Community building as a knitting project

tree yarn bombing

I have been thinking about how difficult it can be for people to meet others and do new things. We are, most of us, at least sometimes, a bit shy, or insecure about ourselves, and not certain how to reach out. This is more likely to be the case when we’ve been having a hard time in our lives, or if we feel powerless or  hopeless about ourselves or our situation.

I went to a meeting the other day to start up a yarn bombing project – public knitting, or as someone I know calls it, making jumpers for trees. It was a good meeting, good numbers, and a good mix of ages too. It was held at the local over 50’s centre (now called positive aging centres), and there were a few long term knitters there to offer technical support.

I had invited a few people to come along, and was really thrilled that some of them made it. One had got lost on the way, but still came, and the other had also had trouble finding the place. One woman,  I could see, was just thrilled to be there, and was very friendly to others, although I know that underneath she was quite nervous. The other came along partly because it sounded like such a wild idea, and she wanted to be part of it.

I am interested though in the couple of people I asked to come along who didn’t make it. They are both lovely women, and both would be great contributors to the project. However both are pretty isolated. They stick to themselves, and don’t do things outside of their usual sphere, and yarn bombing would be very different for both of them. I think that we can get trapped in our routines and our ways of seeing ourselves. Doing new things is, or can be, so hard. How can we break through this? How can we allow ourselves a different experience, another way of seeing ourselves and being ourselves? How can we accept invitations, even when we have no idea what we are getting ourselves into?

From a community point of view, how can we reach out more, so that our projects are more open to folk who don’t usually participate? How can we be more welcoming, more accessible, more open to the shy, the lonely and the insecure, who are also talented, full of hopes, and who have abilities to love, care and contribute that would make a difference to us all?

If community building were a knitting project, how could we incorporate different types of yarn, different styles of knitting, different kinds of patterns, different sized needles, crocheting and macrame and tomboy and anything else along the way? How can the beauty and variousness of the world around us be reflected in our creation?

I would love to hear any ideas or thoughts you might have about this. How can we make a difference here, either as community organisers or as shy potential participants?

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1 Response to Community building as a knitting project

  1. I had an experience of this myself in the weekend. A friend let me know about a nature tour run by the Conservation Society in Morialta Park. Assuming she was going to sign up, I signed up. It turned out she was busy and couldn’t go and I’d be hiking with a group of strangers on my own. At first I thought about calling and withdrawing from the tour and it took quite a bit of self talk and self encouragement to get in the car and go. Even as I was driving I was thinking of excuses to get out of the walk. I was thinking I’d just do my own or walk or maybe even go shopping since the city was on the way. I was surprised by my own struggle to get involved in something I knew I would love just because I had no one to go with.

    Stepping into a group of people you don’t know and doing something you’ve never done before is very scary. No wonder people avoid it. I went to the sign up table and awkwardly gave my name. The man smiled and asked how I found out about the walk and then pointed me to a tree with a koala perched in the low branches. I had walked right past it a moment before. For 10 minutes I stood under the tree taking photos of the sleeping koala, then we started the hike. I was blown away by the knowledge of the guide and the world of plants and animals in the park. I met people from all around the world who were interested in learning more about Australian wildlife and we all had a wonderful morning.

    I really wish it didn’t have to be so hard to take that first step into something new because the benefits are so tangible and often eye-opening and enjoyable. We learn so much when we step outside of our comfort zone.

    As for how we can help others who may be shy, socially isolated or resistant to change and newness take that step, having someone they know and trust to go with I think makes a big difference. Having as much information about what it will be like, what will happen and who might be there could be helpful as well. Another good way to take that first step is knowing that’s all you have to do. If you get there and then decide you want to leave because it’s not for you, that’s okay and I think that needs to be publicised more. Having the experience of taking that step and then getting something great from it makes it easier to do it again and again. I know I’ll won’t be hesitating to go on the next Conservation Society walk that comes up!

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