Cathy Jacobus started Urban Yarns about six months ago. Her goal was to bring a new group into the Joel D. Valdez Main Library, 101 N. Stone Ave. Jacobus is a reference librarian in charge of the exhibit space on the first floor, and while the knitting group challenges what some expect to find at their local library, Jacobus says this is a perfect fit with the library's mission. Urban Yarns takes place every Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., in the conference room on the fourth floor. For more information, call 791-4010, or visit www.library.pima.gov/calendar/?ID=7528.
How long has the library hosted a knitting group?
Urban Yarns started about six months ago, and our attendance varies from week to week. Despite the summer doldrums, we have a dedicated core of about 10 who come each week. As a Main (Library) librarian, I have to say that seeing downtown residents at Urban Yarns really brings joy to my heart. It makes me feel that this is more than the Main Library, but the downtown library for people who live here, that we're more than just this building with that big, red sculpture in front.
What kind of crowd do you have every week?
They are from diverse backgrounds. We originally thought the group would appeal most to downtown professionals who could come on their lunch hours. They often do, and that's great, but I totally understand that sometimes, you just want to have that hour to yourself. We're actually drawing professionals, students and retirees—people who want the chance to work in a supportive group setting. It still stuns me that there are three women who ride the bus across town to the library every week. I admire their dedication. Starting a group is always interesting, watching people open up and begin to trust each other, hoping they'll get along. So far, so good.
I always thought the library's sole focus was on books, like with book groups.
At the Main Library, we are always trying to come up with programs for the people we serve. Our mission is to be a community meeting place and promote lifelong learning. There's also a recreation component that Urban Yarns fits right into. I can even make the case that it supports literacy. Just like at children's storytimes, we get to look at books on a subject, and then we do a craft.
The last few years, crafting and knitting groups have changed the way we think about knitting, too.
(Knitting groups) are gaining in popularity, so we thought we'd give it a try. Anyone who thinks knitting is passé hasn't been paying attention. I take a selection of books and DVDs to each Urban Yarns meeting, covering everything from the latest fashions, to teen knits, to novels revolving around knitting.
Do you knit?
I'm a weaver myself. I do some knitting. I've gotten to be a better knitter these past few months.
What about someone who likes the idea of knitting, but has never picked up a pair of knitting needles? Are they welcome?
Our publicity includes the disclaimer that no instruction will be provided, mainly because I can't guarantee there will be someone at every meeting to help. If you show up with your needles and yarn, and someone is available, they'll help you. ... I also take a selection of how-to books to each session, to help people get started or to improve their skills. We even have picture books with knitting instructions for kids. There are some wonderful Web sites I have in our resource guide that people can look at. I also do a monthly newsletter for the knitters. We have 50 people on it right now.
You mentioned knitting groups in other cities that put on outdoor shows, knitting sweaters for parking meters, stuff like that. Is that something you'd like to do next?
I have a passion for the bizarre. I haven't admitted this to many people, but I'd like to do something like that. ... Maybe in front of the library, we can make a big, red statue cozy.
There's more than knitting each Friday, right?
It's social, too. That's a big thing. ... We talk about yarn, projects and even John Cusack.
Why John Cusack? Is he a big knitter?
No. Somehow, we got on the subject of our favorite John Cusack movie—a departure from knitting. When that happened, I realized the conversation had taken the group to a new level.
Any men in the group yet?
No, not yet. Isn't that a shame? Hope springs eternal.