Volume 22, Number 11 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 24 - 30, 2009
Downtown Express photo by Jared T. Miller
Ina Braun leads a knitting session at the World Financial Center.
The Financial Center gets In The Loop with knitters
By Jared T. Miller
As she stood below palm trees in the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center last Friday, Ina Braun could barely contain her joy at the sight of more than a dozen knitters completing projects they would donate to charity. But the New Jersey knitting teacher’s journey to the Financial Center, for the knitting club In The Loop, began in a more humble fashion: She was just trying to get rid of some yarn.
“It was actually a very serendipitous kind of thing,” said Braun, who runs a knitting studio in Boonton, N.J., about the beginnings of In The Loop. “I said, ‘Hey, I have three garbage bags of yarn — can we do something with it?’ And that’s how the whole adventure started.”
In that conversation, Braun was speaking on the phone with Karen Kitchen, co-founder of In The Loop and program director at arts>World Financial Center. Kitchen had been soliciting donations for yarn via her In The Loop blog, when Braun contacted her. Kitchen participated in “The Big Draw,” a 2007 arts>World Financial Center event that allowed contributions to an artist’s installation in the form of knit scarves, and was looking for a way to bring a community of knitters together at the World Financial Center. Through the event, she realized that the interest was there — but when Kitchen met Braun, the group began to gain momentum.
“She’s incredibly enthusiastic, and a great teacher,” said Kitchen. Braun now attends the monthly sessions and offers assistance to members of the group; last Friday, those knitting at her table watched with rapt attention as she showed them how to finish a stitch on a blanket.
“I’m just absolutely passionate about teaching it,” said Braun. “I really believe there is a shortcoming of people learning to know intuitively what knitting and crocheting is all about.”
In The Loop allows Braun to translate what she does in her small studio — in the form of simpler, focused projects — for a large group of knitters at each month’s event. Each month has a new project as its theme; Friday’s event had the knitters finishing blankets they had started during their time away from the Financial Center. The events give knitters a chance to finish their projects as well as learn new techniques and patterns. Kitchen, who was unable to attend Friday’s event, is instrumental in securing the group’s corporate sponsors, soliciting donations, and the overall planning of each event.
Though In The Loop certainly has an educational focus, the group’s projects also double as charitable donations. The group donated last month’s knitted “chemo caps” to Gilda’s Club, a charity on W. Houston St. that serves cancer patients. This month’s blankets will go to Baby Buggy, another New York City charity that aids families in need with supplies for newborns and young children. Because many In The Loop members knit multiple projects, Kitchen hoped to produce 50 knitted garments for each charity; so far, she and In The Loop members have consistently met that goal.
“They’re going to be thrilled,” said Braun, of the charities, “to know that a group of people has come together over a period of months and contributed in that way — because there’s nothing like a hand-knit piece.”
The group’s Brown Bag socials draw a diverse crowd. Though many knitters present at Friday’s event had been knitting for most of their lives, several younger attendees had come for their first project and Braun’s detailed instruction. Making the trek to the Financial Center from other areas of the city was not uncommon; but one woman present at Friday’s event had to travel a bit farther than simply taking the subway downtown.
“I’ve been to New York a number of times, and I’ve done all the tourist stuff,” said Safia Weeks, 33, who was visiting from England. She said she recently started knitting, and found out about the event via the group’s blog. “This is my first project, and I just finished. I’m really proud.”
But the group has something to offer more experienced knitters as well — tips and ideas from others at their level.
“You have so many resources in other people that can help you,” said Maura Templeton, 56, who works for A.I.G. and said she had been knitting for almost 50 years. “You like to talk about what you’re doing, and different techniques that you’ve picked up.”’
As she watched the knitters finish their projects, Braun remarked on how the focus of the blanket project bolstered the skills of In The Loop’s members, and taught them techniques they could use in personal projects of their own. But Weeks explained that the joy of In The Loop is rooted in something much simpler.
“I think that if you can actually do a hobby, and do something good at the same time, why not?” Weeks said.