BAY ST. LOUIS -- Friday mornings at the Mockingbird Cafe in Bay St. Louis are much like any other weekday morning in the downtown coffee shop. The smells of coffee and freshly baked goods permeate the air while its usual regulars, some tourists and others drop in for some coffee and breakfast.
But for the past 10 years, the Mockingbird has been the home to a group of Bay-area women and their yarn and knitting needles.
The knitting group, as they are commonly known, consists of a few core members -- Evie Gordon, Marg Martin, Cherri McIntyre and Deanna Castanedo -- who range in age from 69 to 82. And although the group has become something of a social gathering, it started as a way to heal after Hurricane Katrina.
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"After Katrina, Creative Knitting Magazine sent someone to the Bay and she brought knitting needles and materials and she thought that she could help after the storm by teaching people to knit," Martin said. "It was to help people cope through knitting. The lady went to churches on Sundays and came to the Mockingbird on Fridays. She taught us easy stitches in the beginning."
Healing through a hobby
McIntyre said learning to knit became a coping mechanism for the group.
"There's a Zen to knitting," she said. "You can challenge yourself, but you can also do something ordinary. It is very soothing and relaxing. It gave us something to do when there was no TV or newspapers. So meeting with people who had gone through the same thing, I found that very comforting."
Ten years after the storm, one of the group's members said knitting has become a big part of her life.
"Some of us are widows," Castanedo said. "This means we are alone a lot of the time. Knitting really gives me something to do when I'm alone. It gives you something to do and it gives you a way to grow. You can start a project and finish it and have a sense of accomplishment."
While knitting has helped the group members in a variety of ways, it's their family members and friends who are now reaping the benefits of their knitting skills. Hundreds of scarves, sweaters, caps and other items of clothing have been started at the Mockingbird Cafe.
A decade after Katrina, the group still gets together regularly, and there are still more scarves and hats and sweaters being made. But these days, the Friday meetings are also about friendships and bonding.
"It's become more of a social gathering through the years," Martin said. "We still enjoy knitting, but we also enjoy the company. We've kind of become ambassadors for the Bay. People are always stopping by to talk with us and pick up some tips about knitting."