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Close-knit hobbyists: Group looking to entwine newcomers

COVINGTON - A small group known as Covington Knitters will be reaching around the globe June 13, joining thousands of knitting enthusiasts for Worldwide Knit in Public Day.

The group will be sitting in the shade of the magnolia trees in Covington's Square Park from 10 a.m. to noon doing what they love best - knitting. The event is open to the public and anyone who has an interest is welcome to drop by for a chat or join in with a current project.

"The event is for any and everybody," said Ann Wood, founder of Covington Knitters. "Our group is also open to crocheters, and we have a number of members who do both. Worldwide Knit in Public Day is for any fiber artist who would be interested or people who are just curious."

Worldwide Knit in Public Day, or WWKIP, was founded in 2005 by Danielle Landes of St. Louis. She said the inspiration came from the fact that most people knit alone.

"Knitting is such a solitary act that it's easy to knit alone somewhere and sink into your work without thinking about all the other knitters out there," she said in a press release. "This is a specific day to get out of your house and go to a local event (with your knitting in tow) just for you and people like you ... (It's a way of) getting all of the closeted knitters out into fresh air."

And those "closet knitters" will be knitting everywhere from the U.S. to England to Australia to China to South Africa and everywhere in between.

Wood said a member of Covington Knitters from Croatia inspired the group to participate in the worldwide event.

"Worldwide Knit in Public Day is a wonderful opportunity to promote knitting. I think there are a number of quiet knitters out there who do it at home and when they feel like it, but they don't get to do it socially. I believe in knitting socially," Wood said.

Believed to have begun between the third and fifth century in the Middle East, knitting was originally born out of mankind's need for warm blankets and clothing. Methods have progressed and today a family can have supplies of wraps, throws, socks, sweaters, hats or scarves and nobody ever has to pick up a pair of knitting needles. But for those who seek the joy of creating these items by hand, knitting can be a relaxing and refreshing hobby.

The Covington Knitters organizer testifies to knitting's healing properties. Director of Independent Enterprises, a program offered through GRN Community Service Board which provides job and learning opportunities for those with disabilities, Wood said she's only been knitting for about 18 months. She took it up when she was recovering from surgery.

"A friend who has been knitting for 20 years had tried once before to teach me to knit, and we decided that might be an opportune time," Wood said.

She did learn, but when she went back to work, she found it very tempting to lay her knitting down for "later."

"Because my friend lives in Decatur and she was the only person I knew who knitted, I was really concerned that I would lose the skill or that I would stop doing it," she admitted. "And I've also seen over the years how many people she drew into her life through her knitting, interesting people that she would never had met otherwise."

Assuming that there were bound to be other knitters in Covington sitting at home alone plying their trade, Wood decided to form a social and support group.

She thought of the comfort and inviting atmosphere of Town Center Breads Coffee House in Clark's Grove (off Clark Street near Turner Lake Road) and contacted owner Linda Skrobot to ask if she would be amenable to a group of knitters meeting there each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon.

"She said, 'How many people?' and I said, 'Right now, it's just one, but we're planning on having more than that.' That was in December of 2007, and I just came and sat with my knitting," Wood recalled. "People started coming in January. It's sort of like that thing, 'Build it and they will come.' My friend Donna Hornsby, who also works with GRN, was very supportive and one of the first people who came and sat with me. We just came on Saturday mornings and knitted and people joined us."

Now the group sees anywhere from five to 15 people who show up at the shop each Saturday, bringing along their knitting. The group swaps patterns and ideas, solves knitting conundrums, donates some of their wares to charities, and talks about the best places to buy yarn. But one of their most important functions is passing along the joy of knitting.

"A lady walked in a couple of weeks ago and said, 'Will ya'll teach me to knit? I want to learn to knit,'" Cole said, adding that a member who is a teacher simply said, "Come over here, and I'll show you." Within minutes, the woman was knitting.

Wood stresses that knitting can be as easy or as complicated as desired.

"If you want something really challenging like making a sweater, then you can do that. If you want something really, really simple to just occupy your hands and quiet your mind, then you can do that, too," she said.

She hopes knitters of all levels or those completely new to the craft will join the rest of the world, and Covington in particular, on the Square from 10 a.m. to noon June 13. Bring a chair, your knitting and a smile, Wood urged.

Or, join Covington Knitters each Saturday morning at Town Center Breads Coffee House at 4171 Raphael Street in Clark's Grove to knit, sip the shop's gourmet coffee or indulge yourself with their pastries or lunch. Adults only. No children, please. For a map to the coffee shop, go to www.towncenterbreads.com.