25 years ago, on January the fifteenth 1997, the Downtown Knit Collective held its first meeting. It was held at St Paul’s Anglican Church on Bloor St West, in a small room on the lower level. The organizers, Katherine Matthews, Arlene Williams, and Cherilyn Roosen-Runge hoped optimistically for a turn out of about thirty people. It was, after all, January in Toronto.
The evenings were dark, the weather was cold, and we were in the post-holiday slump when people often just want to stay home. The temperature, which had started the day at about -10, was rising and at about the freezing point. There was snow, and ice pellets. But knitters are a hardy lot and tend to have warm sweaters, mittens, socks, and hats to protect them from nasty weather. More than sixty people crammed themselves into that room to listen to the first speaker, knitwear designer Sally Melville.
Our launch was so successful that the DKC had to immediately move to a new venue for the next meeting. This began our relationship with the Bloor St United Church. We held meetings there until March of 2003, when we moved to the Central Y. Our first meeting there had about 115 attendees.
The Bloor St United Church was also the venue for our first Knitters Frolic, held in June of 1998, when we were only a year and a half old. The Frolic was started by the late Annabelle Dawson, who also gave the fibre festival its name. The marketplace was open from 1 to 5 and had less than a dozen vendors. There were two workshops offered. According to Shirley A. Scott, aka Shirl the Purl, the first Frolic took the form of a tea with vendors. And then it grew like Topsy.
Shirley went on to become a TKG President for approximately 5 years. If that name sounds familiar, Shirley also rose to fame, like Sally Melville, authoring many books. Shirley and co-author Christine LeGrow are the force behind the Saltwater Knitting Series books, and Sally Melville has written the very popular The Knit Stitch and Knitting Pattern Essentials to name just a few.
We are kicking off the 25th Anniversary celebrations with the 25th Anniversary Knit Night Party at the 2022 Toronto Knitter’s Frolic and are very honoured to welcome Sally Melville and Shirley A. Scott as distinguished guests. Sally and Shirley will reminisce and entertain us with stories of the guild’s beginnings.
To celebrate our 25th Anniversary, we will kick-off our TGK25MAL, an event that will run through to January 2023. Our February Show & Share meeting will showcase all the finished items from the MAL. Think about a knitwear designer that has a connection to our guild, from any of our 25 years. There are so many talented people who have been associated with the TKG, and then select a pattern. Let’s start celebrating all the wonderful memories made in our guild. Please join us, with your knitting and your pattern ideas!