Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Location, Location, Location

As some of you already know, my one previous experience with stitching and bitching in Chicago was not a smashing success. I attended three or four meet-ups of my neighborhood's group, and met some quite nice people. It was fun, even though the meetings take place in a café which is so dark that it's touch-and-go following a pattern unless one is using bulky white yarn and has excellent eyesight.

At the end of my last meeting, however, two members took me aside and said that while the group's description said all were welcome, really it meant all women were welcome. They, and others, found having a man at the table inhibiting. It made it difficult for them to discuss "intimate women's issues."

Well, okay, fair enough. You don't have to tell me twice. So I haven't been back. (Even though I know not all the members felt that way-I have to emphasize that many of them were perfectly friendly.)

But still, knitting is (or at least, can be) a social activity and although I'm often solitary by nature, I missed having face-to-face time with other knitters.

Then I got a message from reader Aidan Gilbert, who suggested that a men's group might be formed. But since that's not something you can start up on short order, we decided to at least meet and knit and get acquainted.

Aidan also lives in Chicago, though on the South Side. For those of you unfamiliar with the size of this city, that means he and I are not exactly next door to one another. From my house (on the North Side) to his house, on public transport, could take upwards of two hours.

So, where's the best place for the South and North to come together?

(Who said Gettysburg?)

The South and North could logically meet in the middle, and that's what we did. At quite the last moment we found out that Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, located smack in the middle of the Loop, had established a Tuesday evening Stitch 'n Bitch.

Problem solved.

Yesterday at 6 p.m. I walked into the restaurant of the museum (photo at left) and found 50 knitters going at it. Fifty. At least. And me without my camera.

This was the second meet-up of the group, and apparently the museum staffers were somewhat taken aback. The first meet-up drew four people.

Aidan was already there, and though I missed him at first he spotted me and got me a chair next to him, and introduced me to the very cordial knitters in the next chairs, Nancy and Dierdre, who also belong to the Windy City Knitting Guild.

Nancy had a metal neck charm that was also a needle gauge. Women get to wear all the cool stuff.

As you would imagine with that many knitters, there was a bit of everything. Knitting, crochet, and one lady with a round plastic object she bought at Wal-Mart that somehow makes hats. De gustibus non disputandum.

Attitude was refreshingly absent, at least where I was sitting. I was working on the Aran sweater (pictures forthcoming when it looks like anything) and the sight of my hand-drawn chart drew some curiosity. There was much touching of other people's yarn and chatter about patterns and what-have-you. You know, the usual.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I even got some knitting done.

Aidan has been knitting for 35 years, or roughly the length of my lifetime. He claims to have knitted black sweaters in the dark, while watching films. And I believe him. This level of skill could make a guy nervous, except he's also very friendly and funny as all hell.

As an added feature, there was a woman with a video camera and a microphone walking about, filming and interviewing. I forgot to ask what she was there for. All signs were that she was going to ignore the two men completely, but in the end she did ask us for the male point of view. She was moderately insulting and knew nothing about knitting, and I expect both of us will wind up on the cutting room floor, wherever it may be.

The idea of a men's group in the city is one Aidan is still pursuing (I will lend my full support, though I regret my schedule is already too full to do much other than publicize it through this blog) and he is setting up a Yahoo group to get the ball rolling. Details as they develop.

In the meantime, boys (and girls), the MoCA meet-up is terrific. The room is huge, the light is good, the tables are plentiful, there's no smoking to stink up your yarn, and admission to the entire museum is free.

Sometimes I almost enjoy living in this city. But don't tell anyone.

49 comments:

Rebekkah said...

Too bad about that first group. Their loss for rejecting an interesting, articulate, and accomplished knitter, just because of his gender. But I'm glad you found a better group!

bluecanary said...

Sounds great! When's the regular night, every Tuesday?

rincaro said...

I can't believe the 1st group was that narrow-minded, but yay for the 2nd group!

Melissa said...

You know, us girls in the art department have never let the presence of any guy dampen our conversations about anything. Topics range from how the female form is portrayed to how we feel about our breasts and the best places to buy bras. All this while sitting around outside the art building. The guys even pipe up every so often.

Hm...maybe artists really are strange.

Sean said...

It's just I don't understand why the exclusion? Just try to form a group and exclude women and see what happens...sigh.

Bonnita said...

Wow, looks like you met the Bitches of the first Stitching and Bitching group. So glad you found a better group. Obviously the first group does not deserve you.

