There really isn’t a whole lot that makes me more deeply happy than seeing the friendships that develop at Squam and the ways in which these connections provide the support for dreams to take shape — and flight!
Not only does Ana own the shop, dye the yarn and teach knitting, she has also begun holding knitting retreats to keep the love of community and connection growing.
I recently asked Ana if she would share some of how she brought so many of her dreams into being and she was sweet enough to share her answers below.
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO KNITTING?
I started my love affair with yarn when I was 8 years old.
It was the 80s, and crocheted mesh shirts were all the rage. When we couldn’t find one in my size, my mom decided I could crochet myself one. She only knew how to do a chain stitch and single crochet, but she set me up with a crochet hook and some yarn. We didn’t know patterns existed, so I just made it up on the spot and soon all my toys were wearing crocheted mesh vests.
After that, I played with crochet and knitting on and off for years. In my teens, I met a woman who became a mentor in many ways, including knitting. She taught me Portuguese Knitting, and taught me how to knit swatches and turn them into my own designs.
HOW DID CIRCLE OF STITCHES COME INTO BEING?
The journey towards Circle of Stitches started long before the idea officially emerged.
I went to my first Squam retreat in 2011, a few months after I transitioned Toil & Trouble from a line of knitwear to a line of hand-dyed yarns. I was profoundly unhappy with certain aspects of my life and looking for something that was still undefined.
I heard about Squam, and felt equally intrigued and horrified. As an introvert, I was terrified at the idea of going into the woods with people I didn’t know, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I really needed to go. So I signed up, and when I got in my car, I told myself I could always drive back home if I needed to.
This was one of the best decisions I have ever made –
I learned that life could be different, and that I could
shape my life around what inspires me.
I’ve attended three Squam retreats so far (since that first retreat): I left my original career,grew my hand-dyed yarn business, and opened Circle of Stitches.
I had been feeling the need to create a space for community but wasn’t sure what that should look like. The idea of building it as a space for knitting and crochet emerged in the fall of 2014, and we opened our doors in early 2015.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE SHOP?
The biggest lesson I learned at Squam was the importance of holding space.
Circle of Stitches is about fiber, knitting, crochet, embroidery, inspiration, and creation – it is about inspiring and empowering people to be the fiber artists they want to be. But beyond that, on the most fundamental level, it’s about creating community and holding space.
It’s about providing people with a common ground and allowing them to gather and connect. I’ve seen so many beautiful friendships flourish here, and I’ve found my tribe. That has been the most rewarding part of this project.
Of course, every project comes with its challenges. It is definitely a constant challenge to manage the business side with the community building side – but it’s so important, because the business side is what allows us to exist and keep building this community.
When someone visits Circle of Stitches, I want them to feel welcomed, inspired, and supported. We want to make sure our community is always friendly and welcoming to newcomers.
A lot of new people have been moving to the north shore, and often times, finding a stitching group is the first sense of community they experience after their move.
Education is also very important to us. We work hard to make sure our staff and teachers are very knowledgeable, and able to help our community grow their skills. We are always developing new classes and ideas to keep people inspired and learning.
WHAT HAS BEEN ONE OF THE JOYS OF OWNING CIRCLE OF STITCHES?
Elizabeth Zimmerman once said, “knit on, with confidence and hope, through all crises.”
Knitting has helped me through many crises in my own life, and we see it happen at Circle of Stitches too. People come in carrying all sorts of burdens, and through the creative process of knitting, they find a safe space.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR KNITTING RETREAT 🙂
I now also host a small fiber retreat in East Madison, NH, Lakeside Fiber Retreat.
In 2014, my friend Gayle challenged me to organize a gathering for knitters. My immediate response was, “absolutely not!”
But sometimes the world sets us up for things we hadn’t even thought about.
Gayle, wouldn’t take no for an answer and pointed me to a retreat center where she had been going to a scrapbooking meet-up for years. I agreed I would at least LOOK at the place, and next thing I knew, the whole gathering was coming together and in 2015, we had our first retreat.
Lakeside Fiber Retreat happens once a year in May, and is a continuation of what I learned at Squam – we hold space for community, and allow people to come together and be creative. We are two years in and it’s been really amazing.
Looking ahead, I try not to let the compulsive planner in me get too far ahead of herself. The last few years have taught me that life will take me in directions that I could never have planned for. I hope to see Circle of Stitches continue to grow, and I’ll always be learning and discovering new ways to share my love of knitting.
THANK YOU, ANA!! What a fabulous glimpse into making dreams real. I can’t wait to follow along in this adventure you are living.
ALL PHOTOS courtesy of ANA CAMPOS