDKCSweaters from Camp
Slip-stitch knittingDyeing for grown-ups Summer knitting

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 there!")

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 passion?

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 themselves.

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 your life.


Kim Finley is a mother, wife, advertising executive and passionate knitter.

Knitting fills the hands and the spirit, knowledge that has sustained and enriched Kim throughout her adult life. In celebration of this joy, Kim publishes a print-based newsletter called The New Knitter's News, available by subscription.