There is no more rapt audience than a roomful of knitters quietly clicking their needles while listening to a guest speaker talking about…knitting.
That is the scene on the third Thursday evening of each month at Calvin Presbyterian Church in Tigard, when dozens of members of the Tigard Knitting Guild meet for a social hour followed by a speaker and concluding with a “show-and-tell” session when the members show or model their latest creations or in one case, hold up knitted treasures purchased on a trip.
This year the group is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and at the July 18 meeting, two of the group’s charter members, Donna Lee Palin and Patti Irvin, were on hand to talk about the founding of the guild with 24 members in 1994.
“Norm Wilson came down from Seattle and wanted to start a knitting group and got four people to join him,” Palin said, who like many in the group has been a knitter since a young age. “We went together to a yarn shop on Main Street in the fall of 1994, and that was the start.”
Irvin added, “I have been a knitter for 31 years because I started the year after I got married, and we have been married 32 years.”
The ladies have noticed some trends over the decades, such as younger people taking up the craft and joining the group in recent years, and knitters getting more adventurous in what they create instead of the traditional socks, baby sweaters and shawls.
And then there were different types of yarn in vogue that came and went. “We’ve done them all,” Irvin said. “I mostly knit for myself and family members, but some of us give everything away.”
Palin added, “We used to knit for the grandkids, but now they want $200 holey jeans.”
The ladies agree that the best part of being in the groups is the friendships.
“This has been a wonderful group for me,” Irvin said. “Donna Lee is one of my best friends. We would never have met except for the Tigard Knitting Guild. Most of my friends are knitters.”
They also lament that there are so few charter members left.
“So many my age don’t knit or drive anymore,” Palin said. “Or they have moved away. Some of us are in more than one knitting guild.”
While knitters might continue to knit exactly as generations before them have done, they also have embraced new technology. They no longer mail out paper newsletters (Palin has the very first one) but instead email them, and the group has a website.
The guild also has shifted locations over the years. It started meeting at the old Tigard library (now part of City Hall), then moved to Ann’s Yarn Gallery at Hall Boulevard and 99W, and then settled at the Tigard Senior Center before moving to Calvin Presbyterian Church.
“There was a knitting resurgence around 2005-06,” Irvin said. “I don’t know what caused it, but we had an influx of new members.”
Kay Irwin, who joined the guild in 1996, said, “I have made so many friends, and I enjoy the programs. The techniques have changed since when I started knitting, and now there are classes. I am so inspired by what everyone else does.”
Joanne Hughes said she can’t even count how many years she has been in the guild, but it is at least 10 years. “I like to see what everyone else is doing,” she said. “It is inspirational.”
Some newcomers attending a meeting for the first time said they were impressed at the friendliness of the group and were considering joining.
Kami Hamilton has been a member for exactly one year and found the Tigard Knitting Guild by searching online for knitting groups. “It never occurred to me they would have a guild,” she said. “They have great programs and speakers, and it’s nice to have the show-and-tell.”
Laurie Mackay, who has to be one of the most creative knitters in the group, makes “hat wigs” that combine a knitted hat with long yarn “hair” cascading from it for those who have lost their own hair.
“I knit a lot,” she said. “It keeps me sane. It is my therapy. I am constantly knitting and do a lot for charity. I’ve lately turned to designing patterns for knitters and have sold some.”
She currently has four patterns, including ones for the hat-and-hair combo, online on Ravelry, a community site and organizational tool plus a yarn-and-pattern database for knitters and crocheters.
The guild meets on the third Thursday of the month starting at 6 p.m. at Calvin Presbyterian Church, 10445 SW Canterbury Lane, Tigard. All knitters are welcome from beginner to master knitters.
For more information, visit www.tigardknittingguild.org.