Friday, December 08, 2006

My 500th Post! (It's a long one!)

Wow! 500 posts! Well, I know I am talkative but in reality it is really only that high because I post a lot of pictures! In celebration of my 500th post, I decided to share a little bit of my knitting history and how I came to be in the community of knit bloggers.

In the past I have shared quite a bit about my maternal Grandma, Holly Tisdale Hopkins (1906-2002). She has influenced my life in countless ways and through her writings, notes in her books and my memories, she continues to teach me. Is it any great surprise that she taught me how to knit?! She herself was more of a crocheter than a knitter. She did knit a dress in the 1930s for her brother's wedding and she knit me a crazy looking Balaclava style hat that I hope I have a picture for somewhere because the hat has been lost in time. In the early 1970s she took a knitting class at Sears...yes! Sears! (How many of you remember when you could purchase sewing goods and other craft items at places like Sears and J.C. Penney's?) She made a "lapghan" in olive colored wool. I have her instruction book and it is actually quite good. I am also fortunate to have a few of her crochet and tatting books along with a couple baby knitting books, from the 40s mostly. I imagine it must have been about the time of her Sears Knitting Course that she taught me how to knit. I have a picture I need to find and scan of me concentrating on my knitting while I was learning. My first needles were kind of a Granny Smith apple green, about 8" long, size 8 Boye needles. I keep them...they have sentimental value. Sometimes I knit dishcloths on them. My first project was with white yarn, probably wool because even Red Heart yarn was wool then and it was a strip of garter stitch, probably 2"x6" long. It was a bookmark and I have no clue what happened to it through the years. My Mom made my Grandma, herself and me, needle cases out of felt and embellished with rick rack...back in the days when there was real felt! I have Grandma's now. It has some wear and I don't really use it, but I can't seem to pass it on either because I guess it is a physical piece of her. I mentioned she did more crochet...she did lovely crochet edgings on pillow cases and some filet crochet. I will have to scan some pictures at some point and share them with you all.

In the photo, Grandma is holding my ds, her only great grandchild. He was 2.5 months old and it was 17 days before she died. She hung in just to see him. She is wearing a mohair lace scarf I knit her and the afghan in her lap is a large Granny Square afghan in the "Trip Around The World" pattern, which I also made for her.

My Mom knows how to knit but doesn't anymore. She used to make us slippers and I still have a little hat and scarf in lovely 1972 harvest gold, which she made my brother. She didn't teach me more knitting but she always has and still does encourage my creativity. My Mom did indirectly introduce me to the next stage of my knitting education because we went to British Columbia, Canada almost yearly in the late 70s and early to mid 80s on vacation. We spent a lot of time in Victoria and exploring the east coast of Vancouver Island. I have always loved looking in stores that are different from what we have at home. One of those stores was The Bay (formerly The Hudson Bay Company), which along with Sears, Penney's and other department stores, no longer carries all the sewing, knitting and crafting items. As many of you know, Canadians must be the cold winters! And I would say that their British and European heritage has contributed to that as well. Well, the yarn department at The Bay used to be mesmerizing, for me as a geeky teenager anyway. I actually made my son booties from yarn I had in my stash left from one of these excursions. Another Canadian influence was all the beautiful Cowichan sweaters we saw in the native gift shops. Priscilla Gibson Roberts has a wonderful book which is out of print but very good with lots of techniques. Other than the preppy sweaters of the early 80s which often featured Fair Isle and intarsia, these were my first introductions to color stranded knitting.

In 1982, my German penpal Jutta came to visit. We are still friends and write each other more than 25 years after our first letter exchange. She arrived in a striped mohair vest. It was not wildly fuzzy, a "modest" mohair and it was striped because it was made from leftovers of other projects. I was fascinated and could not get this sweater out of my mind. About this same time I also received an authentic Icelandic sweater knit by my penpal Sigridur in Iceland. (Are you getting the idea that I have liked to write for a long time?!)

Then in 1984, I traveled to Germany for 8 weeks and stayed with Jutta's family. I could write a volume about all my experiences there, but for the sake of this post, I will say that Jutta's mother Renate introduced me to another stage of knitting. I came home with some mohair yarn and some German knitting magazines, which I still have!

