Sunday, April 6, 2008

Karla the Kiwi and Happy Anniversary!

When I was a kid, it seemed that everyone I knew was a knitter. Both of my parents knitted, my oldest sister knitted, both of the moms across the street from us knitted, my godmother knitted. It was the same with sewing - everyone did it. So I started to learn to sew when I was about 5, taught by my Mom and my oldest sister, and when, at age 7 I wanted to learn to knit, my left-handed Mom sent me across the street to learn from one of our neighbors. When my husband and I went back east to my hometown three years ago this summer, I wanted to thank the woman who had taught me to knit all those years ago. We stopped at the house where I grew up - which my Dad built - and got the most gracious reception and tour of our old house from the woman now living there, married to one of my high school classmates, who was so excited to meet someone from the original family in their obviously much-loved home. But when we went across the street to thank my knitting teacher, no one was home. She died in the hospital less than a week later, and I never did get a chance to thank her, it has been one of my biggest regrets.

When I wanted to learn crochet at age 11, I had no gurus to turn to - I didn't know anyone who knew how to crochet. And so I sat down with an issue of one of the women's magazines my Mom subscribed to, and with yarn and hook in hand, illustrations in front of me, and taught myself to crochet. I took to it like a duck to water, somehow it just made perfect sense to me.

I abandoned knitting for many years, and crocheted anything that would stand still long enough, scarves, sweaters, hats, slippers, granny squares! It was the late 60s, early 70s, so people either thought I was cool because I was creative, or that I was a freak for doing something so incredibly 'old-fashioned' in the early days of what we called Women's Lib. Nonetheless I ignored the critics and crocheted a lot. Every one around me got crocheted gifts (all my gifts were always homemade - either sewn, crocheted, embroidered, macramed, photographed, drawn, written... and now knitted). All pregnant women got baby blankets, later on nieces and nephews got afghans when they graduated from high school.

If I crocheted at the salon between clients I was well and truly mocked. Oh, well, I crocheted anyway. Yet somehow, for the last several years of my life in the salon industry I got too busy to do anything creative other than photography.

My husband and I got married four days before 9/11, and I took him back east for the first time just a month later in mid-October, to see where I grew up . We stayed with one of my sisters, and every dark fall evening as we were going back to her house after our day of travels, we would pass right by a yarn shop with big picture windows, all lit up inside against the October gloom looking like the inside of a jewel box, just filled with so many gorgeous colors. It only took a few days before my husband and I couldn't stand it any longer and stopped into the shop, and I was a goner. The shop was Sheep's Clothing, the now-closed retail shop for Morehouse Merino. Because they concentrated on knitting, it was knitting that I took up again - had they been mostly a crochet shop I would most likely have done that instead. Before I left I had a sock kit, a set of dpns, and Mary Thomas's Knitting Book, and I sat cross-legged on the bed that evening and started my first pair of socks .

When I developed asthma a year later and we had to close our shop because of it, I spent about 4 months on the couch at home, gasping like a fish before we found the right combination of meds to make it possible for me to function. I found it hard to concentrate enough to read when I had an asthma attack, and that just added to my distress, so I picked up needles and yarn and knitted. That is what I did for 4 months straight. I fell - and still am - totally in love with knitting.

There seems to be a generally accepted concept that there is a line drawn in the sand - knitters don't crochet, and crocheters don't knit. It's like the Hatfields and McCoys, the Montagues and the Capulets! When I started working in a yarn shop for the first time, I taught classes in both knitting and crochet, but never did students from one class drift over into the other. Now I will admit to you that because of wrist issues, I do knit more than I crochet. Ans so you will undoubtedly have noticed that the Kiwi blog posts have been all about knitting. But if you have met me, you know that I firmly believe that every knitter should know how to crochet. And yet, if I think about it, I really don't feel that crocheters all need to learn how to knit - there is something about crochet that is complete unto itself.

Like knitting since the time just before Elizabeth Zimmerman, crochet techniques have changed and improved quite a bit over the years since I had last crocheted, and I have enjoyed learning and incorporating these new techniques, although the essential elements of the craft remain the same. When designing Karla the Kiwi for the April Kiwi Klub Pattern of the Month, I incorporated several of these techniques into the pattern. Over the next few posts, I'll explore these and other advents in crochet with you. I'm hoping to get some of you knitters to try crochet for the first time, and humbly hope to show some new things to you crocheters out there.

And did you know that April is the anniversary month of Kiwi Knitting? It was just three years ago that Lynn opened the shop. I was working and teaching at another yarn shop at the time, and when I heard about Kiwi at the knitting guild, I dragged my husband down there with me one day to check it out. Two weeks later I was holding down the fort for three days while Lynn went to her daughter's wedding, and I've been teaching there ever since she returned.

So Happy Anniversary, Lynn! I thank you for letting me be part of your wonderful shop, and for all the good things and opportunities that have come into my life since then, all because of Kiwi. Three great years, and hopes for many, many more!

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