My grandparents emigrated from the Ukraine just before (my grandfather) and during (my grandmother and uncle) the Bolshevik Revolution. To say that it was a difficult process for them would be making the greatest of understatements, but that is not where I mean to take you today. My grandfather died before I was born, but one thing he told my father over and over again was that knowledge is the only thing that no one can ever take away from you. I figure that given what the man experienced in his life, he knew what he was talking about.
One of the characteristics I have inherited from my Dad is an absorbing passion for knowledge about any subject that interests me. I remember time after time my Dad finding a new fascination and being compelled to learn everything there was to know about that particular thing. From golf to fly-fishing, ham radio, the clarinet and the saxophone, scuba diving, wood-working, photography, gun-smithing, engraving - you name it, the man can still tell you every detail on the subject til you think he is a walking encyclopedia.
For me those passions have been fewer and further between, but just as overwhelming. I worked in the salon industry for over 20 years - starting as a colorist, but the majority of those years as an aesthetician. Every time there was any opportunity to learn more about my profession, I was given the means and encouraged to do so. My employers sent me to places as far and near as Miami, Las Vegas, New York, Long Beach and London so that I might learn more techniques that I could then bring back to the salon and apply to my work - and to teach to co-workers, bringing everyone's skills and knowledge base up to the next level so that we could better serve our customers, and not coincidently, earn more for the business and for ourselves. It was just a given that if there was any chance to learn more about what you were doing, you took it.
But I found my real passion in the industry when I began to learn more about Aromatherapy and started incorporating it into my skin care practice. I was self-employed by then, and quickly saw that there was so much to learn on the subject - indications, applications, safety - that it was important to take a certification course in Aromatherapy in general. To expand my knowledge in the application of Aromatherapy in skin-care in particular I went to London for a course in that aspect of the subject. In less than a year I had met my husband Graham through the international Aromatherapy community, and we were married less than a year after that. We opened our own business that combined a shop with Aromatherapy products and my Aromatherapy/skin-care practice, and had massage therapists, manicurists, and alternative practitioners working with us. I wrote several articles on Aromatherapy and skin care for magazines, as well as articles on the safe practice of Aromatherapy. We organized and held annual Aromatherapy conferences in Tucson that brought in participants from all over the country and speakers from all over the world. And all this came to us because of a passion for learning everything I could learn about a subject that fascinated me.
Now that my health issues have made it necessary for us to give up our business and for me to make a career change, I have found a new passion in knitting. I love that it combines my two great requirements for a burning interest - creativity, and the opportunity to learn more and to challenge my brain with each new project. My Aromatherapy books have been sold or given away to make room for shelves and shelves of knitting books. Instead of a cabinet full of exotic Essential Oils, I have a cabinet full of yarn stash. When I choose a new project I try to choose something that will challenge me and make an opportunity for me to learn new techniques. I am having a GREAT time on Ravelry meeting knitters from all over the world, seeing their projects and talking about knitting. I belong to two Yahoo groups about knitting and have learned immense amounts of information from the members, as well as been able to pass on some of my own knowledge to others. Every time our local knitting guild - Old Pueblo Knitters - has a guest workshop, you will see my smiling face right there, learning everything I can. Even if the subject is something I think I know a lot about, I always, always learn something new and valuable to take home with me and apply to my own projects.
Now we are fortunate that Kiwi Knitting is helping to bring some great opportunities to Tucson for learning more about our craft through some very interesting workshops. In November Kiwi is sponsoring a workshop taught by Irene York. Irene is an amazing designer who works primarily with modular knitting techniques. If you have been in the shop recently you will have seen her modular bags as well as that breathtaking shell shawl on display. Irene spoke at an OPK meeting a few months back about her work as a designer, as well as her influences and learning path. It was a wonderful opportunity to see and pass around many of her beautiful designs. Irene has taught classes for The Knitting Guild of America and at many of the 'Stitches' events. Modular knitting is at once so visually complex and interesting, and so easy to work, that it has become one of my favorite design elements. Right now I am working on two different modular knitting projects, have just finished designing a third and am about to start a fourth.
