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A (knit)stitch in time

Tigard Knitting Guild marks 20th anniversary and is still going strong

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Members of the Tigard Knitting Guild show off scarves they made during a knitting workshop. The Guild celebrated its 20th anniversary last week, with plans to grow its membership this year.For longtime knitter Sabrina Grant, the crowd of people at the Tigard Senior Center last week was there to celebrate something important.

The celebration was a birthday for the Tigard Knitting Guild, a club comprised of knitters from across the Portland area, who meet monthly to discuss their craft.

The organization began 20 years ago, with a simple goal: Find a place where men and women could get together and talk about their favorite hobby.

Two decades later, it’s still going strong.

The Guild — known as “TKG” to its members — has been meeting at the Tigard Senior Center for years, offering knitters the chance to get together through special talks with local dyers, yarn makers and shop owners.

“I love to knit, and I love to be around knitters,” said longtime member Patti Irvin. “I have made lifelong friends in that group.”

Irvin, 66, was one of the guild’s first members.

Membership keeps growing

Not a lot has changed in the past 20 years, Irvin said. Yearly dues are still $24, it still meets at the Tigard Senior Center, and the format of the meetings is the same as it was when it first began.

One thing that has changed is its membership.

From 30 initial members, the organization has swelled to more than 120, with members coming as far away as Gresham.

“It’s great to be around people who are passionate about what you are passionate about,” said Irvin.

The Guild’s vice president, Sabrina Grant, joined the organization six years ago and said she can’t imagine a world without TKG.

“It’s like having a room full of teachers,” said Grant, 57. “No matter what you know, if you’re a beginner or an expert, you are learning all different kinds of things. I just love it.”

Grant, who will take over as president of the organization next year, said she has plans to grow the membership.

The Guild works with several local charities, knitting animal blankets for Cat Adoption Team in Sherwood, hats for chemotherapy patients at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, and caps for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The club brings in speakers from across the region to discuss the latest in yarn, dyes and all things knitty.

“We have had some pretty famous people in the knitting community that come to town,” Irvin said.

After Oregon’s Imperial Yarn was selected to make the yarn for the U.S. Olympic team’s sweaters, the owner Jeanna Carver came to speak to the Guild about her ranch and the process of making the sweaters.

“That’s the kind of caliber of people we get through here,” Irvin said.

What separates the Guild from other local knitting groups, Grant said, is its dedication to teaching members about the latest and greatest.

“It’s not just a place you can go to knit, you can do that in any coffee house,” Grant said. “There are all kinds of different things that I would never be exposed to otherwise. The Guild has opened my eyes to a whole new world of yarn. Everything is so interesting. I keep going back because I want to see what’s going to happen next.”

People will come

In 1994, nobody was sure if there was a need for a local Guild, said co-founder Karen King. Portland had a knitting guild already and there were several groups that met at local shops.

“We thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have a location on the Westside, instead of having to go to downtown Portland?” King said.

Knitters agreed. About 30 people showed up for the first informational meeting, and King knew people were clamoring for something closer to home.

“That really showed that there was an interest,” King said.

The Portland area is home to a large knitting community, in part due to a recent resurgence in the hobby in the last decade, Irvin said.

“There was a big craft movement about 12 years ago, and a lot of younger people came into knitting and sewing,” she said.

Today, knitters have more ways to connect than ever before. Meetups at shops, local knitting groups and even their own social network, Ravelry, which boasts more than 4 million members.

But despite the competition, Grant said she expects the Guild to still be strong in another 20 years.

“People will always want to meet and talk,” she said. “Even if you aren’t knitting together, you are talking about it.”

Irvin agreed.

“People know when they come here, they are going to learn and see something interesting,” Irvin said. “I think that’s what the attraction is. If you have a good program, people will come. If you’re just visiting, people can get that anywhere.”

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