U.S. government workers take up knitting on furlough
By Jessica Stone
Dozens of federal workers – at home during the government shutdown – have found a creative way to keep their hands busy.
They're taking free knitting classes offered at a Virginia yarn store.
Nancy Lutz knows a little something about numbers. This National Science Foundation economist knitted her own socks. Without work during the government shutdown, she volunteered to teach other furloughed government employees how to knit.
"People who have learned to knit, learned to pearl and started a scarf are learning to make hats and cowls," she said. "The longer this goes on, the more different skills are getting added to the class list."
Danielle Romanetti, the owner of Fibre Space in Alexandria, Virginia, started offering free knitting classes to furloughed workers, during the 2013 shutdown of the U.S. government.
"We're pretty negatively impacted by the shutdown," she explained. "It draws people away from businesses."
"Anything we can do to get people into the store," she continued.
Amy Barnes, a worker at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, learned to knit during that 2013 shutdown and returned to teach during this one. Wearing a sweater she knit for herself, Barnes walked new furloughed feds through the ins and outs of hat-knitting.
Classes here are crowded. There are two offered each day – at least three times a week.
When one new knitter suggested spreading the word to other coworkers, Michael Burrows, cautioned: "Hey it's too full already. We don't want anyone taking our seats."
Burrows is a statistician at the U.S. Census Bureau, and recently moved to the area from the state of North Carolina.
"Since I just joined the federal government, I don't have any experience with this stuff," he said.
"It's been good to hear other people's experiences," he added.
It's also an opportunity to remember why they chose government jobs in the first place.
"We're civil servants for a reason," said Deirdre Holder, who works at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We literally took an oath when we got our jobs to defend the Constitution."
And when they do get back on the job, they'll have a new skill to cope with the stress of catching up.
"I will finish the hat, whether I go back to work any time soon," said Burrows. "I have a 30-minute metro ride, so I will just be the guy knitting on the metro."