Handmade: The art of creating close-knit relationships

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Aside from the visual pleasure of stitch patterns, texture, colorwork and variegated yarn effects, the real beauty of knitting (and crocheting) is that it brings people together, and often creates the basis for close-knit relationships (no pun intended). Just ask Tina Robbins of Royal Oak.

Robbins, 45, has “become friends with a lot of people” simply by being not only a knitter, but one who’s taken the well-loved fiber art a step further. Once a month, she hosts a group of knitters (sometimes as many as 15) in her home for hours and hours of stitching and sharing creative ideas.

“A lot of times, it’s all day, like 9-4 or 9-5. I’ve been doing it since 2006,” she said. “I used to have a rubber stamping club at my house, but when I started knitting, it changed to ‘Knit Club.’ There’s no fee, but sometimes people bring snacks to share. We just get together, and usually it’s people I know, or people who were referred by others. I’ve met a number of people on Ravelry, and we correspond for a while, then I’ll ask if they want to come to Knit Club.”

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Robbins, who learned to knit from her grandmother when she was a teenager, also hosts what she calls “Knittopia,” a 10-day spring retreat held annually in Lexington. “It runs Wednesday and a week past Sunday. We do all sorts of demonstrations and classes. We have goodie bags and door prizes. Everyone stays at a large cabin that sleeps about 25 people, and we, basically, assign everyone a meal to make,” she explained. “Usually we have between 40 and 50 people over the retreat. People come and go throughout the 10 days, but we usually have 8-10 people who stay the entire time.”

Helping those in need is a big part of the stitching getaway. “We do a lot of charity knitting when we do the retreat. We actually pick a couple of charities each year, and throughout the year, everyone knits their items and brings them to the retreat. The person who picked the charity takes all the items to donate them.” Past recipients have included Knitted Knockers, Halos of Hope, and a couple preemie charities.

The ninth annual Knittopia is set for April 20-30. Prices vary, depending on the length of one’s stay. Information can be found on under Knittopia. A few spots are still available.

Royal Oak resident Barb Caddy wrote in an email: “Not only do you get to get away from home/responsibility (at a huge log cabin house on Lake St. Clair), we get to relax and work on the various projects we have brought with us. Then, there are several classes planned (discussed during the year) for different knitting techniques, or new stitches/patterns to try, along with other fun projects as well (such as weaving potholders, “blinging out knitting bags,” knitting with beads, etc.). And, there are tons of free items, donated to our retreat (patterns, yarn, knitting needles, etc.)”

And, about the knit-togethers at Robbin’s house, Caddy also mentioned that “some great lasting friendships have been made knitting there once a month.”

Robbins, who gave up knitting for about 20 years, picked it up again in 2006 after teaching a friend how to knit. “We kind of fell in love with it together,” she said. But her passion goes far beyond knitting and hosting activities for knitters. She’s also a published knit-wear pattern designer (since 2007) who hand-dyes and spins yarn, especially wool and silk together. Her patterns — mostly shawls, cowls and socks — are sold on, with prices ranging from $2-$6 each. The self-taught hand-dyer acquired her spinning skills at one of her Knittopia retreats, where someone did a demonstration.

Inspired mostly by color and texture, Robbins has also done “knitting for hire” for other designers, and spent five years doing podcasts for knitting, dyeing and spinning, which are now available on Youtube under Knitting Blooms. “It’s been about a year and a half since I stopped, but I’m trying to get organized to start publishing more tutorials online,” said Robbins, who wears yet another hat: full-time accountant. (What an amazing woman!)

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

Contact Tina Robbins on under Bloomingknitter. Email: