Although I love my online communities, sometimes it's nice to have a physical group of fiber friends that you can meet with, share projects in person, and even get help choosing a color or picking up a dropped stitch! But how do you go about finding that local community?
Your Local Yarn Shop
If you have a local yarn shop, try there first. Frequently, shops have specific knitting group times, either once a month or weekly. Sometimes shops even have space available to sit and knit anytime the shop is open. Not sure what your shop's policy is? Don't hesitate to ask. If you're shy about it (trust me, I'm super shy, so I understand), call or send an email asking about it first.
In a survey about knitting communities, I received several responses with comments about why respondents don't sit and knit at their LYS. I can't change shops that are too far away or that aren't open when you would be able to go, but I wanted to address a few comments. These are comments straight from the survey:
"Didn't know I could do that. I thought the option was only open to those who were taking a class."
Every shop will be different, so you'll want to check yours to be sure. And you don't want to interrupt a class going on. But when there's not a class, most yarn shops will have space set aside for people to sit and knit. The only way to find out for sure is to ask.
"others in group weren't welcoming"
This can be a real bummer. You see a group chatting and knitting, but it doesn't feel like you'd be welcome to join in. And unfortunately that is sometimes true. But sometimes that's not the case at all. The only way to find out is to reach out to them first. Ask if you can join them (just make sure it's not a class first).
Don't base your opinion of the group on just the first time you go. Sometimes it takes a while to feel like part of the group. Let's be honest; many of the people in the group will have been getting together to chat and knit for months if not years. It's only natural that they have developed a close bond (and inside jokes) that you aren't part of. Yet. You'll never be part of it if you don't sit down with them more than once.
And I'll be honest again. I hate doing this. I'm so quiet and shy that approaching a group of people who are obviously good friends and trying to introduce myself to them leaves me terrified. It's taken me almost four years to start going more frequently to my own LYS and sitting down at the social table. But the more often I do it, the more often I feel welcomed and like part of the group. It's not easy at first, but if you don't give up, you can get there. (It also took me almost a year before I started going frequently enough and being part of the group enough with my weekly local knitting group. So I totally get how hard it can be for some of us to join in a group that is obviously tight knit. No pun intended.)
"sometimes project makes me think and I cannot chat and knit"
This is when having multiple projects going at once can be quite handy! I rarely ever bring a project to a knitting group that takes a lot of concentration. Usually a plain vanilla sock or something super easy is my go-to type of project to bring to knit night.
"I actually buy very little yarn from them... mostly needles and other knitterly odds and ends. I'd feel incredibly weird sitting in a yarn shop knitting with yarn I acquired elsewhere."
I completely understand this feeling! And there are some shops that actually have policies in place about this (most often I've seen that relating to a class rather than just social knitting, but I have heard some shops do require you to use yarn purchased from that shop). This is something that is going to be specific to that yarn shop, so my best suggestion is for you to go and see the kinds of projects other people are bringing to social knitting time. If it seems like people are using yarn bought elsewhere, you shouldn't feel uncomfortable about doing the same. (Basically, figure out the culture of your particular shop.)
I belong to a local knitting group that currently meets at a local Starbucks. So how do you find groups like that? Sometimes you can ask your LYS if they know of any local groups, but usually some searching is needed.
Go to the Groups tab. Right beneath the search box, you'll find an option to browse groups by location. Type in your city or your zip code. When I typed in my zip code, I got 183 results! You can narrow that down by clicking the option for "only local stitch 'n bitch groups" (don't be taken aback by the name; it's from a book of the same title that came out over 10 years ago that really started a movement of creating local knitting groups). Doing that got my results down to 70. Still a lot to go through, but manageable.
Click on the group name and read the description. See when and where they meet and read any threads that are on the discussion board for that group.
Here's one big tip: Don't judge a group by the activity level of their Ravelry group. For example, my own knitting group meets weekly. We have a Facebook group that we use to communicate. The last time someone posted to the Ravelry group was 5 months ago (incidentally, for a thread asking if the group is still active!). We are indeed still active, just not on Ravelry. So if you find a group that sounds perfect but no one has posted to the Ravelry group in months, don't despair. Post a thread asking if the group is still meeting and/or send a Ravelry message to a group moderator. My group is not unusual in its lack of Ravelry activity. I know quite a few groups that are very active in person but not online.
