Courageous Vulnerability

“Do not think you can be brave with your life and your work and never disappoint anyone. It doesn’t work that way.”

–Oprah Winfrey

I am not good at confrontation. I hate making people mad, I hate it when people don’t like me, and I hate disappointing people. I recognize I’m not alone. I can’t imagine there are many people who revel in disappointing or infuriating others. As uncomfortable as it is, though, it seems impossible to completely avoid. Unfortunately, it seems like despite my efforts to the contrary, I will not always make decisions that everyone agrees with, not everyone will like who I am or what I do, and in living this life, I will never ever completely avoid confrontation.

Recently, I changed the structure of my beloved Knitting Support Group, a group I created four years ago. When I created this group, my goal was to provide a time for knitters to come to the yarn shop where I work and know they could regularly show up and get my help with their knitting. I picked a random time during the week when I knew I could consistently host, which happened to fall on the slowest day and time of the week at the shop. I had no idea if it would colossally fail or if it would take off, but I decided to just try it. For weeks, it was just me and my co-worker, knitting at the back table, hoping someone would eventually show up. Fortunately for me, in the four years since I launched KSG, the group expanded to three or four, to 8, then 10, and then consistently bursting to 16-20 people around our table. As I continued to help knitters, my skills, ability, and confidence developed right along with the group to be able to simultaneously manage picking up dropped stitches, teaching someone how to mattress stitch, giving advice on what to do about a mistake five rows back, offering blocking instructions, walking someone through turning her first heel on a sock, and helping knitters choose their next project, keeping in mind their abilities, personality, and style–all while ensuring a welcoming, positive environment for everyone who took the time to come to my group.

I am incredibly proud of the space I created. I believe the atmosphere and popularity of KSG was not accidental. I wasn’t just lucky and it didn’t just happen. I believe I created that space. Intentionally, I worked very hard to ensure every single person who came to the group felt welcomed and not only got their knitting needs met, but grew tremendously as knitters. Every single knitter who came to KSG is a better knitter because she showed up, knowing she would get the support she needed week after week. I am incredibly proud of that. I loved every single one of my knitters and, in return, I was loved right back.

Recently, though, I was forced to make a change to the group. Because it had grown so much, I wasn’t able to help everyone in the same way I wanted to, even having some new knitters leave because I couldn’t get to them in time. It broke my heart to know a knitter had bravely come to KSG to get help and I wasn’t able to get to that knitter in time to give her the help she needed. In response, my manager and I were forced to have difficult conversations about what to do with the group.  She saw the group as having grown into more of a social group, and because we already host a social knitting group at the shop, she didn’t want to pay me to host another social group through the shop. Because my original intention remains helping knitters with their knitting, I knew I needed to find a way to encourage that facet of the group to flourish. My goal as Karyn Johnston, as Knit Hero, really is to “help knitters knit,” so I decided to continue the group, adding another time and day option, limiting how many people could attend each session, and get paid not through my hourly wage from the shop, but by participants as if they were taking a class. In order to keep it on the shop’s schedule, I pay a fee for the space and for the publicity the published class schedule provides.

While I feel buoyed and supported by many, it is hard for me to know there are some who are upset with the change. To those who are upset with me: I am sorry. I am grateful the group I created meant enough to you that you’re sad it has changed. Honestly, the group has always been changing, though. From the very first day I started the group, it has continued to change, to evolve, to grow, and to develop. While I’m proud I created a social space so many loved, there were just as many others who were deciding to no longer come for help, for knitting support, because it had grown so big, so noisy, and so crowded.

To those who continue to support me and my vision: thank you. Seriously. From the bottom of my heart. Knitting Support Group has been small the past couple of weeks, providing a tremendous value to those who attend. I feel good about the amount of support and the atmosphere I’m able to provide in the smaller groups. I, of course, hope it will grow a bit, hoping as classes pick up and the weather turns cool, more will look to join my space, to learn and get help from me.

Until then, I will continue to work my hardest, remain positive, and continue doing the best I know how to do.

Because that’s all I know how to do.

It’s going to be okay.

I trust myself. I trust others. I trust the space we create together.

“Trusting ourselves and others is a vulnerable and courageous act.”

–Brené Brown


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