The Stitching Society was born two years ago, built by two Exeter humanities students who crocheted, knitted, and wanted a place to do it with other people. As the society was created mid-year, it took a while for it to take off, and the few members met in the Stannary on Wednesday evenings to casually knit together.
The freshers’ taster sessions in my first year, September 2017, saw a huge turnout. Many were there to figure out what the society was about and maybe learn some skills, and the rest, like me, were there to knit with kindred minds. Attendance eventually died down enough for us to all sit down together and have quiet sessions. We made great friends and laugh to tears almost every session – it’s really more of a social society than anything else.
We call it Stitching Society so as to not discriminate between crocheters and knitters. Those are the two disciplines/arts that we teach – we sometimes get people coming in to ask if we can teach them to mend their clothes or sew things together. You’re welcome to come in if you know how, but since none of the committee or regular members have the skill, we can’t really teach it. We sometimes get embroiderers or other stitch-based artists who come in to work on their projects with some like-minded people. It’s really lovely to be in a judgement-free zone – though it can be nice to sit in the library and have people come up to you to ask (very polite) questions about what we’re doing, most of us do it to relax and unwind, and answering questions from strangers can take effort.
A few months in there was a small election and I was lucky enough to be elected social sec, and then the following year I was elected secretary, and I’ve loved both jobs very much. It involves a lot of communication and teamwork and I’ve learned a lot – but the thing I’ve really had to take on that I never had before on such a scale is the responsibility. If we don’t show up on Wednesdays at 6 in Daphne du Maurier seminar C, our members don’t get anything. If we don’t regularly post our session times and location, we let people down, few though they may be.
It’s been such a relief, finding a place and time dedicated to knitting or crocheting where I can just relax in a chair and work on my ongoing projects with other people who I’ve come to know. We socialize, of course, and we chat and discuss important matters or asinine subjects, but in some ways I think it’s mostly a meditation session. For a lot of us, it’s our safe space, and I think it really improves our mental health and personal wellbeing to sit there for two hours, needles, hooks and yarn in hand.
A few weeks ago was Give It a Go week down here in Penryn, a bit like a ReFreshers week, where societies and clubs offer taster sessions and socials. I planned an event that had been on my mind since I gave my manifesto in third term last year: the Stitchathon. I wanted to offer a day-round event in our Social Street in the Compass where we would quickly teach people to knit and crochet, advertise our society, and ask people to make a small square. As time went on the event became a fundraising one for Mind as well (who we were put in contact with by Don’t DisAbility, making it a collaboration), and they came in to give us leaflets about mental health which disappeared like hot cakes from our stand. We raised a little over £7 in 9 hours, but I think the leaflets went where they were needed, so the time wasn’t wasted. Besides, what with the lack of mental health funding in Cornwall (and the UK as a whole), any help is welcome. The jar is still open for donations, so if you are at the Cornwall campus, we meet every Wednesday evening from 6 to 8 in Daphne du Maurier seminar C. We’re also making more knitted and crocheted squares to build into a patchwork for mental health. We want to either donate it to the Chaplaincy or to the library – we’re not sure yet.
We teach new skills every week, or offer a theme – next week is Palentine’s! So if you’re around and have any interest in knitting or crochet, come join us for a stress-free evening.