On Friday, November 2nd, Irene is presenting 'A Mixed Bag'. This class will teach you to knit a unique bag while learning how to knit and join modular equilateral triangles and U-turn units. In this informative and inspirational class you will discover the unlimited possibilities in creative modular knitting. Yarn kits and patterns are provided in the class fees, and lunch is included. The class is from 10 am to 3 pm, and costs $75.
On Saturday, November 3rd, Irene will present 'Patchwork Shells'. Shells might look difficult, but in reality they are quite easy to master and fun to incorporate into garments and accessories. In this class, the knitter will work shells and half-shells and acquire techniques for joining shells without sewing. Yarn will be provided. The class is from 11 am - 2 pm, and costs $50. Be sure to sign up as soon as possible, as class space is limited to 15 participants at each session.
In January 2008, in cooperation with Old Pueblo Knitters, Kiwi will present a day with Gwen Bortner. To paraphrase the workshop info given to me by Elizabeth Wells, the Workshop Chairperson for OPK: Gwen Bortner is a Craft Yarn Council Certified Teacher and is accredited by the Professional Knitwear and Designers Guild in both teaching and design. She has been published in a variety of knitting magazines and is the lead designer for her business, Knitability, LLC. Gwen's passion is teaching and she enjoys every opportunity she has to share her love of knitting with others. Gwen is an extrovert and over the years she has developed her own signature style that includes high quality, detailed handouts and memorable explanations with the use of "knitting aerobics". Gwen's teaching philosophy can be summed up in the following quote, "As a teacher, I have learned more about knitting than I ever did as a designer. Students' questions lead me to think about the "why" part of knitting and if there is more than one "correct" answer. I provide very few absolutes in the classroom. Although I may have a preference, experience has shown that "my way" is rarely the only way and being inclusive is so much more inviting. My mantra is "knitting is fun" and if the class isn't fun, then I am not doing my job."
On January 17th, through Old Pueblo Knitters, Gwen will be presenting a 3-hour workshop entitled, 'Good Reading'. Learn what is on your needles. Students will review basic stitch construction, learn to determine where they are in a pattern, and experiment with converting finished stitch patterns into words. These are valuable skills for knitters of all experience levels. Class cost is $30. Contact Elizabeth Wells at 520-886-7630.
On January 18th, Gwen will present 'Pocket Full of Color', a six-hour workshop. Intarsia, Fair Isle, stranded, slipped stitches are some of the various color techniques. Gain a basic understanding and some hands-on experience with three types of color-work while creating a small pocket-style bag. Students will learn tricks for working with multiple colors, creating consistent fabric, and the basics to charting your own design. Cost is $60, and includes lunch. Contact Elizabeth Wells.
On January 19th, OPK and Kiwi Knitting will present a six-hour workshop with Gwen at Kiwi Knitting, called 'Ten Textures'. Learn a new technique every 30 minutes and walk out of class with a variety of textures that can be added to your knitting projects. Techniques will start with the basics and build progressively throughout the class. If you are tired of stockinette or love the look of textured fabrics, this is the class for you. Cost is $60, and includes lunch. Contact Elizabeth Wells.
Don't let these amazing opportunities to learn more about our craft pass you by. Not only can I promise you from personal experience that the day itself will be amazing, with good company, lots of laughs, tons of amazing information, and great food, but also the information that you will take away from these classes will bring your knitting up to a whole new level of skills. Yes, there will be students in the classes who are already very skilled knitters (here is a little secret for you - this is how they got to be very skilled knitters, by taking every chance to learn new things). And there will be just as many, if not more, in the class who are new to knitting and just want to improve their skills and learn something new. Everyone is friendly and willing to share tools and knowledge. You'll see me there!