Coronavirus craft groups

We interact differently now. We do almost everything differently now. This includes how we make and for what purpose.

We’ve been in lockdown in the UK since March and for many makers this has presented an opportunity to use up their stash (of fabric, yarn, other materials) and finish forgotten projects. For others the opportunity has been in stocking up, showing support for local or independent retailers who are still trading online. The mental and emotional benefits of making are becoming more important for many makers, rather than the product or process focus they may have had before.

The knitting and crochet group I run usually meet in person on the first Saturday of the month. During the coronavirus pandemic we’ve been meeting online via Zoom instead and this has been a learning curve for everyone involved. Once you get past the initial hurdles of setting up the call, sharing the details and participants successfully joining, you still need to figure out how to interact with each other. This is a group of people who know each other, who are quite happy talking about anything from craft to corruption and yet we need to re-learn how to communicate. Making while on the call presents further challenges, as you’re not necessarily watching for the visual cues of when to speak. The first part of the call is a bit awkward as we all settle in, although soon, without realising, we’re chatting and making like we usually do in person. Any new attendees are also participating like they’ve always been part of the group. It’s comfortable. Reassuring.

Instead of our tutorial style sessions, it’s intentionally kept informal and chatty. The topics of conversation are different now. We still cover the usual craft topics, raising queries we’d like help with, sharing recent finished items, asking where someone got this or that. We talk about how we’ve been filling our days, sharing favourite podcasts, new TV shows we’ve discovered (or those to avoid), the wildlife that is becoming more abundant in our urban spaces. Then the topics become more serious. I’m worried about my parents. I feel anxious going to the shop. What do you do when people don’t adhere to the social distancing guidelines when you’re in public? The discussion covers things people are struggling with, future worries they’re concerned about and acts of kindness. Using our hands to make and having something to focus on while we’re talking gives us a different focal point, not having to look people in the eye as we share our concerns and offer advice and consolation.

An advantage of meeting like this is that it is inclusive. Everyone who wants to can join. We have attendees who are pregnant, recovering from major surgery, living alone, shielding for health reasons or age. People who are isolated in their own homes can enjoy a social connection with like-minded makers, bringing something of their ‘before-coronavirus’ lifestyle with them, joining in with something the old-style of craft group, in some cases, wouldn’t have allowed.

We send a monthly newsletter as well, and include details of other online groups so our attendees can chat and make as often as they need to during this unusual time.

This article also appears in News, the Textile Society newsletter.