On Facebook, type the word knitting and the name of your town/city in the search bar. For the search results, click on the Groups link. Does anything pop up? Try other words besides knitting such as "fiber" or "yarn." (I noticed that knitting plus the name of my city does not pull up my own knitting group, but the words fiber and the city name do.) Join the group (you may have to wait until a moderator approves you) and find out when and where they meet.
If you're not familiar with the website meetup.com, give it a try. You can search for groups by topic (knitting) and filter by location. It's a great way of finding groups (if they are registered with the website). Give it a try for your other interests as well if you're looking for a group. (Back when I lived in Indiana, that's how I found out about the amazing local mom's group that I was part of when my son was born.)
And you should always try a Google search (again for "knitting and name of your town") to see if anything pops up. Also, if you have nearby towns that are close enough for you to meet up, make sure to also search using those names.
A knitting guild is a more formal group and usually has officers, a business meeting, and other structural elements. I recently joined a local knitting guild. It's a small group, but it has introduced me to some wonderful people in the area. But I've noticed that guilds seem to be hard to find as many don't have much of an online presence. Use the same search tools as above, just add the word "guild" to your search. (I know quite a few guilds are available here in the Dallas area, for example.)
One benefit to a guild, especially if you're shy, is that the more formal structure can be helpful since you feel less like you're intruding on a group of close friends. (Not that guild members aren't close friends.) And guilds frequently have workshops or other events, and some even provide a small discount at LYSs for guild members!
Local Community Center/Library
Check out your local library or community center to see if there are any groups that meet there. Just give them a call (you can check the website, but sometimes these types of meetings aren't posted) and ask.
Start Your Own
What happens if you've done all the above and still can't find a local group? Or what if you've found one but the time/place they meet is not convenient for you? I'll bet there are more people in your area like you. Someone just needs to make the first move to get a group started. So how do you do that?
The first thing you need to do is find other people. If you already have a local friend who knits, pick a day/time and location to meet and start meeting. Sometimes just the act of knitting out in public will bring people to you. From the survey, someone had a really great suggestion: "Part of what has helped is talking about my knitting and knitting in public so people mention someone else they know who is a crafter. I can then extend an invitation to that person."
You can also search for people in your area on Ravelry. Go to the People tab and click on Advanced Search. Along the left side of the page, you'll have a series of search options. One of those is "Distance from Me." Select an appropriate distance (start with 5 miles and expand from there if you don't get many results), and you'll get a list of people whose location is within that range. Take a look at their profiles and see if they appear to be active. Send them one message asking if they would be interested in meeting for knitting. (If you send one friendly message, you shouldn't worry about spamming. Don't send message after message to one person if you don't get a response, though, as that would indeed be out of line.)
Of course, this only works for people who have their location set. Which is another suggestion for you. If you really want to find a local group and you're having trouble, make sure you have your location set on Ravelry. Maybe there's someone else who has started up a group or wants to but won't know to contact you about it if you don't have your location listed. (I do completely understand if you don't want to list your location for privacy reasons.)
One survey respondent did worry about starting a new group when so many other groups were available. But none of those groups meet at a time when it's convenient for this person. (Most groups seem to meet at 6 or 7 on a week night, which doesn't work for everyone.) I'll bet you're not alone. I'll bet there's someone else out there (multiple someones) who would love a group that meets on Sunday afternoons or Wednesday mornings or whenever it might work best for you. There's no monopoly on knitting groups. Just because one exists on Mondays at 7, it doesn't mean there can't be another one in that area, too, at a completely different day/time. Maybe some membership will cross over, but you'll probably also reach people who want to meet but can't do Mondays at 7 and will be so grateful to you for organizing an alternate group.
I hope you find a group or start a group if you're looking for one. As one person said in the survey: "How would a knitter thrive/survive without them?!"
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