Anonymous said...

yikes, thinking of a group of all women gives me the shivers, yick and no thanks.
on the other hand , like groucho, i wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.
just kidding; most of my best friends are guys, gay or not; and what makes them friends is that i can say what i need to say with them
marie in texas

Franklin said...

Now, now, kittens. The point wasn't to trash the old group, it was to celebrate the new one.

The MoCA SnB is only once a month, on the first Tuesday - but I'm hoping that with this sort of turn-out they might do more of them.

Cat said...

Other SnB groups tend to do the same thing to other women, especially if they are not in their age group. Oh well their loss, I would love having you join us. We did have a guy in our group (non-SnB) but he left due to work reasons, and it was a blast having him.

Oh I definitely know what you mean by that round thing and people are so proud of it and call themselves knitters LOLOLOL. Okay going back to lurkdom.

Kathleen said...

That thing with the first group is complete b******t. If you want to discuss intimate stuff with other women, form a women's discussion group, not a knitting circle. Sheesh. I completely agree with Sean's comment.

However, if it all conspired to lead you to the MoCA gathering, I guess it wasn't all bad. :)

Gail said...

That sounds like fun - I work downtown, and a 6pm start time is nice and reasonable. I have a group I go to out in Naperville on Thursdays that is super nice. No men so far, but I don't think we'd run one off purposefully.

Marilyn said...

What kills me are the women who absolutely fawn over guys who knit, patronizing them and altogether making assholes out of themselves. "Oh, how sweet! You knit? Isn't that wonderful, that a MAN can do something like that."

Ad nauseam.

Sounds like group #2 is just right. The group in my area is so awful, I went to one meeting and wanted to throttle most of them. And the ones in my age group (ye olde Red Hatters) were the worst.

June said...

What an idiotic attitude for a first group! Good heavens.

Well, if you're ever in southeastern Minnesota, we have a lovely group that meets on Tuesdays. :D

Cheryl said...

What a great place to meet at. It's too bad that people can be so short sighted to think men can't knit, or shouldn't knit. Shows their ignorance for sure. Burn your bra honey and show your freedom!!!....oops, wrong cause...

the fiddlin' fool said...

I would also be interested in starting up a men's group. I'm not quite in Chicago, but Oak Park is practically Chicago, and I know of at least a few other men who knit strewn about the area.

Count me in on the Yahoo group, if that ever comes about.

Cynthia said...

I can not believe that first group! Those women need therapy if they can not discuss things in front of a man. And to Melissa, it isn't just artists who can talk openly. I am a financial analyst surrounded by men all day. When they say what's new, I tell them--be it that I saw the Giant's game last night, or I found a rocking new place to buy a bra.

If you find yourself in the Princeton NJ area on a Wednesday night, please do come join my knitting group. No men yet, but not because they aren't welcome. We range in age from late 70s, to late 20s.

Sorka said...

De gustibus non disputandum? I think it brave that a loom knitter would come out and join a group of needle knitters in the number or 50 to 1.. you are being prejudice against her, no?
Those looms are currently feeding my yarn cravings and soon hopefully will be helping to feed my family once $$ from more pattern sales and my royalties come in.
Jump over to my blog and audi partem alteram.

And as far as that nasty group goes..illegitimi non carborundum!
Denise
knitchat.com

Melissa said...

I read your blog all the time and am a member of the glbt queernet knitting group online.

I have a small group here in Portland, OR and believe me, you would be more than welcome. Missing knitting guys in my life....

these are my musings...

Http://teaknit.blogspot.com

Susan said...

I can see an exclusive group, but they should advertise as such, why not just get it out there so people won't be mistaken. My Beadladies group - not just ladies, not just beads - include everyone. Even those that don't want to do anything but just hang out.

Isela said...

The new group sounds like a lot of fun.

It is amazing how short sided we can be and what snobs we can become. I find it a little bit interesting that although you have felt the sting of feeling rejected from a group, you have alienated the only person that was not knitting with a pair of sticks!

Knitting looms (the plastic ring) are the new rage...watch out! We are knitters! Knitters that found a different way to go about it :).

isela.typepad.com

Tina said...

