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.
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.