The soft clicking of needles and the quiet hum of a spinning wheel coupled with the warmth of The Buzz coffee shop in Eldridge, Iowa, served as the backdrop to the first meeting of the Knitting Nook.
Tammy McCay, the founder of a new knitting group in the Quad-City area, is a recent transplant to Donahue, Iowa, from urban Arizona. She calls herself a city girl who embraced the idea of living in the country. When she moved to Donahue, she brought a wealth of knitting knowledge, the blog “365 Days on a Farm” and the desire to meet other knitters.
McCay, who moves around a room with barely contained energy, describes finding The Buzz coffee shop on her first visit to Eldridge and thinking it would be the perfect place to cozy up with other fiber enthusiasts and relax.
One way McCay brought attention to the club was to wander around downtown Eldridge, going from business to business.
“I talked to women in the hair shop,” she said. “Everywhere I go, people are very positive.”
Then last week’s storm came and dumped nearly
17 inches of snow in 24 hours, and she wondered if anyone would show up. She and her partner, Scott Hull, spent five hours trapped inside their Jeep on a rural road Tuesday night. They didn’t get home until after midnight, and when she woke up, she wasn’t sure if she was going to make it to the meeting.
“I said, ‘Well, I guess I should call some people’ and Scott said ‘No, I’m going to go get the Jeep,’ ” McCay said. “So he went down there and our landlord dug him out and here we are.”
At 3 p.m. Wednesday, McCay and Hull sat in The Buzz, waiting.
Baskets of brightly colored yarn and needles were scattered on a few tables in the back, and McCay was restless. She checked her blog several times, refreshed her e-mail inbox and asked Hull to text someone about the meeting. She looked at the door every time someone walked in.
“There’s a lot of snow out there,” she said.
Finally at 3:30 p.m., Susan Mohr Krupke and Jerry Tyler, both of Davenport, walked in and McCay brightened. She jumped up from her chair, introducing herself and leading them to the back.
Tyler, an engineer who was hauling his spinning wheel along with him, sat while Krupke took out her crocheting hooks and McCay whipped out her knitting needles. The three fell into an easy banter.
This was the first blizzard for Tyler, who recently moved to Iowa from Southern California. He had insisted on making it to the meeting despite the storm.
“I was almost disappointed there wasn’t a lot of snow,” Tyler said. “It was a lot of wind, though.”
Tyler, who knits with an expensive pair of German needles, is a self-described fiber and needle snob. He stopped spinning his hank of milk fiber in mid-sentence when a Smashing Pumpkins song came on over the speakers in the café.
“I thought that was Weezer,” he said. Then, his feet begin working the pedals again and he started talking about his love for NOFX and other punk bands.
Tyler is one of the elusive male knitters that McCay describes as being hard to find, but easy to befriend.
“All you have to do is find a man that knits and ask him what his latest project is,” McCay said.
Tyler was very happy to talk about his latest projects. He described yarns from an engineer’s perspective, noting elasticity and tensile strength.
He also shared stories from some of the knitting and spinning groups he belonged to in California.
“So I’m in this biker bar,” Tyler said. “There’s like six of us and we’re all knitting and this one big guy walks up and says ‘what are you doing there?’ and I said ‘I’m test-knitting a lace skirt.’ And it was pink lace. We’re in a biker bar, and I’m knitting pink lace.”
“That’s hysterical,” McCay said.
While her fingers worked swiftly on a multicolored dishrag, McCay said one of her favorite parts about knitting in a group is the easy camaraderie that comes from sharing a unique interest.
“I know there are a few groups out there and there’s even a small group here in Eldridge, a handful of women that meet at the library,” McCay said. “But I wanted something that’s in a coffee shop environment because then we can get loud and kind of silly.”
Tyler, who moved on from spinning to knitting in the middle of the meeting, said working with fiber is addicting.
“When you get into knitting, it’s a slippery slope to weaving and spinning,” Tyler said. “I have about 60 pounds of fiber in my stash.”
Tyler said spinning is even more soothing than the repetitive motion of knitting.
“I used to just put on my headphones, listen to music and kind of go into a Zen state,” Tyler said.
Meanwhile, an older man walked into the coffee shop, stomped the snow off his feet and looked around. His eyebrows went up when saw the group in the back of the room.
“What’s going on?” he said.
“It’s a fiber enthusiasts club here, knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners,” McCay said.
“A little bit of everything,” he said.
“Yep,” McCay said.
He hovered around the group, watching Tyler spin for a few minutes and then walked back up to the counter to order coffee.
Around 5 p.m., the group packed up its wares and prepared to leave. They planned to meet again in two weeks.
“This is a great way to start a new craft, a hobby, meet some wonderful people and have some fun,” said McCay.