I was reading your message and agreeing with you, until I got to the part about the lady who brought Looms to a knitting group. Wait. You are being judgmental with her, because she chooses to knit using tools and abilities that are different from yours but in the right hands can produce amazing works of art? Looming is just as old as knitting with pointed sticks. I almost think you were jealous of her. She came, knowing very well she'll probably be looked down upon for not knitting 'normally' but you didn't have the guts to stay with the first group (that you admitted had nice people in it) when someone questioned your 'right' to be there... Eitherway, good luck in finding a new knitting home that hopefully will be open to all knitters, male, female, sticks or circles. (personally, when it comes to knitting, I want to learn it all!)

Michelle said...

If the first group you're referring to is the same group I've visited a few times, I'm really glad I stopped going!!! Thanks for the information about the museum group...maybe sometime I'll see you there?

Christina said...

I am so happy for you that you found the MoCA group. As rk said most eloquently, the first group will regret the loss of such an adventurous knitter. Cheers, mate.

Sorka said...

Amen Tina!
Denise
Knitchat.com

Nik said...

Even if you'd joined the group that I'm in here in NC, I'd still discuss my female issues with you. Friends know me as the queen of "too much information". They suck. Congrats on finding a new group.

LaurieG said...

You'd be welcome at *OUR* SnB anytime! I heard about your Almanac project from Jean Miles and just wanted to let you know that we have a Yahoo Group for the Alamanac: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/almanac/ I started the group in '98 and altho we're not as active as we used to be we're still hanging in there! (And I'd welcome the new influx of knitters.) But if nothing else, the archives may be of some help.

dragon knitter said...

that sounds like fun! and yes, people like aidan are wonderful, because, rather than being intimidating, they love passing on what they know.

screw the other bunch. they sound like knitting nazis to me.

can't wait to see the sweater!

Cheryl said...

The only thing my knitting group won't tolerate is someone saying, "Anything more than a garter stitch scarf is too hard." Anyone of any age, sex, nationality, or hobby who wants to sit with us is welcome.

Glad you found a group that also believes that.

Siri said...

Ugh. I'm appalled that you were asked to leave. The nerve!

=Tamar said...

The museum group sounds ideal, and once a month sounds like a good schedule, long enough to be able to show off visible progress even on a long project. Does the museum have a textile division? If so, are there any antique knitted pieces in it? Maybe you could get a special tour arranged.

I know of at least one handframe knitter who found that it got her past a mental block about structure, and now she uses both handframe and needles. Handframes go back to at least the 16th century and possibly earlier, though I believe the gauge was finer. One day I intend to try making a very fine gauge one. Until then, I chug along on needles.

Joanne said...

Franklin... you knit with us here in Denver anytime!

Sahara said...

Maybe I'm from another (well I AM) time period, but I refrain from talking about "intimate feminine issues" in women's knitting group.

I tend to look young. The last knitting group where we talked about such issues, my irreverent (my word; they said something else) opinions were chalked up to my age. When they found out how old I really was, they said there was no hope for me, and slowly ostrasized me from the group.

We are not going to evolve as a human race, if we still treat "intimate issues" period, as if we were still in grade school. If there is a women in your family, then you know about feminine issues.

Ancestors, bring that group out of ignorance.

I'm so glad you found the other group; I didn't want to say anything bad about your city. Not that we'd be any better. I think it's an American thing.

Jon said...

Amazing. Maybe it's stylistic but I've mentioned how sexist women are about men knitting in their groups and I'm a woman hater. You mention it and you are lauded as the Second Coming. {sigh}

I'm glad you told this tale, Franklin. Perhaps if more of us boys would talk about our experiences like these, the women would change their attitudes to us being knitters.

Perhaps.

Ted said...

You know, maybe my memory is really poor (or selective), but I can't remember a time when I've been treated poorly by female knitters or spinners. [pause to try to remember a time] No; honestly, nothing comes to mind. (Quilters and embroiderers are another matter, though.)

Sometimes I've been fawned over (which I hate), but overwhelmingly I've been welcomed and treated with courtesy, warmth and respect. I wish I could say the same for male knitters. With a few exceptions -- I can count them on both hands -- it's been the opposite experience in my nearly 30 years of knitting.

Susan said...

If you go back and have a chance to ask Nancy about her metal neck charm/needle gauge adornment, could you post more info? Sounds pretty cool. And hey, who says only women get to wearm 'em? Sorry about the first group's narrow-mindedness, but sounds like you're in better company with the second anywho.

Valerie said...

Having met you once for all of 5 minutes (at Rhinebeck), I cannot imagine anyone not wanting such a kind, friendly person in their group. But, hey, it truly is their loss.

