Sunday, March 13, 2011

Building and Maintaining a Machine Knitting Club

Knit Natters didn't meet yesterday.  The hostess, Barbara, had flu at her house and the rest of us didn't figure out another place to meet in time.

Margaret has offered to hostess next weekend at her house in Pflugerville (NE of Austin).

I have to brag a little on Barbara.  Quite a few years ago,  our local dealer (a marvelous lady, Charlotte Powell), decided to stop holding a monthly knit club meeting, and Barbara offered to hostess.  Month after month and year after year, Barbara has rearranged her life for one weekend of the month.  She has an extremely busy job and a long commute, but she rearranges her house and cleans like a dervish so we can come.  We are now using every single chair she owns, I think..

Barbara had a few fantastic ideas at the outset that came from her years of attending clubs.  First of all, everyone can talk about whatever crafts or even life at show-and-tell.  This way, we get to see Barbara's dolls or Mildred's quilts or Pat's tatting.  It adds a lot of fun.  Secondly, she knocks herself out to make a wildly fun holiday party each year.  Third, beginners are very welcome and we don't care what machine they have.  Different machines make the club more interesting.  Fourth, Passap knitters have lots going on at our club, not just Japanese knitters.

Several of us take turns coming up with demonstrations, and we are always trying to get more people to show us how to do the things they make.  For a while, it looked like our little club might die away slowly, as some of the ladies became elderly or disabled.  We were so sad to lose Mineola Grumbles, who was an inspiration to us all and knitting very actively into her late 90s, even with her eyesight almost gone.  Mineola named our group.

Then we put in the website, and I wasn't doing a great job, but at least we had something.  After that, Pat retired and started teaching all over the place (knitting, crochet, tatting, and other things, too)  and she also got very involved with a craft consignment store for seniors.  She was talking us up, and bringing us some people. I was giving a financial literacy speech one day when I met a very nice young woman who told me about how easy it is to do a blog.  I had asked her, a PR and web-marketer,  to have a  look at, and she said that it was okay as far as it went but needed current content.  A blog comes  to life with lots of posts.  Some of my blog readers have found us - but this blog is  mine, not necessarily the club's.  I love to publicize the club, but don't want them stuck with the blame for anything I do that is stupid.

We have gotten to know the ladies at the DFW guild, and we copied one of their good ideas and set up a  Yahoo group.  You wouldn't believe how easy this is to do, and it will give us the following abilities:

  • Email everyone in the group instantly
  • Keep files online - pattern directions, whatever
  • Keep photos online
  • Keep a calendar online
Our Yahoo Group is called Knit Natters, and if you're a machine  knitter in our area, well, you can join.  We'll accept folks, and if someone starts spamming or flaming, it's easy enough to drop them.  Not that you have many problems with knitters!

Our group has grown and gotten big. 

Here are things I think work to build a machine knitting club:
  • Just start.  Even if it's only two of you and you don't know each other well, set a regular day every month and get together and actually knit.
  • Find a steady location.  Of course, you can move from house to house, but there are library community rooms, senior centers, spots in churches, and lots of opportunities to find meeting places.  It really does help, though, to have a steady location.  Try to get a downstairs situation, since a lot of MKers are older people.
  • Don't have one person do everything.  Our club improves every time we get someone different to show us  how to do something different.  
  • You'd love to have a dealer involved, but your club should not exist to make money for a dealer.  Nobody should feel sales pressure.
  • Work VERY hard to avoid a snobby club.  All machines and skill levels need to be welcome.  Say it right out loud - that it's a club goal to be friendly, welcoming, and very open to beginners.  (Our beginners are awesome, by the way,  and have been very, very helpful to the club, hostessing and really pitching in.)
  • Have regular jobs for people - a club treasurer, a person in charge of refreshments, etc.  We have relied heavily on Barbara but a lot of clubs don't have a Barbara.
  • Take on charity projects, if members have any interest.  You can get publicity this way, too.  Back when our club was handled by Charlotte, the club knitted Caps for Kids and got newspaper publicity for that.
  • Get some knitting done every meeting.  This probably means that you have to yell and break up the chatting and get down to the demonstrations.
  • Do some field trips - to local yarn shops, to fiber  festivals, to craft shows.
  • Consider the feature-rich Yahoo group idea.  Have a web presence!
You can do this!  All you need is one other machine knitter, and you can grow a club from there.  

Please tell me about your club efforts!

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