No knitpicking

A German Colony knitting circle gets together every Tuesday to fashion clothes and spin yarns.

Knitting circles (photo credit: Barry Davis)
Knitting circles
(photo credit: Barry Davis)
There are scores of knitting-related adages that offer some sage advice for various areas of life. People looking to enhance their time management efficiency could do worse than heed the lesson of “a stitch in time saves nine,” while feted French actress Simone Signoret once noted that “chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” But the knitting women who meet up each Tuesday in a house in the German Colony are more interested in setting needle to thread, and just getting together, than addressing the philosophical enlightenment to be gleaned from their beloved pastime.
“Would you say you are a tight-knit bunch?” I venture to Ros Tarlow, who originates from Britain and has produced numerous garments for her grandchildren over the years. All I get in return for my lame attempt at humor is a withering, although good-humored, look as Tarlow just gets on with her latest wooly creation. I consider noting that she hadn’t missed a stitch during our brief exchange, but I think better of it.
Nadia Glenville, who hails from London, has been with the group since it started around five years ago.
“My daughter was pregnant for the first time, and I came because Pearlie was helping me with some knitting patterns,” she says. The helper in question is nonagenarian South African-born Pearlie Hazan, the doyenne of the circle. So, I suggest, Pearlie is “to blame.” In fact, it was Pearlie’s daughter, Sharon Yakira, who masterminded the weekly activity, which takes place at her home.
“I used to come to Pearlie and then Sharon suggested we start a knitting circle because Pearlie and her sister Bea are very good with their hands,” explains Glenville. There was also some other vested familial interest in getting the circle going from the outset.
“Sharon’s daughter was also pregnant at the time, so we sat around and knitted things for our grandchildren,” Glenville continues. “I have made scarves, dresses, cardigans and blankets, and a jumper [sweater] for my husband.”
Nothing for herself? “No, I don’t make things for myself,” she says, sounding like the quintessential Jewish mother.
The group started out with just four knitters and now includes 16 women aged approximately – one does not like to pry too much – from their late 50s to 91-year-old Hazan. Glenville says the get-together is about much more than just producing delightful articles of clothing.
“We have had various people passing through. We are all different ages and this is a lovely social group.
We have great fun together,” she says.
I arrive as the ladies are settling down to a spread of tea and cakes and some eminently wholesome salad.
Each week the repast fixings are provided by a different member of the group. Everyone tucks in and the ambiance is definitively convivial and clearly born of accrued shared time.
Not all the women’s output is kept within the family confines. “We sometimes have projects,” explains Glenville. “During the Cast Lead campaign [in Gaza] we all knitted hats for the soldiers.”
Mind you, as Nadia points out, it turned out that the IDF had a hard time keeping up with the German Colony lot and their enterprising cohorts around the country. “Everyone was knitting, and I think they ended up with more hats than soldiers.”
There is some earnest peacetime endeavor in there too. “There are a couple of ladies in our group who knit for charity,” says Glenville.
None of the knitters came to the group entirely green. Hungarian-born, British-bred Zsuzsi Stekel got some training in England before she made aliya five years ago. “I did some [department store chain] John Lewis courses,” says Stekel, although she says she didn’t do too well at all of them. “I had to do some twice because I forgot what I learned the first time. I find socks difficult to knit – that’s one of the courses I had to do over. We all have skills we find easy and others we find difficult, and we share things and help each other in the group. That’s one of the nice things about getting together.”
While many arts-and-crafts pursuits have universal appeal and help to bridge cultural gaps, Stekel actually experienced some communication difficulties in the knitting circle she attended prior to joining the German Colony gang. “We used to meet up at Cup o’ Joe near the Inbal Hotel but they were mainly Americans, and the technical language was completely different and I couldn’t follow their patterns,” she says.
That is a not a problem with her current co-knitters, most of whom originate from Britain or South Africa, with one American, one Lebanese-born woman and even one knitter of the homegrown variety.
Sabra Sarah Grayevsky is the newest recruit to the group and is attending for only the second time when we meet up. She recently returned from a five-year sojourn in Toronto, where her husband was an emissary.
It was there that her interest in group knitting was sparked. “I was offered a post at the Israeli Embassy and I could have worked there, but I wanted to do some volunteer work,” she explains, as the others chat and get on with their knitting. “I joined a group that made blankets, in Toronto, and they went to charity, like to children with cancer. That is very gratifying.”
For her part, Yakira says she was only too happy to start the circle, although, for a while, it was something of a burden. “It went really well, and my mum and aunt were having a good time, and everyone else was. But I sort of resented the fact that I had to be around every Tuesday instead of being free to go out and do my own thing.”
That resolved itself over time. “I realized I could just leave them to get on with it, the younger women and the older members – because it is a group collective idea – and it just went well. Everybody’s personalities mix so well now.”
Wisely, I resist the urge to note that the knitters don’t “needle” each other.