WORCESTER, Mass. - A longtime community organizer is weaving her passion for local politics with her love for knitting, and the unlikely pairing has proven to be a winning formula.
The Worcester Knitty Council, started by Deb Powers, offers crafty citizens a weekly forum where they can unravel the tangled threads of city government.
What You Need To Know
- The Worcester Knitty Council was created by Deb Powers as a way to combine crafts with discussions on local politics
- She finds it gives people interested in learning more about local government a comfortable environment to do so
- The Worcester Knitty Council meets on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at The Village in Worcester
- Participants can knit, crochet, sew or any other portable craft
On Sundays at The Village cultural center, Powers and a handful of ‘knitty councilors’ discuss issues like redistricting, affordable housing and increasing voter turnout - the kind of conversations usually heard inside City Hall or on the campaign trail.
“The idea was to bring together people over knitting or whatever craft they do, because the conversations when you’re working on stuff together are very, very different than the conversations you have at candidate forums and meet-and-greets,” Powers said.
Powers is now a few years into the Worcester Knitty Council routine, but her passion for keeping the people informed dates back decades.
She recalled the late Worcester Youth Center Founder Lynne Simonds knocking on her door to invite her to come see the new center in 1999 as a turning point.
“She looked through my door, spotted my computer and said ‘You know about computers?’," Powers said. "The next thing I knew, she had signed me to a contract to create a community computer center. She not only taught me how to do community organizing as opposed to organizing, but also kind of made that a passion for me.”
Powers also held other knitting groups in the past, which helped shape what the Worcester Knitty Council would be. Even back then, she noticed conversations would naturally drift to what’s happening around the Worcester.
“There definitely is a feeling that people are hungry for this kind of engagement,” Powers said. “They’re really, really tired of being told ‘Vote’. What can you do to change things? ‘Vote.’ They want to know what else they can do, they want to know how they can get involved.”
Powers said most of the people who have become regulars with the Worcester Knitty Council are younger women, and she’s excited there is a welcoming space for them to get more involved in local government.
“Many of them have been in Worcester for less than a decade and are finally starting to feel like they are putting down roots and they belong in the city,” Powers said. “And now they want to know what they can do to get more involved in the city.”
And in today’s political climate where talking about divisive issues can sometimes have people ready to burst at the seams, the Knitty Council could certainly seem like a breath of fresh air.
“When you’re sitting around a table and working on stuff and you’re interrupting each other to say ‘What do I do with this stitch?’ or ‘Is this good?’ There’s a more homey feeling, and people tend to let their guards down,” Powers said. “Even confrontational questions don’t feel confrontational.”
For anyone interested in stopping by a Worcester Knitty Council meeting, they are held every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at The Village in Worcester.