How do you keep your local knitting gatherings alive? I’m talking about informal gatherings of fiber crafters, as distinct from classes, retreats and other more formal gatherings.
Stitch and Bitch.
Pints & Purls.
Pizza and Purls.
I’d call it: Crafters-Coming-Together-to-Gab-Stitch-Stuff-Our-Faces-and-Have-a-Good-Time, but that’s kind of a mouthful and there’s not even a good acronym in there. CCTGSSOFHGT anyone? Yeah, didn’t think so.
I’m not really concerned with how one successfully starts a group, although that would also be an interesting topic of discussion. What I’m wondering about is how one sustains such a group.
Where I live (medium-sized-town Minnesota) there are three primary weekly/bi-weekly knitters’ gatherings:
- A Wednesday night group that meets at a local coffee shop
- A Friday night group that meets at a pizza pub
- A Saturday afternoon group (sparsely attended) that meets at the Mall Food Court.
Right now, it’s the Friday night group that’s in danger of extinction. And it’s really too bad, because this one is my favorite. Why do i like it? I think it’s some combination of:
- It’s Friday. Woohoo! : The relaxed attitude that comes with the end of the work week.
- Location: This is the only gathering that happens at a pub. You can stop in for a quick drink and a few stitches if you don’t have much time. Or you can settle in to share a pizza and finish a sweater sleeve. The pub doesn’t mind if we stay for hours because we’re good customers.
- Friendly bartender/waitstaff: They know and like us. We’re polite and we tip well. The bartender models any FO finished at the pub.
This all seems very congenial, so I’ve been flummoxed by the draining membership. In recent months, we’ve sometimes had only two people show up.
I have some hypotheses about what might be going on.
- Absence of the charismatic leader: The Friday night group was started by a local knitter with real personality. The kind of person who draws people together. She’s what Malcolm Gladwell would call a Connector. The group thrived for about one year, during which she was consistently present. But then she stopped showing up. Life got busy, or other interests got in the way. Who is to say for sure? Without her, there is a distinct change in energy in the group.
- Venue: Not everybody likes pubs. I don’t get it, but I can understand in the abstract. One person (who only rarely comes to the Friday night group) mentioned that she didn’t like the feel of knitters “bellying up the bar.” Truth: We actually have a large booth in a corner, which admittedly is right next the bar.
- Menu: Pizza and Greek food, that’s what this place serves. Nothing to write home about, but nothing objectionable. Still, I’ve heard that some people in the group don’t particularly like the food at the pub. Is this enough to keep people away? Hard to say.
So what is to be done?
I would hate to think that any group would depend on the presence of one charismatic leader. Do we need another such person to step up? That seems like a losing proposition because we are then depending on one person to keep us going –again.
Do we need to try new venues with different food? We have a comfortable place at this pub. They’ve even put “Pints & Purls” on their weekly events listing. That’s how much they like us.
I’ve decided to start testing my hypotheses with an experiment: This week we are changing venue to a new pizza place. The pizza is better and they serve drinks, but it’s a restaurant and not a bar. The plan is to try alternating venues every-other meeting for a while and see what happens. Do we get more interest? Do we get new attendees? For this meeting, I’ve even managed to lure the charismatic leader. That’ll probably skew my results.
Wish us luck. And let me know what else we should try.