It reminds me of some of the groups in NYC, actually. Some require pre-approval before joining, which is a little too exclusive for me. Of course, I haven't found a good group yet that meets a time convenient for me. I'm envious of your new group, actually.

boobookittyfug said...

Dear Franklin, Susan, and All,
The sterling silver needle gauge necklace can be had at Loopy Yarns in the south loop.

I almost made it to the Tuesday MCA SnB, but my new knitting machine arrived and I was hard at work setting it up. I get strange looks at my SnB for two reasons: I'm 10-to-30 years older than the others, and I use machines as well as simpler tools. No odd looks from my guild members about my age -- there are others in the guild who are older than I -- but machine use is still regarded with suspicion.

It's a tool. I have made fine art on it and I have made "yard after ugly yard of the most dreadful material with alarming speed" (Mendelson & Dittrick, Creative Machine Knitting, 1979).

It's a tool. You choose. Horrible things can be made on needles, as well. One wonderful thing about a machine -- if your idea is not working, you see it a lot faster and can go back to the drawing board sooner.

Carol

Marcie said...

What an awful intro to SnB! There's quite a few SnBs in Boston that would welcome a little testosterone in the group.

misslunablu said...

Franklin, I don't usually take blog comments to heart, but being a member of a local SnB group I wish you could at least hint at the location of the first group you went. Why you might ask, well, being that there are several in the city, I saw references to the one I go to as the one that was rude to you and I take that personally. The friends I have made in the knitting group I go to would NEVER do something so unkind, the variety of ages and personalities lends itself the diversity and warmth of the weekly meetings. Also, having been to almost every meeting in the last four years I would have recognized you if you had come, so I invite you to my group if you every find yourself unable to make it to the MCA.

Corinne said...

I think that I can guess where the first group was, by reputation. I've never gone, because I know through the press they've gotten that I would be considered too old (although I believe the founder of said group is a contemporary). If you're free on the third Tuesday of the month, you should check out the Guild meeting at Sulzer library. We have a few men that attend, we don't fawn over them, and we just have a lot of fun. All ages and skill levels welcome there. I spent 35+ years with knitting as a solitary activity until I joined the Guild. As a result of attending these meeings and the workshops they sponsor, my skill level has increased tenfold. I'm not kidding.

Christopher said...

My friend Bridget called me tonight and told me she went to a SnB at the contemporary arts museum in Chicago. She said there was two men there. One she described sounded like Franklin! I squealed and had to stop myself from telling her to get an autograph for me next time she went. Bridget doesn't know how to knit- I taught her crochet. She said someone is going to teach her at the next SnB. What a small world.

Anonymous said...

your experience at the snb really makes me sad, I bore of all female gatherings and the in NYC the men have an exclusive group too. I started a snb in Boulder CO but couldn't find men knitters to join. Now that I am back in NYC I'd love to find a co-ed group. I just don't think anyone benefits from a Keep Out sign on a tree house...Finn

Chuck H said...

That sounds like fun! the SnB group here in Austin is really good; I guess I'm really lucky.It's a small group, but very fun...

Chuck H said...

Oh...and cameras! people like to videotape themselves while knitting, and I can't figure out why. I had one girl tell me it was for her thesis (but she was studying social work, I couldn't put it together), and another time it was photography for a book.

Helen said...

I was going to say something about the two women in the first group who claimed to represent the whole group and how I bet they didn't, but I just read that comment about people who videotape themselves knitting and I'll have to go and lie down - I laughed so hard I think I bust something. Do you think they watch the videotape alone or do they have people round to watch?

knit chick said...

I'm glad to see something about the MCA SnB. I was planning to go check it out, but I have a class the same evenings this quarter. Oh well...

That really bites about the cafe group. For those vindictive women: goes around, comes around.

LaurenLeinLtd@sbcglobal.net said...

Hi all,
I'm writing on behalf of Lauren Lein a Chicago Women's clothing designer. . . Her beloved knitter is not well and and we are searching (rather desparately) for a knitter who can loom (and would be intersted in working with us).
Any help or suggestions would be completely awesome:) 312-527-1714

LaurenLeinLtd@sbcglobal.net said...

Hi all
I'm writing on behalf of Lauren Lein. Her beloved knitter has recently fallen ill and we are (rather desparately) seeking a knitter who can loom and would be interested in working with us. Any help would be completely awesome:) 312-527-1714

tablet pc 10 pulgadas said...

What namely you're saying is a terrible mistake.