The Knit Wits of Mountain View are tied together by “a slow craft” (involving ewe auctions and fungus dyes)
On any given Saturday morning, patrons of Red Rock Coffee might catch a glimpse into one of Mountain View’s quieter microcultures. A group of knitters gathers on its first floor, bags filled with puffy balls of yarn, needles at the ready. In a rush-rush society of instant coffee, ready-made garments and fast food, these women carve out quiet moments to slow down weekly. Each arrives in her handmade garb, mainly scarves and/or sweaters, then finds a place at the reserved table.
The Knit Wits is one of a number of groups Red Rock has taken under its wing. With the mantra “cafe, culture, and community,” the shop also hosts game nights, entrepreneur networking breakfasts and even a motorcycle club.
Clare Cordero, Knit Wits’ longest current member, arrives first, sporting a multicolored scarf in jewel tones and a cardigan. Despite her seniority, she’s quick to dismiss a claim to leadership, noting the group runs more as a democracy.
Joan Jones was one of the group’s founders. “She was such a sweetie,” Cordero says of Jones, who passed away earlier this year. “She used to knit baby hats for the children’s hospital because her daughter-in-law was a nurse there … She didn’t ever seem to need a pattern. She just seemed to know what to do.”
For more than a decade, the group has attracted a varied membership — hobbyists and professionals, young and old. One member creates sample pieces for businesses to display. Another undertakes test knitting, giving feedback on when to cut rows or decrease stitches. Two knit on their company buses while commuting to Genentech and Twitter. “Some of them are mothers with kids,” Cordero adds. “They’ll take their knitting along to kill some time (at sports games).”
One commonality among members is patience. “It’s a slow craft,” says Cordero. “It’s not instant.” There’s also a shared mindfulness for sustainable living. By purchasing small-batch-dyed, natural fibers like wool, silk and cotton made by local artisans, they hold themselves to a higher standard. “We’re not buying imported, sweatshop labor stuff,” she explains. “What we end up knitting is actually quality that’s going to last. We’re not participating in this fast economy.”
They’re also a sociable bunch, chatting spiritedly over macchiatos and mittens. “We talk about knitting, of course, but we also hear what everyone’s done during the week or where they’re about to travel to, or what sort of activities they’ve been involved in, any sort of dramas in someone’s life,” Cordero says. “Though there’s not usually too many dramas for us.”
Yarn festivals seem to be a current hot topic. Members mention local events like Lambtown Festival and STITCHES West. But the heavy-hitter is the renowned New York Sheep and Wool Festival. DD Lloyd reminisces about her trip to the event last month and how she flew a red-eye into Boston to make time for a “yarn crawl” beforehand. This included stopping at shops like Sheep and Shawl, Webbs (a warehouse she describes as “the Costco of yarn shops”) and Knitting Garage (a hidden gem down an unpaved country road on somebody’s private property).
The event itself offered workshops for everything from wedge shawl design to dying with lichens and mushrooms.
“It was definitely sweater weather,” Lloyd notes of the event’s strategic autumn setting. “They jokingly call it the knitter’s prom because everyone knits something for it.”
The event also included a llama/alpaca parade, an ewe auction and a chopstick knitting contest. It arranged a book signing with Nancy E. Shaw (author of “Sheep in a Jeep”), gave sheep-herding dog demonstrations and brought in a woman who spun the fur straight off a molting angora rabbit into yarn.
This smoothly segues the Knit Wits into the topic of yarn fibers. Everyone knows sheep’s wool makes great string, but the options don’t stop there. “Angora rabbit gives you angora, angora goats give you mohair,” Lloyd says. A ball of yarn could have a past life as the coat of a bison, a camel or even a possum.
Yet while the materials may vary among the knitters, the group collectively echoes a similar line of thought that there’s always something new to be learned about their particular pastime.
Anyone curious to learn more from these knowledgeable knitters may stop by their table from 9–11 a.m. on Saturdays at Red Rock Coffee, located at 201 Castro St. in downtown Mountain View.
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