Crafters group at the library is a tight-knit bunch spinning a warmer winter for many

Inside a room just off the entrance to the Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library, a group of about 15 women gathers every Tuesday at 10 a.m. to knit, crochet, catch up with each other, and laugh.

Handmade hats, gloves, mittens, and scarves are being created by a volunteer group at the Alice and Jack Wirt Public Library in Downtown Bay City. If you’re looking for the Knitting Solutions meeting, just listen for the sounds of laughter and encouraging words coming from a conference room on the library’s first floor. During the two-hour meeting, the women help newbies master new techniques, troubleshoot with veterans trying to fix missed stitches, and praise each other’s latest work.

During a recent meeting, group leader Jan VanNostrand holds up one woman’s holiday creation featuring a series of reindeer. She points out another’s tote bag crafted from yarn in vivid jewel tones. She praises newcomers who have perfected new stitches since the last week and stops to admire a pile of warm hats stacked up on one of the tables.

The group, calling themselves Knitting Solutions, has made the warm weather gear to give away for about seven years now.While the group is open to anyone working on any project, the women of the Knitting Solutions group are focused right now on stitching up warm hats, gloves, mittens, and scarves to stave off the cold during a chilly Michigan winter.

They’ve donated the cozy accessories to the Good Samaritan Rescue Mission and have a few stacked near the library doors, inviting anyone who needs them to take them.

By the time they wrap up the project, the crafters expect to have donated between 50 and 100 articles of warm-weather gear to the community.By the end of the year, VanNostrand estimates they’ll have created between 50 and 100 different pieces of winter gear to distribute throughout the community. This is about the seventh year they’ve focused on knitting for people who need warm weather gear.

The group’s roots go back deeper than seven years, though. For several years, VanNostrand taught knitting at a local yarn shop. When the shop closed, the group wanted to continue. VanNostrand moved them to the library. They started with a handful of women in a small, second-floor meeting room. They quickly outgrew that space as their numbers more than doubled.

Most of the crafters spend the early winter creating hats to give away. But personal projects, such as socks, always are welcome.Today, between 15 and 16 women show up on any given week. VanNostrand points out that there’s still room for more people. She has donated yarn to offer to anyone who wants to learn the basics or try their hand at more advanced skills.

Over the years, at the yarn shop and inside the library, VanNostrand has helped knitters graduate from knitting and purling basic dishcloths to more complicated patterns such as socks or sweaters. While traditional knitting is her first love, VanNostrand is ready to teach people to loom knit or crochet. She’s so ready that if you mention that you’ve been expanding your knitting repertoire, she’s quick to offer yarn, lessons, or whatever support you need.

The women fill the Kantzler Community Room with laughter, yarn, and friendly banter.The women in the room can vouch for the sincerity of her offer.

Nan LaChance, who learned to knit with the group, joined in July 2021. She says she came to the library with her sister, who needed to use the computers. Typically, LaChance says she would have sat in the children’s area to read while waiting for her sister. This time, though, she noticed the knitters.

Some of the handmade pieces came from donated yarn.“I just wanted to see what was going on, so I came in here,” LaChance remembers.

She began knitting dishcloths. A little over a year later, she’s advanced to granny squares.

Nearby, Kerry Kalahar unpacks her knitting back, stacking hat after hat onto the table.

The group may meet in a library, but the conversation flows freely while they stitch.“I made a couple hats this week,” she says, eliciting laughter from those near her. She eventually pulls out 12 hats to donate, pauses for a moment, and then extracts a soft, baby hat she made for her granddaughter. Her friends coo over the tiny, pink hat.

“I knit a lot of socks, but I just wanted to do something different,” Kalahar says. “I knit every day. If I can start out my day with a few stitches of knitting, then it goes well.”

Kalahar has been knitting since she was a child. She was one of five girls in her family. Her mom couldn’t afford knitting needles for all the kids, so she gave them sharpened No. 2 pencils. They used dark yarn to disguise the inevitable lead marks.

“We were very excited when we got to use the prettier colors,” she recalls.

The lesson in frugality helped years later, though, when a friend wanted to teach a group of children to knit, but didn’t have the budget for both needles and yarn. Kalahar suggested buying inexpensive dowel rods at a hardware store to get the children started.

Wirt isn’t the only place where the library offers space for fiber crafters to meet up and share tips and techniques, says Kristin Madaj, Marketing Manager for the Bay County Library System. Crafters of all skill levels, from beginners to experts, are invited to the groups and registration is not necessary.
  • The Sage Stitchers begins in January at the Sage Branch Library. Sage Stitchers will meet the second and fourth Fridays of the month from 10 to 11 a.m. The Sage Stitchers meets in front of the second-floor fireplace.
  • The Needle Crafters Club meets at the Auburn branch library on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 6 to 7 p.m.
  • Knitting Solutions meets from 10 a.m. to noon every Tuesday at Wirt. VanNostrand says the group will not meet Dec. 20 and 27, but will start up again in January.

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Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at