Living in the artistic epicenter of North Carolina, it’s no wonder many Ardenwoods residents share a passion (and an undeniable talent) for the arts. Of course, with so many crafters in the community, creation often leads to connection — whether you prefer painting with gouache in groups or talking textile techniques on the trail.
In early 2019, two residents saw the need for one such social group, and with help from Ardenwoods staff, the Stitchery Club officially cast-on its first stitch, going on to host an open house in early 2020 to showcase the works of its members.
Though the pandemic lockdown temporarily put group gatherings on hold, the weekly meetup was reborn in 2021 as Craft & Chat, expanding to include artistic endeavors of all mediums and abilities — from knitting to needlework, crochet to coloring books. Each meeting is an invitation for residents to work on in-progress pieces, ask for advice on creative direction, share patterns and ideas for future projects, and encourage one another to keep going.
One Craft & Chat member, Sally Farmer, has been knitting since childhood, originally learning the skill from her grandmother. In college, she became interested in weaving, and attended a weeklong weaving course at Penland School of Craft. Though she set her loom aside to pursue a career in psychology, she picked the trade back up in retirement — and, recently, she hosted an open house in her apartment to show off her impressive woven work.
Currently, Sally is spending her weekly Craft & Chat sessions working on a knitted sweater — as is fellow club member Lynn Black, who is knitting a matching garment using the very same pattern. Lynn first learned to knit in 1957 during her husband’s deployment. Working at the time in downtown Charlotte, Lynn would spend her lunch breaks with a knitting circle that met inside the knitting shop at Ivy’s Department Store. Each day, the shop owner would guide her through the process bit by bit, and, eventually, Lynn completed a pair of argyle socks for her husband.
He only wore them one time before they shrunk in the wash, Lynn recalled. But his mother happily claimed them instead — and wore them for the next 20 years.
Like Sally, club member Dianne Nutty began her knitting journey as a child, learning the craft in Girl Scouts at age 9. After moving to Sylva in 2012, Dianne joined the Dogwood Crafters Shop co-op, where she’s sold her knitted and cross-stitched creations ever since. Often working on her wares at Craft & Chat, Dianne’s biggest hit at the shop is her knit stuffed animals, and she can easily make several animals per week — though bunnies are her favorite, she said.
While many residents choose to craft (and chat) in groups, others at Ardenwoods, like David Zimmerman, choose to hone their skills at home — even outfitting extra rooms in their apartments into personal hobby studios.
A self-professed “jack of all trades but master of none,” David spent much of his childhood assembling model railroads and painting army figurines. In the mid-to-late ‘80s, he became interested in wood carving and signed up for a class at his local community college. But, when the course was canceled due to scheduling issues that semester, he switched to basket-weaving instead — and fell in love with the craft. Merging both of his artistic passions, David now works with a model kit manufacturer to help create instructions for products, and he also teaches basket-weaving to residents at Ardenwoods.