Handmade: Knitter creates own community after moving

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Back in 1995, after raising her family in Grosse Pointe Park for 21 years, Kathryn Groustra and her husband wanted to live on a lake. But they couldn’t afford to do so in their area, so they found a waterfront house in Lexington. Being an avid knitter, Groustra soon discovered one unforeseen problem — there weren’t any knitting guilds in the small harbor village.

“I said, ‘Come on, there must be someone up here who knits,” remembers Groustra, who decided to put an ad in their “little local paper,” which read: “If there are any knitters out there who would like to get together, please contact me.” The idea worked!

She says, “The first day the paper came out, one gal called and said, ‘Do you have a knitting guild?’ I said, well — we do now! There are two of us. By the end of the day, I had at least six people who called and were interested. We decided to meet the following week at my house.”

The “All Thumbs Knitting Guild,” named by Groustra’s husband (John), was born, with membership eventually growing to around 60, including knitters from Detroit and Canada. However, since 2013, membership has dropped to about 40, due to the downturn in the economy, according to Groustra. Yet their mission has remained the same.

“We decided when we formed our guild, we wanted an educational program and we would do charity knitting,” says Groustra, just as someone dropped off a large donation of yarn at her door. “We have classes and we try to learn something new at every meeting. Usually one of our members will be assigned a program, and they will come up with a stitch or technique they can teach us, like a new cast-on. We (also) do field trips. One of our members has a yarn shop (Back Alley Fibers) in Caro, so, in July we go there, and to yarn shops in Metro Detroit. It gives us some variety.”

There are some crocheters among members, however, Groustra says, “We tend to lean more toward knitting, but we’ve done some crochet classes.” She mentions their crocheting lessons focus more on embellishing the edges of knitted items.

Members range in age from about 30-80, and pay annual dues of $15 each. They no longer meet at Groustra’s house; instead, they gather the third Monday of the month, from 1-3 p.m., at Lexington United Methodist Church, from September through June. They end their season with a potluck picnic at Lexington County Park where members take time to sit and knit as part of the event. They also do a potluck at Christmas and exchange fiber-related gifts. (What fun!)

Meetings are sometimes highlighted with special workshops presented by nationally-known knitting experts, including Valentina DeVine, Sally Melville, Nancy Weisman, Carole Anderson and Lucy Neatby. “Famous for her crayon box sweaters,” Christine Bylsma is set to present a two-day workshop, Oct. 28-29, that’s open to nonmembers. The nonmember fee ranges from $38-$76. (Reservations are limited. Call (810) 359-2565).

The guild, also a member of the Knitting Guild of America (TKGA), has a long list of charity projects, including knitting helmets for soldiers, prayer shawls for grieving individuals, blankets for the homeless, and donating “Precious Pals” (bears wearing a hand-knitted sweater) to their local fire department for children who’ve been involved in a fire or accident on the road.

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com.

Contact All Thumbs Knitting Guild at kgroustra@hughes.net.