"Gauge, or the Lack Thereof" would be the title of my next phase in knitting. I jumped right in. I made a very beautiful Icelandic cardigan for my Mom (wish we had saved the yarn for me to frog and use it now!). It was very beautiful but the fit was very interesting. The round yoke was several sizes larger than the body of the cardigan. It was not a pretty site. I have pictures of that too...some day when I feel the need to be humiliated, I'll bring those pictures out and scan them! LOL There were a few other gauge disasters, need we mention them?

During college I would look around at Great Yarns in Everett, WA. They are a well known store and they love their novelty yarns. And, why yes, I did knit one of those eyelash/novelty altered yoke sweatshirts! How did you know? There are no pictures of that, thank you very much!

The late 80s were a time of personal upheaval in my life. Eventually I moved in 1990 to Bellingham, WA, my adopted hometown. I was new in the area and knew people at church, but not many people my age. At work most people were either older or younger than me. I wandered around a bit and found a shop called The Mulberry Bush. They used to make these wonderful circular needle organizers which I have seen imitated. They are out of business and I wish I could find more! Anyway, I wandered in and found a
new book. I thumbed through and immediately purchased Knitting Around. I took it home and poured over it. I loved the drawings and the photographs which appealed to my artistic side and my love of social history and genealogy. With that single purchase I joined the ranks of knitters whose lives were transformed by Elizabeth Zimmerman! It was the first time I had seen any real spark of creativity in knitting instead of following tacky leaflets and pattern folios. It showed me what I needed to know to actually learn how to make something for myself and to design! Best of all there was the EPS, Elizabeth's percentage system which showed how to make something in your own size! What a revelation for this "chunky" knitter! Not longer after discovering this book, I went to the library and checked out her PBS television videos. I heard they came out on DVD and so I hope to add those and The Opinionated Knitter to my library. Her daughter Meg Swansen carried on the "family business". They carry a lot of things that other places do not and are really supportive of knitting designs and techniques. It is a fun place to poke around, so go take a look!

During this time period Knitter's magazine was still quite innovative (editorial comment I realize) and you couldn't wait for each issue. It didn't really matter whether you liked the designs because you knew there were going to be excellent articles teaching you techniques and design. I no longer subscribe because the designs are hit and miss and the articles...well there is just as much online or I refer to my older resources and my online knitting friends.

While in Bellingham, I also met Donna Marcantonio, a woman who spun and dyed the most beautiful yarns! They were fluffy and soft singles with rich and gorgeous colors! To this day I have never seen anything that really compares. I think she struggled in her business, called Tapestry, from the 70s on and I think that if she was in business in the days where we have eBay and etsy and knitting blogs, she would be raking in the money. Sadly, she is out of business. I don't think she knows that she was one of the biggest influences in me starting to spin. Donna and a friend's daughter, Dixie, really got me started spinning.

Next in the timeline, Sue Browne opened up The Knit Shop, also no longer in business. Bellingham has several nice shops now, but at the time Sue filled a niche that was not being met. She had the basics, she had enough of "the latest" to keep bringing people back and she really promoted education. I took two classes from Gloria Tracy who I believe is one of the original owners of Knit One Crochet Too.

Sue also carried man incredible books. This was in the days before the Luxury of Borders and Barnes and Noble on every corner and Amazon on the Internet. To actually see these type of books before you purchased them was a great advantage. There I happened onto
The Book of Fair Isle Knitting by Alice Starmore. This book was eye-popping amazing! As a photographer I was so intrigued. I love nature and especially photographing it, but bringing that concept into my knitting was something new. I loved it. It was like finally connecting with someone who speaks your own language. I really appreciate all the photography in her books and it is my dream one day that I could have photographs like that in a book!

Sue Browne brought Alice to Bellingham for classes and I was able to take two, one on gansey knitting and one on Arans. This was in 1995 before her Aran book came out so it was really invaluable. I regret not purchasing the Aran book when it came out, now it is beyond reasonable price. Even if I had the money I could not justify spending $300 on a knitting book! That could be almost 300 Christmas dinners at the mission! I have all her books except the last few, and they are all signed by her. I always joke with my hubby that if we ever get destitute, I could always eBay my AS books! LOL But, don't get any ideas! I think my other favorite book of hers is Charts For Colour Knitting (Charts for Colour Knitting). She was quite delightful in person, but apparently she does not get along with most of the knitting world and therefore her resources are not widely available anymore. I am not even sure if I am supposed to be linking to her books here. However, she does have her own business called Virtual Yarns where you can purchase her wares at a price.

