The Day Trip Issue: A Southern Pines knitting circle and finding one near ewe

By Michelle Goetzl

Three times a week in a well-lit store in downtown Southern Pines, the gentle clicking of knitting needles can be heard as a group of women and men gather to knit together. Similar scenes can be found in local yarn shops and church social halls around the country and in your own back yard.

For the past 15 years the art of knitting has seen a major resurgence. In a society with constant access to high-speed information, people have yearned for a way to slow down and produce something creative. Knitting has been called the new yoga and has a slew of physical and psychological health benefits. Besides the obvious advantage of creating useful articles and garments, knitting has been shown to help those who suffer from anxiety, depression or chronic pain. It may also ease stress, increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging. In the same way that crossword puzzles help keep your brain functioning, creating a simple scarf through knitting or crochet can also keep your brain fit.

A 2011 study from the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences found that crafts like patch-working or knitting during middle age decreased the odds of later cognitive impairment and memory loss by 30 to 50 percent.

Knitting allows you to steep yourself in creativity and forget the stress and anxiety of your day. Being actively engaged in a project in which you feel passionate about produces a feeling similar to a runner’s high, without the damage to your joints. Add that to the fact that you are making something for you or a loved one to enjoy and it is a recipe for success.

Finding a way to take a break from the daily stresses of life is the reason that Chris Mercer, a nursing student at Sandhills Community College, took up knitting. Three years ago he needed an outlet. He explains that he “had wanted to learn for a long time, so [he] sat down and worked it out one night.” He went to his local yarn store, Bella Filati, to look for yarn, bought his first pattern and was invited back for a knitting circle by owner Holly Floyd.

When Chris picked up knitting, it was during a real hard patch in his life. “Knitting was something that you could do and put your troubles in the back of your mind,” he says. “All of the ladies here have been so supportive of a guy coming in and showing me how to do it. Knitting was something positive and creative and I wound up meeting a nice group of people. It is a good social outlet.”

All of the women seated at the table with Chris echoed his sentiments. Pat Rackowszki had knit when she was younger, but picked her needles back up 14 years ago when she moved to the Sandhills. She was new to the area and retired, but when she saw Bella Filati she thought “I should get back to knitting.” She came in one day, started meeting the ladies and loved it. For Pat, it was a great entry way into a new environment and a way to get to know her new home.

Marcey Katzman had never knit before taking a class at her local store. Inexperience didn’t matter because “everyone was so supportive. It was a real bonding experience.”

Bonding experiences like this can be found at yarn stores, church groups and independently run knitting circles. Countless works of fiction have also been written praising the relaxation of knitting and the comfort of joining a knitting circle. When author Ann Hood lost her daughter in 2002, she was at a loss.

She followed a friend’s advice and took up knitting. “I often say that I knit my way back from grief,” she explains on her website. Her book “The Knitting Circle” is a novel that not only praises the healing power of knitting, but the friendships that we gain through common experiences and common passions.

Just as in fictional works, the relationships that are built during these knitting circles extend beyond the walls of the shop. Knitters learn from each other and look out for one another, especially when health issues come up. Mary Sayers, who has been knitting for six years, struggled when her husband got sick last year. “He had a massive stroke,” she explains, “and when they heard about it here, my friend Mary from the group took me out to get my mind off of my problems.”

The knitting circle is a safe space to vent and to celebrate. It is a way to get support when going through rough patches and cheers when the days are brighter. In Hood’s novel, she goes so far as to write “Every stitch is a prayer.” So it was comical when a passer-by once told the group at Bella Filati that they couldn’t meet on Wednesday nights because it is church night. Everyone laughed it off, but they all knew just how important their knitting nights are. “This group is a fellowship,” Sayers says, “a fellowship without the religious connotations.”

Knitters also have a tendency to give back. You can only knit yourself so many items, and part of the joy of knitting is giving things to others. Priscilla McLoed, a knitter for nearly 60 years, values the projects that the group works on to give back to the community. “We look forward to being together,” she says. “Whether working on the Christmas tree or yarn bombing downtown, we just enjoy doing things together and we care for each other.” (Yarn bombing is when public objects like street lamps and trees are covered with knit projects.) They also give back to others by knitting projects for Operation Gratitude (carepackages for soldiers) as well as for babies in Afghanistan and for local hospices and charities.

Each one of the knitters comes to knit for a different reason, but their creative outlet gives them hope. Owner Holly Floyd gets the importance of opening up her shop to the knitting group. “These people need to be together,” she says. “They have created a connection that is important in their lives. It is important that they get together on a regular basis and talk about what is going on in their lives.”

Yarn stores are more than just retail outlets. They are community gathering spots for people to come and share. They inspire greatness and engage the mind, body and spirit. As Marcey Katzman so aptly put it, “You always leave with a smile on your face.”

A DAY TRIP: KNITTING NEAR EWE

Spend a day in one of the quaint towns below, exploring the local fare, shops and eateries after socializing and purling in one of the local knitting circles.

Warm n’ Fuzzy

200 S. Academy Street, Suite 140, Cary, NC 27511

919-380-0008 | www.warmnfuzzy.net

Three stitch groups per week

 

Admit Ewe Knit

8320 Litchford Road, Suite 146, Raleigh, NC 27615

919-876-4640 | www.admiteweknit.com

Social Knitting: Monday 1-3pm, Tuesday 10:30am,

Friday 10:30am

 

A Row of Purls

902 Brighton Road, Fayetteville, NC 28314

910-483-3678

 

All Things By Hand

25 Market Square, Fayetteville, NC 28301

910-703-8585 | www.allthingsbyhand.com

Tuesday & Friday nights at 6pm

 

Bella Filati

277 NE Broad Street, Southern Pines, NC 28387

910-692-3528 | www.bellafilati.com

Tuesdays  10:30 am – 12:30 pm

Wednesdays  5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Saturdays  3:00 pm – 5:00 pm