Martha Stewart taught me that imperfection is okay
When former Martha Stewart Living employee Jennifer Johnson-Porter moved to Bermuda, she never imagined that knitting would be the thread that united her with the community.
But after launching a knitting campaign in The Royal Gazette to get warm weather items for Hurricane Sandy victims, Mrs Johnson-Porter said she was inundated with e-mails from locals hoping to help.
She formed the Knit Wats, with Louisa Swayne and Oneka Benn Schwartz. They meet twice a week at Tribe Road Kitchen the group is open to anyone who wants to learn or relearn how to knit. The idea is to create scarves, hats, bootees or sweaters and donate them to hurricane victims in New York.
The mother-of-two said the project has taken on a life of its own.
“It’s amazing how it galvanised the community when they saw a need. After that article [in The Royal Gazette ran, we had 25 e-mails that day.
“It was a cross-section of people old, young, black, white. People were like, ‘I love that you are doing it and I am glad to share my knitting with others. I know what it’s like to go through a hurricane’.
“For me it is just an amazing outreach. I would pass them needles and yarn and they would knit half a scarf before they had to go back to work.”
She was even given the nickname ‘the knitting fairy’ as she travelled to far ends of the Island, picking up knitted goods from older women who were no longer able to drive about.
Mrs Johnson-Porter first tapped into her love for knitting while working in e-commerce with Martha Stewart Living in New York from 1999 through 2002.
Working in the highly creative environment, she said she was inspired to try her hand at learning new skills and began taking a knitting class after work.
She was also part of a knitting circle with three other work colleagues.
During her time at the company, she also tried her hand at “inventive” gardening out of small window boxes, making risotto which took her several attempts to master and dabbling in sewing after her parents gave her a sewing machine.
She said working at the world renowned company was a great experience and “creatively invigorating”.
“I would say it was a company that is trying to teach people, whether it’s teaching you how to be more organised, how to create a beautiful nursery or a beautiful garden.
“You don’t have to attain the exact idea in the catalogue or magazine, but it’s giving you an idea that you can work from use this as your starting place.”
One thing that she learned during her time with Martha Stewart Living was the importance of not always being perfect.
She said there was a whole team of talented staff working to make a perfect tablescape for the holidays or dinner spread for entertaining. So everyday women at home need not fear if their attempt on their own falls short.
“There is this misconception that Martha Stewart wants everything to be perfect, but there is a little bit of perfection in the imperfection.
“It’s okay for things not to be perfect, whatever works for you will be okay.”
Mrs Johnson-Porter moved to the Island last year and is now a stay-at-home mother with Olivia, six, and Benjamin, four.
Before working with Martha Stewart’s company, she spent three years teaching underprivileged children in Compton, California with non-profit programme Teach For America.
She said that experience was “challenging” until she proved that she was part of the community.
She moved to New York with “two suitcases, no apartment, no job and some faith” and secured work at a temping agency for financial group Union Bank of Switzerland. She was later hired as a financial analyst at Nomura Securities.
Throughout the years she has stuck with knitting because of its calming properties.
Mrs Johnson-Porter said: “It’s very relaxing and I have actually wondered why it is when I can’t solve a problem or I am bothered by something I get to knitting.
“But when you are doing it the repetitive stitching, it’s a similar effect that a runner will experience when they run and ultimately get the runner’s high. It lets the back of the brain relax, which is where the stressors are and it’s giving you a very Zen relaxing feeling.”
She wanted to give her sincere thanks to the nearly 50 women — and one man — who helped with her project.
“I would like to thank all the people who have helped and donated and the individuals in the community who didn’t just say ‘Oh it’s bad about the hurricane and I know what it’s like’ but those who decided, ‘I am going to do something about it’.”
Together they collected five large bags of knitted goods, which will be donated to the Chappaqua Wellness Centre in New York and distributed to rescue centres in hard-hit areas like Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens. A Knit Wit member will also take two bags of goods to a rescue centre in New Jersey.
They are looking to collect all knitted items by Friday and will ship the donations on Monday.
After this week the Knit Wits will no longer be meeting at Tribe Road Kitchen on Tuesdays and Thursdays, however, they are working to have monthly knitting meetings.
For more information visit their Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/knitwitsbda .