One cool morning in June, scores of zombies filled the streets of downtown Rochester. But these were not the walking dead. These were zombies of the knitting variety. They'd temporarily put down their needles to tackle a 5K during the 2019 Zombie Knitpocalypse.
Never heard of it? Neither had we, until a friend of In the Loop tipped us off to the "urban knitting retreat." A quick peek at the event's website — complete with knitting kitten graphics — convinced us that we needed to know more. So we reached out to Megan Williams, an information technology manager at Mayo Clinic, who co-hosts the retreat with a friend. Our first question: What's the story behind that name?
"Amy (Spinler) and I started a video podcast in 2011 to talk about what we've got on our needles," Megan tells us. "It's kind of like an after show. We talk about things like knitting techniques, yarn and patterns." They called themselves the Stockinette Zombies (after a trance-inducing knitting stitch), and soon had a loyal following of viewers, who they affectionately dubbed "zombies." Two years later, Megan and Amy decided to take "a leap of faith" and host a retreat for their viewers, and the Zombie Knitpocalypse was born.
"We'd gone to other knitting events and liked different aspects of all of them," Megan says. The Zombie Knitpocalypse, they decided, would combine their favorite elements. The three-day retreat has volunteer-led classes, a marketplace, a keynote speaker, and lots of opportunities to socialize. (While knitting, of course.) There's even a pajama party, a photo booth, and a beer or wine tasting excursion. And then there's that 5K. "In the knitting community, I'm known as the runner," says Megan, whose Instagram handle — JustRunKnit — is a nod to her dual passions.
While running may seem the more obvious path to good health, it turns out knitting is good medicine, too. A Mayo Clinic study found that engaging in knitting and other crafts later in life can decrease the likelihood of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss. And as Megan and others have discovered, knitting can be a great stress-reliever. "People say to me, 'I'd never have the patience to knit,'" Megan says. "I tell them, 'Knitting gives me patience.' It's very calming to know at any given time I can take out a project to work on. "
She does just that at many given times, averaging at least two hours of knitting each day. It's a big commitment from someone who didn't know knit from purl when she first picked up needles in 2008. "I'm an extreme personality," Megan tells us by way of explanation. Need proof? In addition to the podcast and retreat, she's also co-authored a book of patterns. That's to say nothing of the many, many sweaters, shawls, scarves and other items she's created for friends and family. (How many? For starters, Megan, her husband and daughter all wear knit socks on the daily.)
While all that coziness is cool (er, warm), what Megan loves most about knitting is the people she's met along the way. "For me, knitting is so much more than just a fiber art, needle craft or hobby," she says. "It is a shared interest that connects me with countless other wonderful people, and the starting point to so many dear friendships."
Knit one, purl two, then cast off and head over to leave a comment below before using the handy social media tools to share this story with others.
Tags: Community, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Megan Williams, Staff Stories, Stress management