Trying to find ways to stay connected is a difficulty many of us are facing. I’m a misanthrope, so…eh…not so much. It is funny how often I find myself in this role, though. For most of my work life, I’ve worked “remotely”. I didn’t work inside an office. I reported to the office, but I rarely had to go in. Even when I worked in the office, I supported, or was paired up with people who worked remotely. It’s a different type of rapport building. You can’t just smile at someone as you walk past their desk. You have to be intentional about contact. And some of that contact is dumb. In the office, when you come across an odd name, you can chuckle, and mention something about it, and someone will hear you, and there may be a short interchange. But, in the field, you actually have to pick up the phone and call someone and say “Guess what name I came across?”.
I think I’ve told you a dear friend and I became friends because I misdialed an interoffice number. I happened to catch him on his first day at that company, and because I was used to the weirdness of remote work, I chatted with him. Unbeknownst to me, for several years, he thought I had intentionally called him to check in on his first day. I wish I could lay claim to that kind of thoughtfulness. I can’t. I misremember birthdays. What actually happens is that I remember the birthday at an inopportune time, and then forget to call when I get a chance. But if you want to know that a co-worker’s name makes me giggle every time I see it…well, I’ve probably told you three times. For inquiring minds–his name is Jason Wason. I *know* it must be pronounced Wah-son, not Way-son….but in my head, his parents are jerks that gave him a rhyming name.
I’ve done a whole thesis (literally) on community. My thesis was specifically on the music scene, but since it’s my thesis, I’m extrapolating. And it’s completely extrapolate-able. I’ve read a lot of research on the importance of community groups on social wellbeing. Clearly, one of my social groups is the fiber community. My knitting group hasn’t met since last February (we might have gotten into March, but since I still have N’s birthday gift, I am pretty certain it was February). At the beginning of all this, I had suggested to meet virtually. However, no one was interested. I think it was a combination of us all thinking it was going to be just 6-8 weeks, as well as some fear of the technology. But whatever the real reason. I heard crickets. OK, then.
Then, last fall, when all signs were pointing to this being super long term, they decided to try to meet virtually. I had already started new habits/routines, and then I had recovery, so I was out a couple of times at the beginning. It’s definitely a different thing. In person, there are often long periods of silence when you are just working on your project and enjoying being with each other. Or, we’ll have multiple conversations going on at once, and I go back and forth between a couple of them. Silence on virtual calls is weird and uncomfortable. Some people aren’t used to this format, so have loud/distracting/weird background noises going on. Cross talk is almost impossible, and really should be discouraged. But…one of our very first members moved away several years ago, and doesn’t get to come. Except now, since we are virtual, we get to spend time with her. Another member also moved away during this time, and hasn’t had to stop joining us. So, like with most things, there is both good and bad.
At a virtual retreat…because yes, everyone is trying to navigate this new world…an attendee was talking about a project she and her group of friends do. In this project, they all send her a skein of fingering weight yarn. She splits it up, sends back out mini-skeins, and they work on a project together.
I spoke with my group, and we had enough interest that I decided to try something similar. Poopie called it yarn potluck. So, part of my recovery from surgery was getting squishy presents on my porch and splitting up the yarn into mini balls. Because what I had did not evenly split between the six of us, everyone got a batch of five, and was missing their own. I had SO MANY questions about the yarn. But, the hilarious thing is that pretty much everyone sent in a turquoise-ish color. I KNOW that if I had specified a color, it would have been even more questions (is this too green? is this too blue? is this teal, or turquoise?). But since I didn’t, they pretty much all sent in turquoise. Please excuse the wires, I was doing this on my work desk 🙂
I then had to pick a pattern. This was my genius idea, so it was only fair that I had to figure out the details. I needed something that would lend itself to many pieces of yarn. I wanted something that was relatively simple so that people could personalize. I took an informal poll, and the consensus was for a cowl. So, to Ravelry I went. I found this: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/coulis Simple, easily adaptable if you want to add patterning, yet still beautiful if you don’t want to think. I thought this would be good for our first attempt.
As far as I know, only myself and one other person has finished the cowl (or, frankly, even started on it). But that’s OK. The point isn’t for us to do something specific. The point is for us to feel like a community. I have plans for the next thing, probably in a month or so. I’m thinking of calling it “Steel Wool”. It’s like Iron Chef, but with fiber arts. I will have a challenge fiber, and we will incorporate it into a project. It won’t have to be knitting. It could be crochet, or weaving, or spinning, or collage, or…I don’t know. I’ll probably have that going for 2-3 months, and then try to figure out how to do a Round Robin project.
We keep hearing that we are all in this together. But unless you are naturally a hermit, you probably are having a hard time with how together looks right now. You may have even tried reaching out, but it wasn’t the right medium, or maybe not the right time. Try not to get discouraged. Look, realistically, there probably won’t be any more of my group finishing the cowl. But these ladies (because the guys didn’t wish to participate) came together to do a little thing. We had conversations back and forth about yarn, about patterns, about whatever. And that’s what the point was.
Wednesdays are generally about works in progress, and I finished the cowl. But community is still in progress. Community is ALWAYS in progress. It doesn’t matter if there’s a pandemic, or not. We should always be working on community. It’s important for the world, it’s important for our health, and it’s important for our souls.
Do you have ideas for virtual fiber connectivity? Do you want to be sent some challenge yarn? Let me know.
Good night Dear Reader!