My semester ends tomorrow, and I have a full month of “‘no obligations” ahead. Well, there are inverted commas there for a reason. I actually have to figure out my dissertation topic, write a 3000-word paper and study for exams all by the end of April. So I’m already feeling like I don’t have enough time! I guess you’d say “well, at least you get to design your own schedule”, and that’s true, but honestly I find that aspect of it the most difficult. Well, not the designing aspect, but the sticking to it aspect! I’ve decided that the way to do it is to actually create a formal schedule, with one or two hour slots allocated to different things, and fun things scheduled in as well. Also, I’ll be going to the library to do my work – I think that will keep me more focused. Especially if there are friends there as well, so we can take our breaks together and I don’t feel completely isolated in my studying. Sounds like a plan, eh? I’ll keep you posted on whether it actually works.
One of the things I want to build into my schedule is going to knitting groups more regularly. This was one of the aspects of moving to London that I looked forward to most – there are simply no knitting groups in Croatia! I had started reading about them a year ago and they looked so exciting! I was lucky to come across the I Knit London website by chance at a time when moving to London was still a vague dream, and I drooled over their photos of events where a bunch of knitters would gather around tea and cake to chat, knit, munch, relax, ask for help and show off projects… Should you like to do some drooling of your own – here’s the flickr link. :)
My first real-life experience with a knitting group was last summer in Oslo. I posted on the Norway group on Ravelry and one friendly knitter offered to meet me on the University of Oslo campus and take me along to their Stitch’n’Bitch group. They met at a sweet restaurant downtown and everyone was extremely friendly. The few women who were sitting closest to me chatted to me in English, and the rest just smiled at me very warmly. I pretty much entered my ultra-shy mode, sat there all confused and dabbled with my knitting. I had decided on just making a swatch, which was a good decision simplicity-wise (take a too-complicated pattern to a knitting group and you’ll end up with a bunch of mistakes, certain things just require full concentration), but a not so good one time-wise (I was done with the swatch to soon and then didn’t know what to do with myself). All in all, it was a pleasant experience.
When I finally arrived in London, I was overjoyed to find out that the IKnit shop was in my neighborhood, a mere ten minute walk from where I live! I paid them a visit in my second week here and loved it. At that time I was getting a bit overwhelmed with London life – so many things were going on at my new university, I was meeting a bunch of new people every day, and there was so much going on in London! It was great to have all this activity, but soon I got tired of feeling guilty for not doing something incredibly exciting every single minute of the day! I remember how refreshed I felt after my few hours at the knitting group – it was the first time in this city that I had slowed down, sat down, and enjoyed a quiet evening knitting, chatting sporadically and just relaxing. Like in Oslo, I was again quite shy about being a newcomer and didn’t say much. Actually, I wasn’t much better when I went to the group yesterday! But that’s the great thing about knitting groups – you can overcome that initial feeling of awkwardness about being with all these strangers by focusing on your knitting. Sooner or later, someone will ask you what you’re working on, comment on your pretty yarn, or inquire as to the way you hold your yarn (everyone has a different method!). And slowly, the conversation will get going… And then all of a sudden you’ll realize it’s way past the time you had planned to stay there! And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? :)
Knitting groups are a wonderful way to start feeling like a part of a community in a new place, to meet people that you’d otherwise never come across (where on earth would I, a graduate student from Eastern Europe studying in central London, meet English housewives and grandmothers?), and to share your passion with other enthusiasts (no one understands better the temptations of yarn than other knitters!). I’m considering starting one when I get back home, but I’m not quite sure about it yet. I’m sure they take a whole lot of energy to run!
And for those of you curious about what knitters talk about at these gatherings, go read about Sarah’s brilliant little experiment! By the way, guess where I met Sarah? ;)