Yarn is not the only material handled with dedication and nimble care at two weekly winter gatherings on the Outer Cape, though it certainly does lend purpose, texture, and polychromatic splendor. Stories are also spun there.
At Fiber Night in Provincetown, Gary Sandoval is cross-stitching roses on a pattern that will take a couple of months to complete. The image, in which a panoply of pinks bloom against a verdant background, comes along incrementally, each stitch a pixel of what will become a small bouquet.
Though he tends his project with what appears to be a lifetime-acquired reserve of patience, he learned to cross-stitch only recently. “My mom taught me in Mexico during the pandemic,” he says, adding that “she doesn’t do images.” She stitches patterns on cloths she then uses to wrap and store tortillas.
The circle — some eight stitchers usually show up for the 5 p.m. get-togethers in the common room at the Province Landing apartments at 90 Shank Painter Road — thrums with conversation.
At Fiber Night, words fly and weave and build: Rihanna’s halftime show (controversial), local businesses (which will reopen and when?), the best TikTok cocktails (tequila-champagne, says one knitter, and the ratio: “half-half”), knitting paraphernalia (LED neck lights), and streetlights for pedestrians at night (insufficient).
Across the circle from Sandoval, Sherwood Hughes is halfway through a ribbed beanie one week and on to a pair of socks the next. Both are knitted in a variegated deep blue yarn called “blue jeans.” Hughes has also been a devout participant in the Knitting Together class that’s part of the town’s Winter Wednesdays series.
He’s “in crisis” one Tuesday in late February after a yarnover slip-up in his fine-knit socks. This blunder sparks a lively debate about the practicality of slipper socks, which, being of heavier-weight yarn, are easier to knit but raise concerns about slippiness from some. The consensus at the end: rubber treads should be added to the sock bottoms for hazard control.
This deliberation is in the spirit of Darrin Showers’s impetus for starting Fiber Night in the first place. People come with their craft questions and guide each other toward answers, he says. Fiber arts may be growing in popularity, judging from the fact that Showers tried to organize something like this years ago but it didn’t catch on then.
Showers, who’s lived in Provincetown since 1996 and does silk-screening and sticker design for Herringcove and D. Flax, both Commercial Street establishments, is also a fervent knitter. His biggest success so far: an alpaca sweater, knitted with a skull design. It was featured in a 2020 issue of PTownie. The success of Fiber Night, he says, is less about what gets knitted and more about people getting out of the house and being together.
The same is certainly true at the Truro Council on Aging, where a group of needlepointers meets every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
In spite of the venue, Pat Wheeler doesn’t see the get-togethers as being only for people of a certain age. Nor does one “age out” of doing fiber arts, she says, though “you might come to need glasses or better light.”
Wheeler is working on a cushion that will be a Christmas gift for her sister in Florida. It was initially going to be a 2022 project, but she’s not letting that worry her — it should elicit no less joy for being finished a year later than planned.
The words-per-minute spoken during needlepoint sessions in Truro keep pace with those at Fiber Nights in Provincetown. The conversation is important, Wheeler says, “especially because of what Covid did for people’s ability to get together.” A thread in the ether seems to connect the two groups. As one Truro stitcher puts it, “If you sneeze in Truro, they’re going to say, ‘God bless you’ in Provincetown.”
Maxine Notaro, a part-time administrative assistant in the harbormaster’s office in Provincetown, goes to both groups. A knitter in her youth, she picked it up again a decade or so ago when her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Notaro says she finds knitting therapeutic. These days, on Tuesday nights and Wednesday mornings, Notaro is working on a white hooded baby sweater for her great-grandchild. It’s the kind of garment that elicits a coo from the other knitters.
Which brings Notaro back to the question of the purpose of these gatherings. They’re about the people. “I enjoy being with them,” she says.