The Wonder of Virtual Community

img_7072I’m not sure if I should be more concerned about this, but we’ve been here for nearly a month and I haven’t made a single new friend. Not because I don’t want to, but my language is still basically non-existent, and the two friends I knew before coming have been great companionship. Plus, between the sweltering heat, stifling pollution, and days and days of rain, I have been stuck inside with the children for more days than I’d care to count. Sometimes my eyes feel blurry from only taking in artificial lighting.

But I don’t feel alone. Not in the slightest. For one, texting is amazing and I am still able to keep up the playful and absurd group conversations I’ve maintained with my dearest friends in the States. Two, I am learning that even extroverts can benefit from periods of solitude and slowness. And three, I have found companionship in one very unexpected place: amongst a group of strangers on Instagram.

One of the ways I helped cope with our impending departure this summer was buying a lot of yarn. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I found a lot of peace in walking around my local shop and chatting with the employees, building my stash to ensure that I would have plenty of fiber for the whole year ahead. My biggest splurge was impulsive– five skeins of Madelinetosh Silk Merino in Modern Fair Isle. It was silky and squishy and basically cried out to me from the shelves to buy it. (I must make this part sound very dramatic and emotional to detract from the price I paid for such beauties, because I would never, in actuality, spend that amount on a sweater from a store). Part of what made it such a splurge was that unlike the piles of Quince & Co, KnitPicks, Dragonfly, and Hedgehog now sitting on my shelf with assigned destinies, I had no real plan for it. Enter Karen Templer and the #fringeandfriendskal2016.

I joined my first Knit-A-Long in April of this year, drawn to the timeless basics in Hannah Fettig’s Home & Away. My two-week sprint to complete the Sycamore Vest left my wrists achy, but my brain buzzing as I started to grasp concepts of garment construction I’d never really thought about before. Hannah was so generous, commenting and encouraging on posts, and I befriended other participants whom I still follow to this day. It was fun and memorable, but my standard practice of knitting small things for other people suited the pace of my life best, and I haven’t knit selfishly since then.

The Fringe & Friends KAL was announced a week or two before we moved, and I knew the silky MadTosh would be the perfect material. But the woman who thought she could improvise a sweater with no real pattern, while flying across the Pacific Ocean and moving her family of four to a different culture had– let’s say– unrealistic expectations. So I just sat on the sidelines and watched others contribute to the feed, cheering them on like many did for me back in April. Until this weekend when something clicked and I realized, we are settled. I have space for this. And I actually might need this.

So on I cast, with my speckly silk merino happiness and a pair of size 6s. I’ve hit some small bumps and setbacks along the way, but have been mostly pleased at the sweater that’s literally taking shape before my eyes. Nobody else has made this before, it is my very own. It is something I will treasure because it began on those self-soothing days of summer and it will end here in Asia where I have come to feel firmly planted and very much at peace. And the women who have been doing the same– dreaming up garments and watching the magic of sticks turning strings into clothing– have been running alongside me, cheering and offering advice and overusing emojis just as a real friend would.

I’m a little nervous for the day when the KAL will end. I know I will wake up to fewer notifications, fewer people peering into my life and inviting me into theirs. But really, I know I’ll be just fine…because the community of makers is worldwide, and somehow we always find each other. And this time, I’ll be wearing the perfect sweater.


2 thoughts on “The Wonder of Virtual Community

  1. “Cheering and offering advice and overusing emojis just as a real friend would.” YES. The overuse of emojis creates fertile soil for online friendships and community to grow! (Insert laugh-crying emoji and heart emoji here.) I’m so glad you’ve found your “people” through Instagram, and I’m even more glad that this is another way technology lets me keep up with your life and your passions.


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