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Knitters Gone Wild! Chicks with Sticks Descend on Local Bar
By Olivia Boler
There's nothing like an evening of knitting and cucumber martinis to round out a Monday night. That's right: knitting and drinking--the latest in hip-to-the-minute extracurricular activities. Chicks with Sticks, a Noe Valley knitting and crocheting group, meets in the Blue Room of 24th Street's Bliss Bar every Monday evening at 6:30, and anyone--beginner or advanced, woman or man--who is tired of purling in solitude is welcome to join.
It all started in November 2003. Jersey Street roommates Gabbi Pope, 32, and Kathy Barobs, 38, had tried to host knitting parties in their home, but their living room proved too snug. The duo decided to move the fun into a public forum. They scouted out Bliss Bar and asked bartender Deb Gatiss if they could sit in one of the booths and knit.
"On a Monday night, it's pretty dead," says Barobs. They posted a notice on Craig's List inviting anyone interested to join them in clicking needles and highballs and swapping yarns. In less than a year, the group has grown to 260 members. They were even featured in June on Channel 5's entertainment news show Evening Magazine.
Pope and Barobs have put up a web site, www.sfchickswithsticks.com, on which they post photos, announcements, and ideas for projects beyond the standard scarf--such as a poncho or a hat. They also sell tote bags, T-shirts, and even thong underwear embellished with their logo: a skein and knitting needlefilled martini glass designed by member Mary Ann Cotter. Membership in the group is free, and the virtual store's sales pay for the web site's upkeep.
Since the knitting sessions are so popular--anywhere from four to 30 stitchers show up each week--Bliss Bar owner Pierre Letheule has given the group a standing reservation for the Blue Room on Monday nights. It's tacitly understood that knitters will buy at least one or two drinks for the privilege of casting on among friends.
"We thought about meeting at a café, but there isn't one in the neighborhood that's big enough to accommodate everyone who shows up," says Barobs. (That may change when a new knitting emporium, Noe Knit, opens in Colorcrane's old spot on 24th Street this fall.)
For some members, mixing crafts with mixed drinks is a plus. Being able to order alcoholic beverages while creating and socializing appeals to Betsy Boyle, a Cow Hollow artist who has attended three Chicks with Sticks meetings so far.
"Doing crafts can be isolating, so it's great to have this unconditional acceptance and support from other people who, like me, need to be doing something with their hands constantly," Boyle says. "And Bliss is such a svelte bar."
So far, the only hitch has been lighting. The web site's FAQ page suggests bringing light-colored yarn because it's easier to see in the dark bar. Boyle concurs--she has taken to wearing a camping headlamp while knitting there and says another member has brought her own desk lamp to shed light on her work.
Chicks with Sticks meets every Monday night at 6:30 p.m. at Bliss Bar, 4026 24th Street. For more information, visit www.sfchickswithsticks.com.