I really enjoy color design and explored it a lot during the 90s. I fell in love with the Vienna Woods sweater (now called the "Color Your Own") in a Winter Knitters, I think 1991. I ordered the kit from a then little known company named Philosopher's Wool. When the kit came it was lovely, but I wanted something a little different. So I went to The Knit Shop and started pulling different yarns and textures and colors off the shelves and put them together. Eventually I came up with something quite similar to this Peacock Colorway (Peacock Colorway) of the Color Your Own sweater which was not available at the time. It is the only sweater I have completed for myself. And I wore it up through my first pregnancy. I will add that to the list of pictures that I need to scan and post! Another style of colorwork I enjoy is nordic knitting and I like the designs of Dale of Norway. That link is for their ready made sweaters, but there is much to drool over. I have purchase several of their books from Kirtland's Yarn Barn and Wendy recommends Bea Ellis Knitwear for nordic knitting needs. It's fun to look around there!

About 1993 my Aunt Grace gave me the money to purchase my Ashford Traditional Double Drive spinning wheel. I had been learning on a borrowed Louet and to be honest, looking back I wish I had just stuck with that, but I was silly...I wanted a wheel that looked like a wheel! The Traditional is a great wheel, but I just never bonded with it and enjoy my 40th birthday Lendrum more, so I am going to sell the Traditional. Grace wanted to support me in this because she is an artist and because she had spent some time learning how to weave. To my knowledge, noone in recent family history has been a spinner, though my Grandma Hopkins did tell me that her mother, my great Grandma Winnifred Kirkland Tisdale, did card wool to put in her quilts. I took spinnin classes from an amazing teacher at The Roeder Home, a community school (historic family home) in Bellingham. Her name was Jan and her last name escapes me at the moment...along with most of what she taught me! I hope to find spinning lessons in the coming year.

Knitting was a fun way for me to be creative and explore color and texture. It was also a great stress releaser as I worked in an extremely busy pediatric clinic. It was not uncommon to see me sitting in the break room at lunch time, knitting! :-) But in 1996 I was diagnosed with an illness that caused increased spinal fluid pressure and severe headaches. By 1997 I could not work full time and had to move home with my parents. I could not do much of anything I really enjoyed. It was difficult to focus my eyes, so I did little or no knitting, reading, sewing or other hand crafts. The illness eventually left, but it also left me with chronic severe migraines, including a whole syndrome of symptoms and fatigue. In 1998 I married and moved to California. Life got busy. I do have a Color Your Own Fair Isle half made for my hubby, which I started several years ago and I knit a few baby items when I was pregnant. But I had lost my knitting momentum. Occasionally I would pick up a magazine at the store or look at one of my books and dream, but I never got very far.

By the fall of 2004, I had 18 month old twins and a 3 year old and I felt like I was suffocating without an outlet for my creativity, so I talked it over with hubby and I started taking quilting classes at Quilter's Corner Quilter's Corner. Their site is being refurbished at the moment. I wrote about this last month, but that is where I met Amy. I think if Amy and I lived closer to each other and had more money, we could do some damage together! LOL I am very much a BEGINNER at quilting and have a much neglected quilt blog. Amy decided one year that she wanted to knit and began teaching herself. We got to talking about knitting in class one night and I realized how much I missed it. I love my photography and scrapbooking. Sewing and quilting are fun, but there is something about knitting and spinning that really keep drawing me back! So I drug out the boxes of UFOs...I have several lovely sweaters almost finished. The problem was that I had gained almost 100#! These sweaters were being knit to fit a body I no longer had. That was pretty depressing. And it made it hard to finish as I was knitting in the round and fitting to my body as it was, as I went. I am still determined to one day finish these sweaters...and fit into them!

Later in our class Amy told me that her blog was going to be featured in our city's newspaper. "What's a blog?" I asked...the rest is history! Here I am!

