A stitch in time
Oct 31, 2023
Aug 12, 2023
-Messenger photo by Kelby WingertMembers of the Wednesday morning knitting group met at Ardys Mae this week to chat, drink coffee and work on their knitting projects.
Every Wednesday morning somewhere in Fort Dodge, a group of women get together over cups of coffee, breakfast pastries and skeins and skeins of yarn. It’s a sorority of sorts that grew out of two separate knitting groups over the last 18 years.
This group doesn’t have a particular name, nor does it have a well-documented history. The first knitting group started around 2005, according to Roxana Webster, one of the founding members. At that time, she said, the knitting group would meet once a week somewhere in the downtown area of Fort Dodge. Then, in 2009 Webster was asked to teach a knitting class at Iowa Central Community College. When the students in the knitting class wanted to keep taking lessons, Webster invited them to meet in her home, and that’s how the second group was born.
“I was kind of the connecting body, the tie between the two groups,” Webster said.
Eventually — no one’s sure exactly when — members began drifting back and forth between the groups until they merged into one. Over the years, the group’s numbers ebbed and flowed and members joined or moved or passed away. Today, there’s about eight or nine who regularly meet every Wednesday morning, but sometimes they see as many as a dozen or so, Webster said.
This last Wednesday morning, the group sat around four tables pushed together in the back at Ardys Mae Coffee & Dessert. The ladies swapped stories as they pulled out their works-in-progress.
-Messsenger photo by Kelby WingertMiles McIntosh, 3 months, watches intently as his mom, Chelsea Esterline, knits the sleeve of a sweater for him recently at Ardys Mae.
“It’s very therapeutic,” Beth Lennon, of Fort Dodge, said of the time the group spends together. “We share patterns and ideas too.”
The group is truly intergenerational. Some of the ladies have begun to bring their granddaughters to teach the next generation how to knit and crochet. Webster brought her 13-year-old granddaughter Kelsey Webster, and Azalya Hill, 14, came with her grandma, Susan Gill, on Wednesday.
The group’s youngest member is three-month-old Miles McIntosh, son of Chelsea Esterline, of Fort Dodge. He sits on his mother’s lap while she knits a sleeve that will eventually be added to a sweater for him to wear next winter. Every so often one of his dozen or so surrogate grandmothers will come by their side of the table to try to elicit some smiles and laughs from Miles.
“I think we all have one common bond — an extremely large stash of yarn,” Karen Heun, of Fort Dodge, joked.
This group is more than just a handful of ladies who like to knit or crochet. Friendships and community have blossomed between the stitches. Esterline and her husband are originally from California and don’t have any family nearby, so the ladies at the knitting group have filled that role for her.
-Messenger photo by Kelby WingertRoxana Webster, of Fort Dodge, is crocheting a pillow cover. Webster is one of the original members of the Wednesday morning knitting group.
“This is the community that I’ve picked and I get to raise my kid in it and it’s pretty cool,” she said.
The group meets every Wednesday at 9 a.m. They try to rotate locations, most often visiting one of the several locally-owned coffee shops in town. When the weather’s nice, they’ll sometimes meet at a city park instead. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they still were able to meet thanks to modern technology and video calling.
Sometimes, instead of meeting for conversation and coffee over their knitting, the group will go on a “road trip” to visit a yarn shop or craft store in a nearby town, Judy Cosgrove said.
Throughout the years, the members of the group have knitted and crocheted countless blankets, hats, mittens, sweaters and just about anything else a ball of yarn and a good crochet hook or knitting needles can make. Some have gone to their grandchildren or other family members, but many have gone to those in need in the Fort Dodge community. The group has donated hats for cancer patients and gifted items to the YWCA.
Lately, Megan Secor and Lennon have been using “plarn” — plastic yarn made from grocery sacks — to crochet sleeping mats.
-Messenger photo by Kelby WingertMegan Secor, of Fort Dodge, uses "plarn" -- plastic yarn made out of grocery sacks -- to crochet a lightweight sleeping mat that will be donated to help a homeless individual not have to sleep on the bare ground.
“These sleeping mats are for people who are homeless or near homeless, so if they don’t want to be in a shelter, then at least they have something to get them off the ground,” Secor said.
“Plarn” is a great way to reuse something that most people just throw away, Secor said. It takes more than 500 plastic bags to make one sleeping mat, she said.
Regardless of what project someone is working on, the group always welcomes new members or even just visitors.
“You don’t even have to have an invitation — you can just show up with some yarn,” said Diane Whittier, a member who now lives in Ankeny but still occasionally drives up to visit with the group.
For any lone yarn enthusiast looking for a new place to call home, just look for the ladies sitting in the back of a coffee shop telling stories and sipping coffee over a table covered in half-finished yarn projects. Sit down and it won’t be long before they have you in stitches.
-Messenger photo by Kelby WingertAzalya Hill, 14, is learning how to crochet as she goes with her grandma, Susan Gill, to a Wednesday morning knitting group.
-Messenger photo by Kelby WingertJudy Garton, of Fort Dodge, works on her knitting as she chats with her friends in the Wednesday morning knitting group at Ardys Mae this week.
-Messenger photo by Kelby WingertJudy Cosgrove, left, and Karen Heun, listen to the conversation as they work on their knitting and crochet projects at the Wednesday morning knitting group.
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