They come armed with knitting needles, crochet hooks, cross-stitch patterns, paint and canvas, even a sewing machine or two.
It’s the last Wednesday of the month, and members of Stitch 'n Bitch meander into the popular Third Street bar, Driftwood Cask & Barrel, for their monthly get together.
“It’s the modern-day equivalent of the old-fashion quilting bee,” says 39-year-old club founder Neily Byrd.
As clever as the group's name is, Byrd can’t take credit.
“Stitch 'n Bitch has been around since World War II,” she says. “I found out about it when living in San Diego. I moved to Baton Rouge nine years ago, and one day I said, 'I’m crafty and my friends are crafty ... let’s do this, let’s have some fun.'"
Around since the 1940s, the movement gained speed at the turn of the century after magazine editor Debbie Stoller wrote an article about the club she started in New York’s East Village. The group was open to anyone who wanted to knit or learn how to knit. That article inspired clubs to form in Chicago, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. And the trend kept going with casual groups of knitters meeting in public spaces, such as bars or cafés, for socializing and sharing knitting advice.
Today, Byrd says, there are about 1,500 clubs around the world, and it's gone beyond knitting.
“People do whatever their craft is,” says Byrd, who manages the bar. “We only have one rule — no glitter!”
She usually paints, but sometimes she brings her sewing machine or knitting needles.
“It depends on the week, what my current project is,” says Byrd, adding that a special cocktail usually accompanies the fun night. "Tonight, it’s the perfect Manhattan, made with Cane Land Spiced Rum.”
Most of the women gather between 6:30 and 7 on Stitch nights. Sometimes a husband or significant other comes along, most often just chilling at the bar, but sometimes bringing along their own craft or they might try to learn one.
“The lights come up when people start on their projects,” says Byrd.
Rodneyna Hart, whose is exhibit manager at the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, came with her husband in tow. He brought along coloring books for adults and an assortment of colored pencils and markers, which he was more than willing to share.
“It’s a fun environment, and everybody is here to share, uplift each other and have fun doing their craft,” says Hart as she works on her cross-stitch project. “For some members, it’s more about the crafts, for some it’s the drink, but for me, it’s the camaraderie. I love meeting new people.”
On this evening, Fairleigh Jackson, executive director of Preserve Louisiana, is working on décor for daughter Helen’s bedroom. She brought her sewing machine, but lost a part en route and was trying to see if she could make things work without it.
“This makes me schedule time to finish projects I might not otherwise complete,” she says.
“There are a lot of artists and people that craft in this town, and you never know who is going to show up for our ‘meetings,’” adds Byrd. “Stitch 'n Bitch is a place to bring whatever project you’re working on and meet people you didn’t know you needed to meet the day before.”