Now that I am coming back to knitting I am finding that I am a much different knitter. I am more patient in some ways and less in others. I joined Shelda's Ample Knitter's list (thanks again to Amy!) which ended in July 2006. Here I learned about upsizing and fitting and many other techniques on a list that included every day people like me as well as well known designers and unknown but very skilled knitters. You can click the link above or the pansy tag on the right to go and see what there is to find. The information I gleaned here has given me confidence to start trying to knit something for myself regardless of my size!

I find that I am still inspired by natural things and people who have a genius at combining nature and art. Elsebeth Lavold, a Swedish designer who among other books wrote Viking Knits, does some amazing things with cables and designs from Viking art, carving etc. And Nora Gaughan's Knitting Nature is incredible! It's not so much that I would like to knit all the designs in the book, but the very way they are designed from mathematical elements in nature is amazing to me. God is the Master Designer!

But lately, which you have noticed if you have been here a time or two, I have been mostly inspired by lace. Forgive me for repeating, but I was introduced to lace in an Ample Knitter's secret pal swap. My pal Barbara, sent me Sivia Harding's Shetland Garden Faroese Shawl and some Zephyr Wool/Silk to go along with it. I was smitten! My latest inspiration has got to be Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace Today Victorian Lace Today, given to me by my friend Pamela!

Recently, as I posted earlier, I have been sorting through and organizing my stash and resources. It has been a time of reevaluation. Where am I going with my knitting? What purpose will it serve? Certainly I feel called to continue with the prayer shawl ministry, however I also need to balance this out with the needs of my family too. This coming year I hope to be exploring some Aran patterns and maybe some colorwork for the kids. I have a few shawls on the slate, but I also have a couple lace items in the queue for myself. And through it all I feel immensely blessed by the fellowship of many amazing and talented women and one brave man on the Christian Artisans list! (See link at right with lace and cross) What an encouraging and prayerful group of people who have come to feel like family to me!

So, there you have it, the evolution of my knitting experience. A few of you probably read to the end...congratulations! I think I mostly wrote this trip down memory lane for myself! But that is okay, it was kind of fun. Thanks for reading my 500th post!


KnitnMomofboys said...

What a cool personal history - make sure you print it out to save for the kids - or the kids' kids! ;)

craftybernie said...

That's a lovely story. I enjoyed reading about your 'knitting' life. Thank you for sharing!

Oh, and congratulations on your 500th post by the way! It won't be long before you hit 1,000!!!

Lynette said...

I enjoyed reading about you.

I remember shopping with my Mom at JC Penny for yard goods (I have dated myself). The store was in downtown Modesto & the fabric department was down in the basement. My mom sewed all of our clothing from kids clothes, satin pillowcases, a sports coat for my dad & a tie. She even made lingere for us girls. I have her Phaff sewing machine now. It stands quiet, maybe next year I will start some craft or sewing. I can recall going down the stairs or escalater (think they had one in the 60's & 70's) & can almost see the counter. Thanks for bringing back a memory I had forgotten.

Bellingham, Wa rang a bell for me also. My mom sister Evelyn lived there until her death in the late 90's. She was a quilter. My mom was born there in Washington in a log cabin in a town that does not exist anymore, Alder something?

Thanks for your lovely story & bringing back memories.

Susan said...

Wow, Theresa. 500 posts. Way to go!

I enoyed reading reading about your "crafty" history. Will you be scrapbooking this post?

I just heard about knotting dish rags this week. I am intrigued. I hope to find some cotton yarn soon and have a go at it.

It's been a long time since I've done any knotting. Extreme novice here.

Last year my niece, K, wanted to learn how to knit so she bought a kit and I helped her with it. We even knit a few scarves together. She'd knit some, I'd knit some. Thats was FUN!

How hard are socks to knit?

And you mentioned a frog in your post. What is that?

THanks for writing all this. You are one fascinating women!!

Anonymous said...

Theresa, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and how wonderful to have that picture of your grandmother holding that sweet little person. Family is so important....I appreciate that you truly know that.

Paula said...

What an awesome post!
I really enjoyed reading it.
Beautiful picture of your Grandmother.